The Park Steakhouse’s Executive Chef Pursues Gardening

For the past three years, The Park Steakhouse’s Executive Chef, Paul Scheffler, has been planting his own herbs and produce for use in the restaurant’s dishes.

When deciding what dishes to make, Scheffler looks to see what is readily available in his own garden. He does not plan out his dishes, instead, he shapes them around his garden’s products, which provide additional freshness to the food.

“The basil might hit the right time. You pick the basil and then… make pesto. Or, you’ll put it in a sauce because it’s just the right time to pick it,” Scheffler said. “I grow Chinese long beans… So, when they’re ready, then we’ll do sautéed Chinese long beans with garlic or fermented black beans. Or, I could even put them with chilis if they’re out at the same time. So, you kind of play off whatever’s around at that time.”

In addition to planting cucumbers, eggplant, garlic, figs, peppers and a dozen different kinds of tomatoes, Scheffler also grows more “exotic herbs,” like Thai basil, blue spice basil, lemongrass, chamomile and lavender.

Scheffler derives inspiration for his dishes from his various food experiences. After trying a fish dish made with Aji Charapita peppers while he was in Guatemala, Scheffler decided to plant them in his own garden.

“You’re always on the lookout for something different or something new—a flavor you haven’t had,” Scheffler said. “So, in the moment, you’re in a foreign country. You’re eating fish [that] you just pulled out of the pond next to you…it’s the whole ambience. So, it connects…the flavor to a memory.”

Scheffler hopes to pick the Aji Charapita peppers from his backyard garden within the next two months.

According to Scheffler, gardening among chefs is becoming more commonplace because of the ability to harvest ingredients in a variety of places that allow for herbs and produce to be sustained, whether it is on a restaurant’s rooftop, in a garden next to a restaurant or in someone’s backyard.

“I think chefs nowadays are paying more attention to these things, which is nice,” Scheffler said. “And, I think the customers—the consumers—are paying more attention, too, which is also nice.”

The Park Steakhouse
151 Kinderkamack Rd
Park Ridge, NJ
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