By: Mike Rhodes—
Muncie, IN—Chef Megan VanDerHeide will join the Horizon Convention Center as the new Executive Chef on January 1, 2018.
Chef Megan VanDerHeide is a Muncie Central graduate and has an Associates Degree in Hospitality Administration with a concentration in Culinary Arts and Event Management from Ivy Tech Community College. She received her Chef Certification from the American Culinary Federation in 2011. ACF certified chefs have gone through numerous practical and written examinations. A panel of ACF certified chefs tests a prospective chef and judges his or her food. There are about 14 levels of chefs in the culinary world. As you progress in the industry you continue to test “UP.” Chef Megan VanDerHeide is also ServSafe Certified.
Chef Megan VanDerHeide replaces Chef Caleb Churchill, who is now part owner and chef of the former Pete’s Duck Inn (now Pete’s Bar & Grill) in Albany. Although he is leaving as Executive Chef of the Horizon Convention Center, he hand-picked Chef Megan VanDerHeide to replace him.
“One of the reasons I hand-picked Megan was the fact that she was really one of the exceptional ones. She lives the life of a chef. She strives for excellence. Her presentation skills are simply outstanding. She’s going to take things up a couple of notches over me. I told her, “Your job for the first 6 months is to make me look bad. And I know she will. She’s that good.” — Chef Caleb Churchill
Chef Megan VanDerHeide is a Muncie native and is extremely happy to be returning to Muncie, a place she calls home.
“We’ve officially moved back to Muncie after our 4th move in 5 months,” Megan said. “It seems like everyone talks about getting away from Muncie, but it was crazy how much I missed it. The phone call came one day and the opportunity presented itself. It was like God opened a door for us. We are super excited to be here. I really missed Muncie, so what better way to come home than to serve your community?”
Megan is married to husband Anthony VanDerHeide, who works as a server at Olive Garden. The couple were recently blessed with a new baby about one month ago—son Solomon.
The Chef’s Personal Style
As Executive Chef for the Horizon Convention Center, Chef Megan VanDerHeide must prepare meals for groups up to around 1,500 people.
“I enjoy mass production cooking, probably because I’ve done it for so long at Ball State, Anderson University and Taylor University,” she said. “Mass production cooking does have its set of unique challenges. Unlike a typical restaurant chef, our food isn’t immediately going straight to a guest. It’s the thought behind the food we are preparing and the best way to hold the food so what we prepare will still be vibrant and fresh when it is presented to a guest. I think that’s the biggest thing. For example, I might cook a beef tenderloin 10 degrees less than I normally would, because I know it is going to rest and rise in temperature over time. By the time it gets to the guest, it will be at the temperature that I want it to be. It’s cooking green beans al danté, because I know they are going to hold in a holding box, and they won’t be complete mush by the time they are presented to a guest.
“I am very into asthetics and making food look beautiful. I think food preparation is an artform. There’s a common misconception that all convention center or institutionalized food is just bland and not “pretty.” I don’t agree with that. I think there’s a lot you can do. A slight swirl of a spoon or a twirl of a tong can make all the difference. I am very into color and bright and vibrant garnishes. I’m not big on things out of a can or from a bag. I like everything to be from scratch. I believe the more “hands-on” you are with the food, the more “love” you put on that food.”
Food is Love
“I believe food is love,” Megan said. “We are ultimately here to serve the community. So many different things in this world divide us. It’s kind of beautiful to be a part of something that brings us all together—food. One thing Chef Caleb Churchill did is come come out of the kitchen and personally meet and greet the guests. I thought that was a beautiful thing he did and something I plan to do myself. I think any cuisine that you give me, be it Irish or Caribbean or South African…it’s fun to research and educate yourself on different cuisines and cultures.”
As a chef preparing meals for large groups, it’s important to be cognizant of those with special dietary needs. After fighting battles with her own personal food allergies, Chef Megan VanDerHeide believes she has a bit of an edge on that part of the industry. “People who need special diets come to our events, so it’s important to be able to prepare meals for them,” she said.
Centrally located in a thriving downtown atmosphere, Horizon Convention Center connects personalized service and expertise to fulfill your custom convention, wedding, or event needs. Your guests will love the heart of Muncie!