Executive Chef Jamie Schneider II left the Midwest, not because of the weather, but to further his career.
From the Oakland Hills Country Club in Michigan, where he worked as a tournant chef, he went to the Lost Tree Country Club in Florida to be an executive sous chef under the auspices and in the company of the Oakland Club’s Executive Chef Brian Walsh.
After a number of years, Schneider was ready for another challenge and accepted the executive chef position at the Dunes Club.
After a brief stint in a restaurant early on in his career, Schneider decided he preferred the country club atmosphere.
“It’s more of a team environment. I’m not interested in showboatin’ and getting all the praise,” he said. “You also have to be well rounded in all cuisines to keep guests interested.”
Unfortunately, he has yet to avail himself of the club’s exquisite greens.
“I do not have time ... I have a young child at home, [Wyatt] who is like the best kid in the world,” he said.
He does find time, however, to cook with his wife, Ellee, a chef in her own right. A favorite dish is Mushroom and Pea Risotto with Sea Scallops.
“I’ll take scallops over lobster any day,” he said.
Schneider describes himself as a production-oriented chef who likes spreadsheets and recipes with detail down to the garnish. He certainly doesn’t take himself or his craft too seriously.
When asked if he ascribed to any purist beliefs like no ketchup on anything or nothing should ever be served well done, Schneider replied that, “Everybody enjoys food their own way and that is how I want to prepare it. ... You don’t always have to chef things up.”
What is your favorite food to eat?
My favorite food to eat is tacos. I am very fond of the different tastes of Latin America and the Caribbean islands.
Why did you choose to become a chef?
I became a chef because I love the way food can make you feel and like working with a group of other cooks to orchestrate and great meal.
How do you hope your food makes people feel?
I would hope that when people eat my food it gives them a wonderful feeling, takes them back to a fond memory or just puts a smile on their face. I truly love what food can do to people. It bridges gaps in all sorts of culture to help people open up.
What do you do to stay educated about new trends?
I read a lot of magazines and cookbooks. I also receive a lot of online cooking articles to help keep me in the loop of what is trending and all the fads.
Who, living or dead, would you most like to cook for?
Thomas Keller. I really admire that way he goes about things.
What ingredients inspire you?
It really depends on my mood. Sometimes it could be a really fresh piece of fish, other time it could be the beautiful yellow beets I saw in the market or any other vegetable or fruit.
When did you first realize that you wanted to become a chef?
I first realized I wanted to become a chef when I say how food affected people. You can watch so many reactions to the food you cook from the people eating your food.
What are your fondest food memories from childhood?
My one of my fondest memories is my mom’s apple pie. My mother was not a good cook at all but she memorized the way my great-grandma made her apple pie. To this day it is the only thing that my mom will make for me.
What’s your favorite comfort food?
My favorite comfort food is Braised Beef Short Ribs with Whipped Potatoes and Honey Glazed Carrots. That meal will take me to a really good place.
If you hadn’t become a chef, what would you be doing right now?
If I hadn’t become a chef I would probably be in the military. You have to have similar discipline to be a part of either career.
Are your friends and family reluctant to cook for you in fear that you might consider their cooking to be less sophisticated or creative than yours?
The only few that won’t cook for me is my parents, they feel intimidated and won’t even try. They just order pizza every time. It has become somewhat of a joke when I go home to Michigan.
I know the customer is always right, but are there exceptions?
There are none, you just swallow your pride and realize you cannot meet everyone’s expectations no matter how hard you try.
What are three things that you always have in your refrigerator?
Pickled red onions, preserved lemons, and marinated olives. (I am an olive junkie.)
Have you had any fantastic flops?
We always have flops in the culinary industry, but whatever situation comes along, you just have to “MacGyver” it.
Are you an extremely adventurous eater? Are there any foods you won’t eat or even try?
I will try anything once.
What makes a great chef?
The ability to train your personnel, be a great leader, have a creative mind and be very organized
What is a must have kitchen tool?
A sharp chef knife is a must. Sharp is the key.
What is the most under-used seasoning?
Salt, people are so scared they are going to over-salt a dish, and just seasoning a dish correctly can take a dish from so-so to great.
What is the best advice you have ever gotten?
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Keep your head down and work honest and everything will work out.
What is your guilty pleasure food wise?
I would eat ice cream all day long if my wife would let me.
Brussel Sprouts with Brown Butter
4 cups Brussel sprouts, blanched and shocked
1 lb. brown butter
1/2 cups bacon, julienne
1/2 cups Parmesan cheese, shredded
Lemon juice, fresh
Parmesan curls, as needed
In a large pan render fat from bacon until crisp, remove from fat and set bacon aside. Save fat for other uses. Sauté brussel sprouts in in brown butter, season as needed. Once brussel sprouts are hot, add crisp bacon and shredded parmesan cheese. Finish with fresh lemon juice and parmesan curl.