As a team we decided we wanted a way to pull our residents into dining, to show them what really happens in the kitchen. We wanted them to become part of the process more and to see exactly what goes into putting out each meal. So we started a resident chef program, where we invite residents into the kitchen to help prepare a meal for their fellow residents.
This is the fourth month in a row that we’ve done this. We started the program last year but then it got put on hold because we were doing a kitchen renovation. We do it in The Grill, which I am in charge of. (We also have a formal dining room.) We have one to three residents participate in each event.
We announce the event and invite residents to sign up. We really didn’t advertise it very much, just word of mouth, and so we didn’t get a lot of sign-ups. But as we’ve gone on it has become more popular and we are getting more people signing up. We’re also getting requests from people who [have already participated in the program and been] resident chefs, asking if they can do it again.
We invite the residents to bring their own recipes, something they grew up with or that represents a comfort food for them.
Joe Bova, who was our second resident chef, wanted to do his family recipe for tomato gravy, and we added meatballs to it. Another resident on that same night did her bruschetta and crostini, so we kept with an Italian theme. We’ve also had a shrimp molé, a stuffed pork loin with fennel and caramelized onions, and our latest creation was a chicken salad à la mode, which looked almost like a dessert. It was a chicken salad in a piecrust, topped with yogurt and brandied cherries.
The residents have a lot of fun with it, and at the same time they learn how much effort it takes and how many people are involved with putting out their meals. They also comment about how clean everything is, how the staff clean as they go and that all the sanitation procedures are followed. The
residents dining also enjoy it. They like to see their friends behind the line, and most of the recipes have gone over really well—especially the tomato gravy.