Cura’s “College” For Seniors

Classes at two CCRCs are giving residents some continuing education in foodservice.

By Paul King, Editorial Director

Pickering Manor's residents take part in six two-hour
sessions that teach them culinary skills.

OREFIELD, Pa.—Similar culinary programs at two Pennsylvania CCRCs where the foodservice is managed by Cura Hospitality are giving some residents an education, or re-education, in cooking skills. At the same time, the programs serve to establish Cura as a partner with its clients, rather than as simply a vendor.

At The Terrace at Phoebe Allentown, a 92-resident CCRC, Director of Dining Services Kim Wilson offered a program this summer called Grill Masters Camp. Five residents signed up for the three-class course.

“We wanted to get residents more involved with hands-on demonstrations,” says Wilson. “We wanted them to be active, to get out of their day-to-day routine.”
In the first class, in June, the topic was meat. Students learned how to cook ribs, including using marinades and dry rubs, and burgers. July’s class focused on seafood and included presentations by representatives of Adelphia Seafood on how to select high-quality fish.

“We called it ‘wild for seafood,’” Wilson explains. “We shucked oysters and we shucked clams. We showed them the proper way to break down a hard-shelled crab, and the residents grilled some teriyaki salmon.”

In the final class, residents learned how to grill fruits and vegetables. In each class, Wilson adds, instructors reviewed food safety rules, including time and temperature knowledge. Each “graduate” received a certificate.

One step further: The Grill Masters Camp idea came out of Cura Culinary College, a yearlong training program for Cura’s employees. But at Pickering Manor, a CCRC in Newtown, Pa., Director of Dining Services Katie Stauter went even more in-depth for residents of Pickering Manor Cottages.

“We took the culinary college and modified the classes slightly but using the same basic curriculum,” says Stauter. “We had 10 of Pickering’s independent living residents take six two-hour sessions, every other week for 12 weeks. We started with basic knife skills and cooking terminology. We did classes on poultry and beef and seafood. We taught them about plate presentation and garnishing and we had a class on soups, stocks and sauces.”

Stauter adds that she didn’t award her students certificates, but she did hold a graduation reception for the group.

Intangible benefits: One of the interesting aspects of each program was that Cura received no tangible benefit. In fact, at first glance it might seem that the company was working at cross purposes by teaching residents skills that would allow them to better prepare their own meals in their cottages. However, Cura spokeswoman Grace Hoyer says that is not the case.

“With these programs, I really think that a stronger bond is formed between Cura and [the CCRCs],” says Hoyer. “It kind of drives home the fact that Cura really is a partner with the homes and not just an outside contractor or vendor.”

Hoyer shares a comment Cura received from one of the Phoebe Allentown residents regarding the Grill Masters Camp: “I love to grill,” says Bud Kuhns, 84, a retired pharmacist from Allentown, “so I enjoyed the class in June where I learned how to get great results grilling meats with rubs.”

Stauter notes that, even if Cura doesn’t derive a monetary benefit from staging the classes—at both sites the courses are free—the feel-good aspect of the classes makes them worthwhile.

“After the classes were over, our residents organized a picnic for themselves because they missed the camaraderie they’d had,” she recalls. She adds that, come the fall, she would like to organize some off-campus tours, perhaps to a nearby winery.

At Phoebe, Wilson already has planned some culinary tours. In August, a group of residents went to see the organic farms run by Rodale Inc., a publishing company that specializes in health and wellness books and magazines. On the same trip they also went to the Glasbern Inn, a bed and breakfast in Fogelsville, Pa., that runs a totally sustainable farm. In September, she’s planned a trip to a turkey farm.