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.

“He really believed in me when no other management would,” Davis said. “He truly got me to where I am today.”

Davis, who also volunteered last summer during a Habitat for Humanity build with fiancee Brianna Caskey, describes himself as a hands-on person who doesn’t like being bored on his day off and would instead “like to get out and do stuff.”

While still in college, he had volunteered with other students at a soup kitchen. It was in early 2018 that he first signed up to volunteer at Gleaners.

“He’s definitely one of the younger volunteers we have, if not the youngest,” said Thomas Carter, manager of the program.

Founded in 1987 at St. John’s Episcopal Church on North Main Street, Gleaners Community Kitchen has about 65 volunteers who help throughout the course of each week. Carter said they serve all ages, Mondays through Fridays. The doors open at 11 a.m., and the volunteer cooks and servers never know whether 30 people will be showing up, or 80.

It averages at around 55 people though, and according to Carter, somehow always works out.

“We always send everyone home with full bellies,” he said.

Davis enjoys the camaraderie with the other volunteers at the soup kitchen.

“They’re full of energy and it’s nice to see others in the community helping those in need,” he said, adding that he is happy to help as well as to take orders for a change, instead of giving them.

The kitchen works with Foodlink to obtain staple items free or at low cost, also receiving donations of food from Wegmans, Tops Friendly Market and community members. In the summer, there’s also a large garden from which volunteers harvest.

“It’s just beautiful and there’s a lot of fresh produce,” Davis said.

Carter noted that other professional chefs have helped out at Gleaners over the years. Currently, Bruce McGinnis from the Canandaigua Yacht Club is among the volunteers, pitching in on Fridays throughout the winter months.

“The guests are very appreciative,” Carter said. “We let them know when we have someone like Isaac or Bruce come through the door.”

Describing Davis as easygoing but hardworking, Carter said he is one of those people who can create a delicious meal from whatever ingredients he has available.

“He’s like, ‘Yeah, I’m on it’ and boom — it comes together. He figures it out,” Carter said.

Davis enjoys the challenge.

“You take anything you have in that pantry and make something with it,” he said. “It’s fun, and it brings out your creative side.”

For more information about Gleaners Community Kitchen, visit gleanerskitchen.org.