Suzanne Cryst: Home Maker

Over the years, Cryst has worked closely with Alice Pollard, RD, LD, director of the Central Production Unit. Together they've improved recipes to make them more appealing, perhaps by adding a bit more margarine, salt and other seasonings as they did to the scratch-made mashed potatoes. "They came up with this wonderfully flavored product and when the hospitals (in the system) found out what we had, they started using them, too," Cryst notes.

Managing perception: Although two of the hospitals utilize a conduction system, Maria Joseph has a convection system and, early on, it was a challenge to devise methods to get more moisture on the plate. Through trial and error, Cryst learned that putting some type of sauce over plated ingredients keeps them moist during the retherm process and makes them ultimately easier to chew.

"With medications as well as the aging process, the sense of taste and smell is diminished and altered," she says. "Sometimes residents perceive it as different than it is. So we've done a lot of changing of how we plate and a good amount of recipe development with cooks here to get a positive outcome for our residents."

For example: "Now, we put beef stew in a casserole dish versus directly on the plate," she continues. "Some vegetables need to be in a cup instead of directly on the plate so they don't get hard. We'll use an orange sauce for carrots and add some other flavors to gravy so it's not always a buttered vegetable or brown gravy on meat. Perhaps we could add a little red pepper base for a bit of zing and color."

"Again, we're managing perception visually, plus heightening that aroma as the lid comes off the food," she adds.

Working with nursing and other staff with the objective of creating a more-like-home environment, Cryst has steadily liberalized special diets since her arrival on the scene. Early on, it was close to being a 1,500-calorie diet with two grams of sodium, along with multiple restrictions. Now, residents are offered a regular diet with individual modifications as needed, determined by the clinical staff.

"We're moving to a regular diet with portion control on desserts for those who are diabetic, so they can choose a regular brownie, for example," Cryst says, "but it will be a smaller portion, or it will be prepared with less carbs and calories so what's served to them doesn't look different from what their neighbor gets."

Today, plate presentation has improved dramatically and her staff understands the ins and outs of working with the retherm system. It's one in which trays are loaded off the kitchen tray line onto transport carts that are then delivered to the 18 stand-alone plug-in units on the floors. But Cryst is well aware that some residents still think they don't have a choice as to what they're served.

Getting real: Perhaps they've forgotten they indicated their "likes" and "dislikes" when they first arrived at Maria Joseph, or, more to the point, they've forgotten that four weeks ago they circled their meal choices for the coming month. "We want what we want when we want it," she says. "Also, they're confused because it's not real time. And, when we have our annual inspections, surveyors ask if (residents) have a choice of what they're served. To manage the perception, our solution is to make it more real time."

To address this issue, a selective menu is currently being debuted in the facility's 31-bed rehab unit. Residents there are receiving a paper menu "today" for what they'll be served "tomorrow." Cryst also views the pilot as a stepping-stone to the introduction of room service. She's now waiting to see how the new menu affects production and whether the requisite forecasting system is doable.

Green-housing residents: Part of Cryst's job is to plan for the future—at least five to eight years down the road. She's envisioning one that may be drastically different from today's reality—but even more like home for the residents. One concept currently under consideration is The Green House Replication Initiative, an alternative approach to long-term care (visit thegreenhouseproject.com for more info).

"There are many Green House communities being developed with small groups to be served family-style," she reports. "It's a big movement out there and it's being talked about now within Premier Health Partners from a foodservice standpoint."

But today, Cryst knows exactly what she's doing in her own personal realm. This mother of three and grandmother of five fondly recalls the lesson she learned from her own parents when she was very young: "You don't just take." That's one of the reasons she's currently serving as chair-elect of Consultant Dietitians in Health Care Facilities, an ADA practice group. "I'm committed to mentoring because these people were there for me," she asserts. "Those young ones coming out (of college) with an interest in geriatrics are our future—and I want to give back."

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

The Virginia Department of Health said it has traced a “cluster” of hepatitis A cases to frozen Egyptian strawberries used by Virginia units of a smoothie chain.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe voluntarily trashed the strawberries and switched to supplies from a different source immediately after being notified of the connection, the health department said in a statement issued Friday.

The department noted that it had traced earlier outbreaks of hepatitis A to strawberries imported from Egypt. But it warned that supplies may still be in the freezers of other foodservice operations...

Managing Your Business
business man smash computer

Foodservice directors spend a lot of time taking care of other people, whether it’s K-12 students who aren’t always eating enough at home, malnourished patients back for return visits or employees squabbling among themselves. That kind of pressure can weigh heavily—and come home from work. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America finds that 83% of men and 72% of women say stress at work carries over into their personal lives, and 50% call staff management their main culprit for workplace stress.

“Stress is very difficult in our world, and work-life balance is very much a...

Industry News & Opinion

Students at an Arkansas high school may have to take creative measures to get a meal, thanks to a school policy that prevents parents from dropping off lunches left at home.

The Catholic High School for Boys in Little Rock, Ark., last week posted a picture on Facebook of a sign that reads, “Stop. If you are dropping off your son’s forgotten lunch, books, homework, equipment, etc., please turn around and exit the building. Your son will learn to problem-solve in your absence.”

While social media opinions on the school’s rule were mixed, some commenters expressed concern that...

Industry News & Opinion

Novato Unified School District in Novato, Calif., has created a new vegetarian grab-and-go item as part of the district’s Meatless Monday initiative, marinij.com reports .

The Fiesta Rice and Bean Shaker, which is served in disposable cups, contains rice, corn, black beans, taco seasoning, corn tortilla chips and romaine lettuce topped with an optional salsa and ranch dressing. It’s also customizable, as students are able to select which ingredients they’d like to include.

The vegetarian shaker is made using produce from a nearby organic garden. Sofie Garcia, an employee in...

FSD Resources