Paolo Stefani and his Allen Center team provide tasty fare
If food fuels thinking
brains, it's no wonder that the Kellogg School's executive
programs are ranked among the best in the country.
Regardless of their
culinary preferences, guests at the James L. Allen Center
needn't venture far from their classrooms to find dishes to
rival their favorite restaurant meals. Some enjoy delicate
she-crab soup, flavored with just the right amount of sherry.
Others are fans of authentic Tuscan dishes created to showcase
the wild game that roam the Italian countryside. Still others
rave about "buffet nights" that allow them to nibble their
way through the cuisine of a specific geographic region -
the Pacific Northwest and Cape Cod being two examples.
These guests can
thank Chef Paolo Stefani and his team of 40, who staff the
kitchens seven days a week, ensuring no one goes away hungry.
"I try to be as
authentic as I can," Stefani says, leading a tour of the cozy,
tidy kitchen where workers produce as many as 600 lunches
or 400 formal dinners during especially busy periods at the
school. "When I travel I bring back recipe books. And I use
my time in the kitchen to experiment as much as possible."
Stefani, who holds
a degree in culinary arts from Chicago's Kendall College,
began his career in hotel food service. When he felt burnout
creeping in, he put his U.S. career on hold and traveled to
Italy - his parents' homeland - to work in a Tuscan restaurant
kitchen for six months.
In Italy, Stefani
bunked with family members and spent hours laboring in the
highly regarded Il Cibreo, where he steeped himself in "peasant
food" culture, mastering recipes Allen Center guests find
on the menu today.
to the States, Stefani accepted a job as Northwestern University's
director of catering, and later, as executive chef at the
Allen Center, where he's worked for the past three years.
As part of this job, he plans menus, works to secure the freshest
ingredients and interacts with guests to ensure their culinary
experiences are enjoyable. No easy feat, his role demands
that he provide meals for executives accustomed to dining
in the world's best restaurants and satisfy the international
palates of the global managers who travel to Evanston for
Stefani is up to
the challenge. His recent accolades include a top finish in
the "Copper Skillet" competition sponsored by the International
Association of Conference Centers, in which he used 30 staple
ingredients and two "mystery ingredients" to create a citrus-spiced
lamb loin within the contest's 30-minute time limit.
Stefani credits his Allen Center success to his kitchen crew,
a group he calls one of the most loyal and hardworking he's
ever seen. "The staff is amazing," he says. "Some have been
here 25 years. It's such a family atmosphere. Once people
get here they don't want to go anywhere else, and that includes
fortunate for Allen Center guests - more delicious fuel for
thought is on the way.