Years ago, if you told Michael Fleming he would be cooking for a living, he would probably call you crazy. “I originally went to school for computer networking,” Fleming said. But he didn’t want to sit behind a computer in an office all day. “I didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life,” Fleming said. He also knew he wanted to use his hands in whatever career he pursued. Cooking gave him that opportunity. “It allows me be hands on with my work. It also allows me to be creative,” said Fleming, who is the executive chef at Immanuel Courtyard, a position he has held for three years. “I have to come in and do something different every day,” Fleming said.
His job allows him to experiment with different ingredients. Fleming says he rarely uses recipes. “Most everything I do is from memory. I taste the food I make and I add things often,” Fleming said. He learned most of his skills from Don Lewis, a former chef at Lakeside Village and Matt Bera, the current executive chef at Lakeside Village. “They taught me all the basics like how to make sauces, soups and other things. They also broke everything down for me so that I could really understand the prep work and how to make a good meal,” Fleming said. He fits into the kitchen culture because of the camaraderie. “We call it the happy fun zone, because everyone has a lot of fun. We really love what we do,” said Fleming.
Fleming's kitchen staff is a huge part of his success. “I’ve learned so much from them. They’ve taught me new things about being a pastry chef. And whenever I need help, I can always count on my staff to have my back. They support me whenever I need it,” Fleming said. The residents appreciate him too. “My work is super fulfilling. To give something good to residents three times a day is one of the best feelings in the world,” said Fleming. But he is more than just a chef. “We’re more like family. I listen to the residents and I always tell them to come to me for ideas and suggestions on different food dishes,” said Fleming.
Fleming’s passion for people and cooking was born out of a desire and ambition to explore food. “I don’t like eating the same thing. I don’t like cooking the same thing. There may be thousands of recipes out there for the same dish. I’m going to try to cook all of them,” said Fleming. His passion isn’t the only thing he found here at Immanuel, he also found love. He and his wife, Kylee, a former assistant dining room manager at Lakeside Village, tied the knot in July. They have a one-year-old son named Stephen. “And we have another bun in the oven,” Fleming laughs, as the two are expecting their second child. When he’s not at work, he is doing a lot of house projects. “I just started gutting the bathroom,” said Fleming. When he needs a break, he picks up his guitar and starts playing some of his favorite blues and jazz songs. His one-year-old son is his inspiration. “Stephen will sit right next to me with his plastic guitar and play along as well,” Fleming said. The dynamic at Immanuel Courtyard is uplifting. Fleming will be the first one to tell you that. “Everyone is here to support each other. The residents take care of each other. We all take care of each other. It’s just nice to see an entire community that solely wants to take care of each other,” said Fleming. “It truly is a great place to work and live.” #HeartsOfImmanuel