Not many people can say that they get to work with their best friend, but Vanessa Schiola and Steven Fehnel can. Both chefs at Residences at Deer Creek wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s amazing working together. I get to hang out with my best friend every day,” Fehnel said.
Twenty years ago, Schiola and Fehnel met on the porch of Schiola’s apartment complex, where Fehnel’s cousin just so happened to live as well. The two became fast friends and started dating two years later. They’ve been married for 14 years now, and their long-time connection gives them a unique working environment.
“We can run the line and don’t even need to talk because we’re so in sync with what the other person is doing,” Schiola said.
For each, the path to becoming a chef has been a steady climb full of hard work and dedication to honing their craft.
“We literally had to work to get to where we are now. Our hard work paid off and was totally worth it,” Fehnel said.
Schiola began her culinary career when a friend started her own catering company. She held positions at two different country clubs and worked her way up to sous chef. When the opportunity to take her skills to Residences at Deer Creek presented itself, she gladly made that move and found herself in a new position where she enjoys building relationships with the residents and appreciates the strong leadership from her management team.
“At a lot of places, you don’t really get to know your customers. Here, we see the residents every day and get to know them. They’re like family,” Schiola said. “My executive director is wonderful. I’ll probably be here until the day she retires from her job. I respect all of my coworkers and the whole management team is awesome. They’re very professional in their jobs but also very caring to their employees.”
Fehnel’s path to the culinary world came a bit later when his position with a local door manufacturing company ended. Schiola knew of an opening at the country club she was working for at the time, and Fehnel started there as a dishwasher, working his way up in the kitchen. Taking a brief pause from cooking, he worked on cars but found it wasn’t really for him. His best friend and wife was enjoying her new position at Residences at Deer Creek, so Fehnel followed in her footsteps. Again, his hard work and persistence benefited him as he worked his way up to sous chef. He enjoys working with the residents and recognizes the quality management from the leadership team as well.
“They’re real people and they’re very understanding,” Fehnel said. “They boost morale here, everyone makes you feel really good.”
Schiola is now the Executive Chef at Residences at Deer Creek and, with her partner in Fehnel, they have created fun, food-based activities for the residents. Their Chef’s Table, for example, is a monthly event that brings 20 residents together for socializing and enjoying the tasty meals Schiola and Fehnel create. It’s another way they serve the residents and create important connections.
“We get to be hands-on with our Chef’s Table and special events, and that’s how we’ve gotten to know our residents pretty well. Now, we can go out and talk with any of them, find out how their day is going, and that’s really what keeps us here,” Schiola said.
The couple and their food are becoming popular throughout the county, as well. They have taken their skills out into the local community by cooking meals for police and fire stations, as well as for the Schererville Senior Center.
“The senior center goes crazy for our cooking. We like to go over the top a little bit. We love what we do, and we want people to be able to see our passion,” Schiola said.
Schiola and Fehnel are truly the best of friends, and in addition to spending time together cooking, they enjoy many of the same recreational activities. They spend time with each other working on muscle cars, attending music festivals, traveling to different states and visiting zoos, and taking a trip to Disney World every year.
“We do all of the parks at Disney every time we go, and I love watching the fireworks,” Fehnel said.
“There’s always a new restaurant opening up at Disney, so we love to go down and try all the new eateries. We love the atmosphere and fun of Disney, it’s our favorite thing to do together,” Schiola said.
In the kitchen, the couple infuses their skills and passions to create some amazing food that the residents, and staff, truly enjoy. In and out of the kitchen, Schiola and Fehnel are an amazing team.
For more information on the Residences at Deer Creek, visit their website https://residencesseniorliving.com/residences-at-deer-creek/.