Steven Gordon

For most of his career, Steven Gordon, 64, has been an institutional cook, serving food to people in dormitories, employee cafeterias and even reform schools. It's not glamorous work, but it's not just meat and potatoes either.

Years ago, Gordon worked at the Sleighton School, which was a reform school, and after that, he worked at Lakeside Youth Services, an alternative school. The facilities served young people who had gotten in some kind of trouble or had trouble adjusting to society.

Steven Gordon

"If you treat them with respect and integrity, they won't be so quick to give you an attitude," he said. "If you come in and you smile and ask them what they would like instead of just slopping food on their plates, eventually they are going to get a good feeling for you. I'm not going to say I'm the solution to their problems, but I am a small part of it, in how I serve them along with giving them something tasteful to lunch as opposed to slopping something out of a can."

Gordon, of Southampton, could use a little bit bit of that respect and integrity himself. An ex-con, he was released from prison in May 2010 for a 2000 domestic violence incident that included aggravated assault and attempted rape. There was a similar, but less serious incident in 1972

He's hoping an interview he had last week will lead to a job. It's perfect work for him, either as a prep cook or soup chef. Except for his prison stints, he has been cooking for most of his life, starting with his work as a cook and baker on a nuclear submarine when he was in the Navy.

But he worries that his record will cost him, as it has in the year that he has been looking for work. "I knew it would be tough, but the definition of this kind of tough borders on nearly impossible," said Gordon, who particularly likes to serve up a dish of veal Parmesan and a side of spaghetti. He once dreamed of being a secondary school teacher. 

"In 2000, I did something that was criminal and it was very wrong. I took responsibility," he said. "Look at the statistics of how many people in Pennsylvania's prisons are returned for parole violations or just committed other crimes. I wonder if anyone has bothered to find out how much of that is related to being beaten down by society. Put these people back to work and the budget would not have to include billions of dollars for new prisons and perhaps we could money into education and potentially keep people from going to prison on the front end.

"Where are the second chances?"

Update: As of December 2011, Gordon is working part-time at a fast food restaurant, but he still wants fulltime work. 



  • Steven Gordon
  • Hometown: Southampton
  • Profession: Cook, food service manager/supervisor.
  • Experience: Supervised 30 employees in various food service settings. Completed weekly inventory and profit and loss reports. Provided menus, ordered products, handled cooking and baking. Also worked in customer service.
  • Education: Bucks County Community College - associate degree in secondary education.
  • E-mail address:
  • Read Steven Gordon's resume.

Read past profiles in the Looking for Work series.

Tomorrow: More on this issue in my Jobbing blog. Read my article about a related bill before City Council in today's Philadelphia Inquirer.

Next Monday: Another profile.

The Inquirer is not endorsing this individual as a job candidate; potential employers should do their own background checks.

Contact staff writer Jane M. Von Bergen at 215-854-2769 or