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Chef shares skills at soup kitchen in Canandaigua

Professionally trained executive sous chef Isaac Davis spends most of his time in the expansive kitchen of Ferris Hills at West Lake, where residents dine on the likes of pork osso bucco, grilled sirloin filets and Mediterranean shrimp pasta.

Last month, the pan-seared citrus scallops and risotto that Davis and fellow Ferris Hills chef Bonnie Potter created took top honors at the Canandaigua Chef’s Challenge, an event Davis has now won for two consecutive years.

Many Tuesdays, however, you’ll find Davis helping prepare the daily free meal at Gleaners Community Kitchen in Canandaigua. Some people would consider it surprising to go from a high-end retirement community to a soup kitchen on a regular basis, but for Davis it’s a natural fit.

“I was always brought up to treat everyone the same,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you have money or not.”

The son of Nancy and Melvin Davis, the 28-year-old Farmington resident has known since kindergarten that he wanted to cook for a living.

“It’s always been a passion of mine,” he said, noting that his mom — a nurse — has a talent for baking and that has always been a source of inspiration for him.

Davis is a graduate of Penn Yan Academy who spent his junior and senior years of high school studying culinary arts at the Finger Lakes Technical and Career Center run by Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES in Flint. He then majored in culinary arts at Alfred State College. Following graduation, he worked in Bemus Point, as well as Syracuse and Buffalo before landing a job as executive sous chef at Peek’n Peak Resort in Clymer.

A desire to be closer to family brought Davis back to the Finger Lakes a couple years ago. That’s when he started at Ferris Hills at West Lake, a retirement community that has 84 independent living apartments as well as an adjacent, enriched living community of Clark Meadows, with 48 apartments. He credits dining services manager Mark Dobbertin for encouraging his career growth.

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