2013 Goldies: Lanier Village Estates, Gainesville, Ga.
Melted bottles engage residents and make food presentation more fun.
Dave McTigue, culinary and nutrition director for Lanier Village Estates, is always looking for ways to enhance the image and quality of the dining program at this ACTS Retirement Community—particularly as it pertains to formal dining. (Lanier has a formal dining room, a casual restaurant and a small coffee shop.) His quest often takes him to a variety of culinary events such as wine tastings, and it was at one such tasting that he found the inspiration for the community’s Slumped Bottles program.
“They had a vendor there who had these melted bottles that he had drilled holes into and had hung like wind chimes,” McTigue recalls. “Even though they were hanging, as soon as I saw them I thought, ‘those would make a beautiful wine and cheese type of plate or a salad plate.’
“One of the resident activities at Lanier Village is a glass shop, where people can make items such as stained glass windows to sell,” he adds. “One of our residents—Esther Safford—was working there melting small bottles to make things like spoon holders. I thought that if I got the bottles she could melt them down for me.”
The idea grew into a resident-driven project. McTigue began to collect liquor and wine bottles from residents, and the Slumped Bottles program took shape.
“We’ve experimented with practically every type of bottle you can imagine,” McTigue says. “I particularly like the wine bottles. The 1.5-liter bottles are probably the best size, but the 750s work as well. You have all different colors—green, clear, blue—and you have different shapes. We’ve found that the clear bottles are the least attractive. When [the plates] have a color to them it provides a much better background and makes the items on the glass show up a bit better.”
But wine bottles aren’t the only things McTigue has found useful. “We’ve taken the larger Jack Daniel’s bottles, the ones that have a little hook on the handle, and that gives us a different look. Those Grey Goose bottles, they’ve got some etched glass on the back of the bottle—usually a mountain range or a bird that the artist puts on them. When you melt them down it gives kind of a 3-D effect.”
Lanier Village executives estimate that the Slumped Bottles program saves about 330 pounds of glass from the landfill per year, which isn’t bad considering that it wasn’t the original intent of the concept.
“We didn’t start out saying we’re going to save or help the environment,” says McTigue. “We were really focused on the culinary side, wanting to know what we could do to make our restaurant a little more unique or give us something new to showcase. But because it developed that way and the residents became a part of the process, everybody wins, no matter how you look at it.”
Lanier Village Estates’ Slumped Bottles program represents the gold standard for non-commercial foodservice because:
• It is a collaborative effort between staff and residents
• It has heightened the image of the dining program, created excitement on the part of residents and drawn more business
• It is an innovative way to protect the environment through recycling, while also saving costs on the purchase of servingware such as cheese and salad plates.