Meals On Wheels Chef Crafts Flavorful Food For People In Need
Chef John Williams has created menus for exclusive resorts, upscale diners and even some celebrities.
His current clientele is the most rewarding, however.
Williams is executive chef for Meals on Wheels of NEPA, including its new catering service, the Space at Olive. When the team isn’t crafting meals for elderly people and those with disabilities in the region, Williams and the rest of the kitchen staff work on services for the nonprofit’s event space.
Inside the organization’s Wyoming Avenue building in downtown Scranton, the space was renovated to host other local organizations’ events at low cost, with certain events benefitting Meals on Wheels. The space can be used for parties or weddings, too, and also served as a venue for the 2018 Scranton Fringe Festival.
The additional space calls for a host of new recipes from Williams, including Shrimp and Artichoke Tartlets. The appetizer, which earned Meals on Wheels of NEPA a grocery gift card through Local Flavor Gives Back, is an easy recipe with simple assembly, Williams said.
Always one for experimenting with different flavors and combinations, Williams created the dish as a great way to blend the flavors of shrimp and artichokes into a crunchy wonton.
“I’m constantly trying to think of things that are out-of-the-box. I never want anyone to feel bored while they’re eating,” he said. “That’s not what food should be about.”
The tartlets gave a fresh spin to a great combination of flavors. While people can serve them as an appetizer, the light and tasty tartlets easily could be a meal, too.
Aside from meals for the event space, Williams — who also worked as a chef in hospitals and assisted-living facilities — crafts hearty and healthy dishes with all the fixings for all Meals on Wheels recipients, many of whom have dietary restrictions. All of Williams’ meals are low-sodium, and he must keep in mind the specific guidelines for each client when cooking up a dish.
That doesn’t stop his creativity, though, as sample menus include Paprika Chicken with Egg Noodles, Sugar Snap Peas and Applesauce, and Sweet and Sour Pork with brown rice, carrots and pineapple tidbits.
“We are incredibly lucky and happy to have someone as experienced and caring as Chef John leading our amazing culinary staff,” said Meals on Wheels of NEPA Executive Director Kristen Kosin-Moran. “Our clients, whether they be homebound or clients of the space, get his best every day.”
Williams also reflected on the importance of Meals on Wheels, not just its nutritional value but also its community aspect. He noted that sometimes guests’ only human interaction in a day is with a Meals on Wheels volunteer.
“We’ve had (volunteers) find people who have fallen or have called 911 if someone didn’t get to the door. ... We’re saving lives,” he said. “I’ve done a lot, but this just feels good. To help people like this, there’s nothing like it.”
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Chef John Williams’s Shrimp and Artichoke Tartlets
2 cups chopped shrimp
1 cup chopped artichoke hearts
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
6 whole eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
24 wonton wrappers
Mix first seven ingredients together in a medium-size bowl.
Spray mini muffin tin with non-stick spray. Place one wonton wrapper in each tin (corners will stick up). Fill each wonton to top of muffin cup. Bake for 15 minutes at 325 F. Keep warm until serving.