It's commonly thought that you know you’ve found your life’s calling if you’d do your job for free. Chef Steven J. Oakley personifies that idea. His career began at age 16 when he offered his services to a suburban Chicago restaurant for free, “I just wanted to work, I wanted to learn,”says Oakley. That emphasis on hard work and continual learning has culminated in Chef Oakley–arriving at the top of his profession in Indianapolis.
Working his way up from picking herbs and mopping floors, Oakley had risen to the position of head line-cook before leaving to attend The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, where he graduated in 1990. He continued his culinary training here in Indy at Benvenuti, Something Different and then opening OAKLEYS bistro, which he established in December 2002. He is living his childhood dream and hoping to help others do the same.
In 2017, Chef Oakley appeared on "Beat Bobby Flay" and won with his signature creation, shrimp corn dogs! (Yes, you read that correctly -- he "beat" Bobby Flay.)
Chef Oakley has received many awards including being named “Restaurant of the Year, “Superstar”and “Best of the Best”from the Indianapolis Monthly Magazine. Additionally, Chef Oakley’s sharing goes beyond the traditional, evidenced by the Restaurant & Hospitality Association’s Award to “honor restaurant operators who go above and beyond supporting their communities.”The Association recognized that not only does OAKLEYS bistro contribute a portion of its sales of products to Second Helpings, but Chef Oakley has opened his kitchen for training and hiring students in Second Helping’s culinary program. Chef Oakley annually hosts a Learning Lunch for neighborhood Middle School students and his Team prepares bi-weekly meals to be delivered to families discretely identified by the school district.
When asked to what he attributes his success, Chef Oakley responds, “You have to love what you do.” He does —and it shows.