News Go behind the scenes with Omaha Performing Arts

O-pa Spotlight: Meet our new chef!

Posted On Apr 27, 2021, 14:56 PM by O-pa Food Services, Jordan Willis and Dara Hogan
O-pa Executive Chef Michael Anderson 

Chef Michael loves nothing more than bringing people together around a table to nourish their bodies and souls. He has been feeding people for 20+ years professionally and is always learning new skills and new techniques in the kitchen. He has worked in varied sectors of the hospitality industry, including private clubs (Sunset Valley Country Club), hotels (Lied Lodge & Conference Center), restaurants (Ruthie D.'s Dining & Spirits), corporate cafeterias (Company Kitchen), and colleges & universities (Fresh Ideas).

He loves the performing arts and is excited to start his adventure at O-pa. He has some delicious meals ready for you to devour at the Holland Center Outdoors. From American, Latin and Asian food, Anderson knows how to satisfy the taste buds and bellies of various cultures. Check out the menu and pricing here. 

In this short Q & A, Chef Michael tells us more about his passion for cooking and four items you should keep stashed in your pantry! 

What was your first job?
My first job was probably helping out at grandma & grandpa's donut shop in Sioux Falls. Mom and Dad would send my sister and me up there for a week or two during the summer. I'd get up with grandpa at midnight and go in to start making doughs.

What inspired you to become a chef?
It's not one thing.  I grew up around food. It was a huge part of my growing up.  My grandparents, on both sides of the family, owned cafes at one point in time.  Some of my earliest memories are in my grandparent's donut shop.  In grade school, I was the weird kid who checked out cookbooks from the school library to make something new for dinner. I also love to make other people happy, and the way I can do that best is with food. 

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
I love the variety that being a chef affords me.  No two days are the same, and I never stop learning. There are always new techniques to learn, new flavors to explore, and new dishes to create. 

What are three-five items every family should have in their pantry?

  1. Really good olive oil
  2. Dried chiles
  3. Parmesan cheese
  4. Dried pasta and or beans

It's hard to limit it, but these are items I cannot live without.  One of my favorite quick dinners is a simple pasta with sautéed fresh vegetables with the dried chiles and then finished with the parmesan and a healthy drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (my favorite is California Olive Ranch). 

I also love to cook up a pot of beans and then use it in various things throughout the week. You can quickly turn it into a dip for a quick snack or add them to a salad for extra protein.  My favorite thing is to make a quick cold salad with white beans, some chopped celery and onion, a generous bit of dried chile, and plenty of olive oil!