Executive Chef at Paul’s Run, Kevin Cooper, has quite an array of professional experience. From joining the Army, to starting his own catering company, and triumphantly winning a cooking contest on the Food Network, Chef Kevin certainly knows his way around the kitchen. Cooking since childhood, his everlasting passion for food and culture continues to inspire his culinary journey at Paul’s Run. “I’ve been in the kitchen since I was nine years old,” Chef Kevin reflects.
As Kevin’s culinary skills have transformed tremendously throughout the years, he’ll never forget a signature ingredient of his past. “When I was a kid we always had a big tub of peanut butter at home. I would bake peanut butter cookies every single day, and my mom got really tired of them. She told me to go into the kitchen and make anything I could think of without using peanut butter. Ever since then I’ve been cooking,” Kevin laughs reminiscing.
As Chef Kevin’s ingredients extended far past peanut butter, his teenage years became filled with multi-cultural cuisines. “I was always curious to learn about other cultures,” he explains. “I would befriend people with different cultural backgrounds and I’d start shopping in local cultural markets. I would pick up all kinds of ingredients and experiment with them at home.”
Embarking on a new journey: Chef Kevin joins the Army
It didn’t take long for Chef Kevin to become the star cook for all of his family gatherings. Soon enough, he was preparing meals for birthday parties, reunions, graduation parties and more. And although Chef Kevin’s culinary skills thrived at such a young age, when it came time to consider his career, he admits to having initial hesitation. “I always knew I wanted to be a chef, but for a long time I was scared,” he explains.
Chef Kevin earned his degree in restaurant management and culinary arts, but instead of pursuing the culinary industry, he chose to join the Army. “I’ve been in the Army for 11 years. I was active duty for six and a half, and I transitioned out of active duty into the National Guard, which I am still in today,” Chef Kevin explains. “The army has given me the confidence and also the discipline to really pursue cooking as a full-time career.”
Gaining a new-found confidence, after Chef Kevin left active duty, he began operating his own catering business. Inspired by cultures from around the world, Chef Kevin enjoyed applying his military travels to innovating recipes in the kitchen.
Between traveling in the army and my passion for cooking, I gained an extensive cultural background in food. My whole goal became taking food from all over the world and putting my own twist on it.Executive Chef at Paul’s Run, Kevin Cooper
Finding Paul’s Run: a passion for cooking continues
As the pandemic began, Chef Kevin’s catering business began to slow, and his opportunities to showcase his culinary expression became limited. That’s when Chef Kevin discovered Paul’s Run.
“I was really excited to come to Paul’s Run. I started working here in February and I could tell it was a really great community,” he says. Chef Kevin was especially excited when he learned of different ways this community would shape his culinary journey. “I knew that coming to Paul’s Run would be another level of cultural cuisine for me. It gave me a chance to learn more about different cultures from the residents, like Jewish cuisine and more,” he says enthusiastically.
Chef Kevin also greatly enjoys working alongside his culinary team within the community and bringing his leadership to the table. “Our line cooks have so much knowledge and talent. It’s give and take, and I’ve really enjoyed receiving their knowledge and also giving them that confirmation that they are great cooks,” he affirms.
Chef Kevin has been thrilled to showcase his culinary talents at Paul’s Run, and for him, cooking is more than just a job. “When you choose to be a chef, it is something that you love, and you are here for a reason. I don’t just look at this as my job. It’s my passion,” he says.
Satisfying residents with upscale service and food
Giving and receiving knowledge in the Paul’s Run kitchen, Chef Kevin has enjoyed the leadership he’s been able to bring to his team. And he says their tremendous efforts in the kitchen each day are motivated by giving residents the best dining experience possible and lifting their spirits through food.
“We continuously try our best to make sure we give residents 100 percent upscale service and food. This is their home and it’s all about satisfying them and doing whatever we can to make them happy,” he says.
Cooking centerstage: Chef Kevin stars on the Food Network
Satisfying residents with upscale menus and delicious cuisine, when Chef Kevin is asked about his favorite dish, he references a stewed chicken recipe that earned him quite a memorable victory. “I competed on a Food Network show called Cooks vs. Cons that aired in the summer of 2017,” Chef Kevin explains. “The whole experience was amazing. Every time I talk about it, it still gives me goosebumps,” he laughs.
Alongside Chef Kevin’s culinary talents are his abilities to be in front of a camera. “I love to be in front of the camera cooking. I just like teaching people and providing them with the knowledge they need to make really good food,” he says. Kevin triumphantly took home the victory despite having challenges in the first round of the competition. “I almost got sent home the first round, but that’s okay because it put a fire under my feet and I took home the prize,” he confirms.
With fire under his feet, Chef Kevin continues to bring his passion for food to the Paul’s Run kitchen each and every day, even amidst the challenges of COVID-19. Throughout the pandemic, Chef Kevin’s passion for cooking remains strong and his confidence to overcome any challenge maintains.
For me, adjusting and adapting to change is what I’m good at. It really shows your resilience and gives you a challenge. At Paul’s Run we take each day at a time and we give residents the greatest food experience possible.
For Chef Kevin, cooking is an ongoing adventure that never gets boring, and his eagerness to inspire residents and staff at Paul’s Run with food continues to serve as motivation. “Food is never-ending. There’s something new to learn every day. It’s like art. You express yourself in so many different ways. That’s what I love about cooking.”