NOVI, MI (July 27, 2017) -- Former Benstein Grill Executive Chef and menu developer Steven Toomey has joined the dining team at Fox Run, the Erickson Living community in Novi, as Executive Chef of the Ascot Restaurant.
"After being a cook and chef in the 'real world' restaurant scene for years, Fox Run appeared to be a breath of fresh air," Toomey says. "I enjoy being surrounded by good people, and Fox Run offers that."
Food and cooking have always been an important part of Toomey's life. He says his parents and grandparents always emphasized the importance of family dinners and home-cooked meals. Having always been around great, fresh food, which he loved to cook and eat, Toomey says he decided to make cooking his career.
"I enjoy the chef lifestyle -- fast-paced and lots of teamwork. It's like a sport," he says.
Toomey is no stranger to restaurant kitchens. He started washing dishes at a local restaurant in his hometown of DeWitt when he was just 13 years old and has been working in the industry ever since.
He was a line cook at several Lansing-area restaurants throughout high school and college. He attended Johnson and Wales University in Charlotte, N.C., where he earned a degree in culinary arts. After graduation, he got a job at the 1913 Room in the Amway Grand Hotel in in Grand Rapids.
"After gaining fine-dining experience, I transitioned, and I quickly became a sous chef for a national restaurant chain BBRG (Bravo/Brio Restaurant Group) and then an executive chef soon after," Toomey says. "After working in several restaurants for the company, I was working in Chicago when my wife and I decided to come back home to Michigan as we were expecting a baby girl."
Of his culinary style, Toomey says he focuses on freshness. He believes that less is more in a lot of cases and likes to start meals with fresh ingredients.
He likes to cook a variety of foods both at home and at work but admits he has some favorites.
"I love learning about food and the cultures associated with food," he says. "With that said, I love smoking meats at home and, of course, I love grilling anything."
During his first few months at Fox Run, Toomey was getting acclimated and says that, like any chef, he is eager to make his mark on the menu. He rolled out his first menu last month, and he added several delicious new dishes, such as marinated lamb loin chop, flat-iron steak with chimichurri, Tex-Mex meatloaf, Cajun shrimp and grits, and crab mac 'n' cheese.
Toomey came to Fox Run just a few months after the community debuted the new Signature Dining program, which features fresh, made-to-order, resident-focused menu offerings.
Favorite dishes, such as steak, pasta, and grilled seafood, are still served, but now the flavor and temperature is even better because food isn't prepared ahead of time. The Signature Dining program meshes well with Toomey's focus on fresh ingredients.
"This is how I have cooked for years," he says. "I think it is definitely the way to go here at Fox Run."
Kevin Cunningham, Director of Dining Services at Fox Run, says Toomey has been a welcome addition to his team. After Toomey's first few weeks on the job, Cunningham said that already his "passion is very contagious."
If you want to taste a bit of chef Toomey's cooking at home in your own kitchen, try his recipe below for Michigan maple smoked salmon.
Michigan maple smoked salmon
(Serves 12–15 as an appetizer)
5 lb. loin fresh salmon, skin on
1 cup Michigan maple syrup
For the brine:
2 qt cold water
½ cup salt
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup Michigan maple syrup
Combine brine ingredients.
Place salmon into brine for 6-8 hours.
Pull salmon from brine and pat dry.
Place salmon in fridge overnight, uncovered to develop a "skin" or pellicle (a coating of proteins on the fish that allows smoke to better adhere during the smoking process).
Place salmon in a cool 150-degree smoker (skin side down) and allow to smoke for 4–5 hours.
Every hour, baste fish with 1 cup Michigan maple syrup.
Pull from smoker, allow to cool, and serve.