As an executive chef with Bon Appetit Management Company at the University of Pennsylvania, Donald Stauffer oversees the school’s largest dining hall, where over 10,000 meals are served per week.
The former St. Marys resident currently lives in Phoenixville and has been working at his current position for just over a year.
“I create the menus, develop recipes, order products, train employees and interact with the students at the university,” Stauffer said. “We focus on using local and sustainable foods.”
He noted the dining hall also offers items from restaurant chains such as Subway, Starbucks and Burger Stop, as well as “convenience store” items.
“I enjoy having the opportunity to interact with the students and help develop them and educate them through food,” he said.
Stauffer, 36, is the son of Robert and Lois Stauffer of St. Marys. While growing up, he was a member of Queen of the World Church. He is a 1992 graduate of Elk County Christian High School and a 1994 graduate of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Academy of Culinary Arts, and also obtained his baking pastry degree in 2005.
Stauffer said his interest in the culinary field was sparked by “coming from a family with traditional values, home-cooked meals and (from) scratch cooking.”
In addition, Stauffer said he experienced and learned cultural differences through food by working at a Chinese restaurant throughout high school.
His professional accomplishments include certification through the American Culinary Federation as a Certified Executive Chef, and a bronze medal and a second-place finish in the regional NACUFS Culinary Challenge.
“I have traveled to Italy and Switzerland to study,” Stauffer said, describing his overseas travel in 2003 and 2005.
While in Switzerland, he completed a week-long continuing education culinary program in advance baking and pastry, and two years prior, he attended the Italian Culinary Institute for Foreigners.
Before his current position at UPenn, Stauffer was an executive chef at Villanova University for two years, overseeing one of the dining halls and catering on-campus functions that ranged from sport banquets to presidential receptions and totaled $1 million per year in food sales. He has also worked as a chef at Bloomsburg University under ARAMARK, one of the world’s largest food service contract companies.
Stauffer also honed his culinary skills at such establishments as The William Penn Inn near Lansdale as a sous chef, at Capellini’s Restaurant and Banquet Center in Massillon, Ohio as an executive chef, at The Couer D’ Alene Resort in Northern Idaho as a pastry chef and at The Hershey Lodge as a sous and banquet chef.
According to Stauffer, his longtime friend Paul Brennen, also formerly from St. Marys, held the chef position at UPenn prior to his arrival.
“As with any job, the challenges come from wanting to deliver the program you want while adhering to budget restrictions,” Stauffer said.
Stauffer credits his family as playing a key role in his culinary success.
“I believe the first and most important aspect of my success comes from having a strong support system through friends and family,” he said. “Without my family, I would not be who I am today.”
He noted that “some aspects of small towns tend to shield or shelter us from the diversity of the world. In my case, I think it was a big reason for my passion with food.”
Stauffer said that if cooking is something a person is interested in pursing, they should make it their passion.
“If cooking is something you just enjoy doing, then enjoy it at home with your family. It is a lifestyle that keeps you away from family and friends on weekends and holidays, it introduces you to many vices and stress; but if you love it, if it is truly who you are, then it can be the ride of your life,” Stauffer said.
During moments spent outside of the kitchen, which Stauffer says are few and far between due to his demanding schedule, he enjoys being outdoors and relaxing. He hopes to find more time to relax, even as he continues to advance in his career.
“My future plans change each day. The most important plan for the future is to grow and move forward in anything we do,” Stauffer said.