Chef Steve Martin: Stirring it up at Bj”rklunden

Caitlin Williamson

For many students who journey up to Bj”rklunden, helping chef Steve Martin prepare meals in the kitchen is one of the more exciting “opportunities” to take advantage of.Steve, with his thick Boston accent, his dog Sheddy, and of course, his delicious meals, has been at Bj”rklunden for 15 years and is one of the trademarks of the estate.

“All the time here I get to meet new people, but it’s the type of kids the Lawrentians are [that I love],” Steve said. “I live through all the kids that come through here. They keep me happening.”

Steve had not planned on becoming a chef — he actually wanted to become a special education teacher. However, after having a taste of cooking at Martha’s Vineyard with a friend, he realized that cooking was his true calling.

Steve attended the prestigious College of Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I. — the Harvard of cooking schools, whose accomplished alumni include the Food Network’s Emeril Lagasse and Tyler Florence. Since then, he’s spent 27 years cooking.

“There’s instant gratification in cooking. And the other part I like is eating,” Steve said. “Anytime you’re at a party, where’s the action at? The kitchen’s where it’s at.”

After graduating, Steve moved from his hometown of Boston down to Florida, where he worked as a chef at a restaurant. Eventually moving to Wisconsin, Steve worked as an executive chef at the Baileys Harbor Yacht Club Resort. Then, he left to work as the chef at Bj”rklunden.

Although Steve cooks a variety of different meals for the students at Bj”rklunden, his personal favorite food is seafood.

“I grew up on the water, and what goes around comes around. I love seafood; I’m half whale,” Steve said. “I like steamed clams — they’re reasonably priced and you can get them everywhere [on the East Coast].”

Some of the typical meals Steve makes include roast pork loin, chicken, and ribs. His tasty bread pudding is also famous among Lawrentians.
“The hardest thing [about cooking] is making everybody happy,” Steve said.

Another trademark of Bj”rklunden is Steve’s dog, Sheddy, who often roams the premises.

“[Sheddy’s] been the Bj”rk dog since this lodge was built,” Steve said. “If there’s a chapel tour, she’s a part of the tour. If there’s people hiking, she leads them.”

Aside from cooking, another one of Steve’s passions is sports. He is a huge fan of the Green Bay Packers and all Lawrence University sports teams.

“If I was in Appleton, they’d see me at all the [Lawrence] sporting events,” Steve said.

Steve’s favorite part of his job is not the actual cooking — it’s meeting the students and other people that visit Bj”rklunden. In the back room of the kitchen, Steve has a wall completely filled with postcards, pictures, and other mementos from students who have kept in contact with him throughout the years.

“I’ve become friends with people through here,” Steve said. “[That’s one of] the priceless things in my job. I’ve never ever said, ‘I don’t want to go to work today.’ I love my job.