Bringing excellent care and customer service to our residents every day requires skill, commitment, empathy, and hard work! To fully understand the experience of our employees, and to learn the joys and challenges of every department, the management team will be spending a full shift in each department. The first to experience A Day in Your Shoes was our Executive Director Dawn Mondschein, who spent a day in culinary.
10 Lessons Learned from
Dawn’s Day in the Culinary Department
1. Dining room set-up and service is no simple task. The Culinary Aides are responsible for dining room set-up and that means knowing where each and every Resident is seated and their special preferences and needs. This means everything from who likes frosted flakes, who prefers rice crispies, to who needs thickened juice, who prefers chocolate milk to who requires skim. My trainer Matt Nawrot knew every single detail by heart. I’m convinced that Matt could tell you every Resident by name, where they sit and precisely what and how they prefer to eat. He even took care to cut the sweet rolls into bite size pieces when needed. That’s a set up for success!
2. CBV goes above and beyond to bring quality to pureed meals. Teresa Anderson has been a CBV cook for over 25 years and she is the Queen of Purees. Teresa explains that most other communities serve frozen pureed products, but that’s just not good enough for OUR Residents. The Culinary department is committed to providing fresh, quality meals to everyone regardless of dietary restrictions. I learned that our pureed foods start with the same freshly cooked ingredients, seasoned to taste and then Teresa works her magic. She finishes the meals by pureeing each item to an exact consistency and then takes extra special care with presentation. That meant piping mashed potatoes into an oblong shape, hand forming the seafood entrée into a patty and piping the bright green vegetable right into the center to add a pop of color and appeal because according to Teresa, the food “should always look as good as it tastes”.
3. The kitchen is no place for a klutz. Hands down, the kitchen is the most dangerous place to be at CBV. Wet floors, sharp knives, blenders, blades, and mixers – hot pans and griddles, broilers and ovens, steamers and fryers to name a few. Fortunately, the Culinary crew takes nothing for granted and makes safety a daily priority. And with CBV’s current safety record, the proof is truly in the pudding.
4. The Culinary crew thrives on teamwork. Our Culinary department is a well-oiled machine! In a job where every minute counts, staff members constantly lend each other a hand to get the job done. I was most impressed by the way the kitchen crew works together in tight quarters, skillfully pivoting and swaying around one another in perfect harmony.
5. There is ALWAYS something cooking in our kitchen. I never thought about the sheer quantity of food that goes into serving 3 meals a day to over 200 Residents. Because most of our meals are homemade from scratch, that means nearly round the clock food delivery, chopping, marinating, cooling, cooking etc… Did you know the cooks are already preparing the next day’s meal before today’s lunch hits the dining room? Sal Caguioa, our Salad and Dessert Chef, just finished slicing his French Silk pie and he was already talking about the cupcakes he’ll begin baking for tomorrow’s main dessert. Immediately following lunch service, Chef Rob began par-cooking and prepping Saturday’s main courses. The kitchen lights go out at 8:00 p.m. each night and re-open again at 5:00 a.m. every morning. Time to make the doughnuts!
6. Time is of the essence. If you’ve ever hosted a dinner party you understand the challenge of bringing everything together at once. This challenge is no different in CBV’s kitchen only it happens THREE times each and every day. The early morning starts off at a fairly quiet but brisk pace. By 9:30 a.m. the rhythm is rising and things start moving at a much quicker rate. At 10:30 a.m. Chef Rob ricochets around and Chef TJ has his hand in every pot at once. The tempo reaches high velocity – but that’s what it takes to pull each meal together, particularly when serving such a wide variety of choices.
7. Presentation is essential. If there was one lesson learned across the board, it was to take care in the plating and presentation of each meal. From our supervisors, chefs to servers, everyone has great respect for food and each plate is handled with care. TJ advises “stay within the border and make it ‘high and wide’ to fill the plate for appeal”. And don’t forget the garnish!!!
8. Showtime. Possibly the greatest secret to success is the daily Showtime ritual. Just before lunch service the Culinary team, including all the Aides from the entire community, gathers around in the Commons kitchen. The supervisor shares customer service, safety and diversity tips of the day, and then reviews the daily menu in detail. Finally, each server grabs a fork to taste test the menu items. Chef TJ is on standby to make final modifications if needed.
9. I LOVE to Fry Fish! It’s no secret that I was fascinated by the deep fryer and enjoyed making Chef Rob’s famous batter fried cod. There was something simply gratifying about slipping freshly dredged pieces of cod into the fryer and minutes later lining the pan with perfectly browned and crispy planks of fish. I’d do it again in a heartbeat!
10. The dish room was the biggest surprise of the day. I admit I was not looking forward to working in the dish room but found it refreshingly rejuvenating. First of all, there’s the dish machine that works like a mini automatic car wash – so bring on all the dishes you want – Baniesa says it’s actually quite easy! The staff agrees there’s a mechanical yet meditative quality about running the dish machine. It’s a quiet time to reflect upon the day and your own personal thoughts. It’s a little steamy but by the time the dishes are clean, dry and neatly stacked, you have a real sense of peace and accomplishment. Job well done!
A Special Note to the Culinary Department:
I was telling a Resident about the day, gushing about all the passion and teamwork, and she said “the Resident’s are doing our part too” then with a smile she added, “We are blessing the food and the hands that made it”.
Thank you to the entire Culinary Department for nurturing our Residents in your very special ways. And thank you to all my teammates and trainers. I’ll never forget my Day in Culinary.