Two Chefs In This Kitchen Equals Bliss!

By+Susan E. Miller

LaSalle Grill describes its cuisine as “modern American” – a blend of classic and ethnic preparations. Food presentation is unique, creative, and artfully served.

The same could be said when describing the family / career lifestyle of Tommy and Lisa Sheridan, executive chef and pastry chef, respectively, of the Colfax Avenue hotspot.

Their parenting arrangement is definitely “modern American” – a phenomenon known as split-shift parenting. They manage their life creatively and it is presented artfully in the form of three little girls, ages 7, 5, and 3.

Thanks to the flexibility of their boss, restaurateur Mark McDonnell, they are able to raise their family and continue to do what they love. Lisa works mornings, Tommy works evenings, and their children never see daycare or sitters who aren’t family members.

“It’s hard in some ways,” Tommy said, “but it is the only way we could have a family and both work in the business.” Lisa describes their work as an all-consuming sort of career. Both of them clearly love what they do, although each found their way to LaSalle Grill (and ultimately to each other), in very different ways.

Tommy’s family owned and operated Chauncey’s, a west side staple, for 35 years. By age 15, he was cooking. He attended Vincennes University, where he received a culinary arts degree. Upon returning to the area, he worked as sous chef at the South Bend Country Club, Summit Club, and LaSalle Grill. Here he became executive chef, a position he’s held for seven years. His role involves hiring cooks, ordering supplies, and menu costing. Menu development is done daily and is a group effort handled by the staff, he said.

Lisa entered the world of food in a less direct manner. She was studying at Illinois State University to be a band director. During student teaching she realized it wasn’t what she wanted for her life. She quit school and went home; a decision she described as terrifying.

After returning to the South Bend area, she took a job at Heston Supper Club, LaPorte, then at Tippecanoe Place Restaurant, where she tried her hand at being a prep cook. Within a month, she knew she wanted to do more with cooking. Thanks to a friend at LaSalle Grill, she interviewed with McDonnell for a position, which, to her own surprise she got. Later, McDonnell told her he had no intention of hiring her. On her third day of work, she met Tommy. A few months later they were dating and about three years later, married.

“I sent him a thank you note. He said that was the only reason he hired me.”

Lisa was the only woman in the kitchen at that time. On her third day of work, she met Tommy. A few months later they were dating and about three years later, married. They recently celebrated their 10-year wedding anniversary.

At work, Tommy takes the challenges of his job in stride. In addition to the sensational meals for the restaurant, he mentions casually that he and the staff also handle food for banquets, catering, and private parties – and all from one kitchen.

Lisa approaches her job with the goal of making the best (fill in the blank) ever. “I like to do little things to classics: like spreading a little raspberry marmalade on the bottom of the crust of a lemon meringue pie.”

Her favorite thing to make? She’s embarrassed to admit it: cookies. For years, she was on a quest to make the perfect chocolate chip cookie. She also confesses spending three years perfecting cheesecake before she’d even put it on the menu. What the dessert menu always includes is Molten Chocolate Cake, Crème Brulee, ice cream, sorbet, and three to five unique desserts each day.

Tommy loves to make everything from osso buco to pasta. Standards on the menu include Filet Mignon, salmon, and a variety of fish, such as Cilantro and Lemon Crumb Crusted Tilapia.

At home, it is simple, comfort foods for the family. Lisa does most of the cooking, since Tommy usually needs a break from it. They agree their current kitchen is less than ideal and they are saving for their dream house and dream kitchen. A South Bend commercial range and a double oven are on the list of necessities so far.

Lisa never regrets her decision to walk out of the band room and into the kitchen.

“I love, love, love what I do. I couldn’t be happier. I never could’ve dreamed it would’ve turned out so perfectly. My whole life hinged on a thank you note,” she said. “Everything I have – my career, my husband, my girls – it all came from that simple action.”


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