A rebel in the kitchen, former CPA turned teacher loves to feed people

  • Cook of the Week Jeff Schneider makes and jars his marinara sauce. His recipe, which he shares today, makes a thick, chunky gravy made from fresh ingredients and good olive oil. "The first time I knew I was doing it right was when an Italian cook complimented me," he said.

      Cook of the Week Jeff Schneider makes and jars his marinara sauce. His recipe, which he shares today, makes a thick, chunky gravy made from fresh ingredients and good olive oil. "The first time I knew I was doing it right was when an Italian cook complimented me," he said. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • The ability to feed people at home, or a tailgating party, or gift them with food to eat, is the reason Jeff Schneider of Bartletts says he loves to cook.

      The ability to feed people at home, or a tailgating party, or gift them with food to eat, is the reason Jeff Schneider of Bartletts says he loves to cook. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • All jarred and ready to give to family and friends is Jeff Schneider's marinara sauce.

      All jarred and ready to give to family and friends is Jeff Schneider's marinara sauce. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Spaghetti squash over a bed of kale with ravioli and homemade marinara sauce is just one of many meals Cook of the Week Jeff Schneider of Bartlett prepares for his family.

      Spaghetti squash over a bed of kale with ravioli and homemade marinara sauce is just one of many meals Cook of the Week Jeff Schneider of Bartlett prepares for his family. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 
By Sally Eyre
Daily Herald correspondent
Posted1/30/2019 6:00 AM

Jeff Schneider, our Cook of the Week from Bartlett, admits he's a rebel. He doesn't have a cell phone. He quit his job as a CPA to become a teacher and he doesn't follow recipes. "I'm the type of guy who has to ruin it a time or two until I figure it out," he laughs. "That's why I don't bake." Once he figures it out, however, it's pretty great. Case in point, his famous marinara sauce, a thick, chunky gravy made from fresh ingredients and good olive oil. "The first time I knew I was doing it right was when an Italian cook complimented me. I get called an Italian all the time, but I tell them, 'I just try to think like an Italian grandmother--what would she do?'" Other chunky favorites in his repertoire are his chili and Mexican salsa. "My {vegetables} are always cut big. I like chunky; I do that on purpose, so it sticks to the noodles!" Every month, Jeff makes about 20 jars of marinara and then gifts them to his friends and family. The ability to feed people at home, or a tailgating party, or gift them with food to eat, is the reason Jeff loves to cook. Though he was born and raised in Chicago, his mother was Canadian and would often quote the Native American saying "The richest guy is the one who shares the most." Jeff's mother modeled this philosophy with her nurturing nature. Now, Jeff and his wife, a special education teacher, model this lifestyle for their grown children. In the summer, Jeff loves to fish at Lake Geneva and always shares his bounty with others. Moreover, of course, he cooks for his students. "I feed them a lot--give them chocolate--and then work them like dogs!" he laughs. His coworkers are often the recipients of his from-scratch goodies, and even the mailman enjoys his marinara sauce. At home, Jeff cooks the family dinner six nights a week. "I have a house full of women; they think all men cook and do laundry! I grill three or four days a week, even in the middle of winter; my neighbors probably think I'm crazy. My daughters are runners, so they want tons of fresh vegetables--like sweet potatoes cooked in a grill basket with olive oil and salt and pepper." Jeff also grills pork, beef, chicken or fish and will often make fresh quesadillas or serve one of his pre-made sides that he likes to have handy in the freezer.

"I make double batches of couscous, rice and potato dishes so that we have a lot of variety." Jeff is also grill-master when he's tailgating. Once, when he was running out of time and needed a fast way to cook the shrimp, he devised a method of steaming the shrimp in beer -- on the grill in foil -- so it is now a game-day staple.

 

"It takes zero effort, and the shrimp are so juicy and warm; so good! I wing it like that a lot." It won't surprise you to hear that Jeff enjoys cooking the vacation and holiday meals. "I love feeding people. I figure out what they want, and then I assault them! I take a lot of pride in what I do. I make too much on purpose so that I can send everyone home with leftovers. I like to keep the crowd happy!" Jeff may be a rebel, but he is also a rich man.

• To suggest someone to be profiled here, send the cook's name, address and phone number to food@dailyherald.com.

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