A market selling local produce comes to Kendal several times each year.
Residents tend the community's herb garden, which is used by the kitchen to help flavor dishes.
“The emphasis has shifted to individual choices.” –Gloria Morgan
One of a network of Kendal retirement communities, Kendal at Oberlin illustrates the changes CCRC dining operations face at the turn of the millenium. The community, set in the quiet Northern Ohio college town of Oberlin, currently has 310 residents (250 of them in its independent living units), most of them fairly affluent, sophisticated and knowledgeable consumers of dining and nutrition services.
Dining & Nutrition Services Director Gloria Morgan says things have definitely changed since she arrived almost 11 years ago."When I came here, the emphasis was on formal dining, with waited service, linen, china and fine glassware. Now, the emphasis has shifted to individual choices and the residents are also very health-conscious. They want to see the nutritional analysis of each dish for themselves, and it seems each one has his or her own definition of 'healthy,' and we have to be in position to provide choices consistent with those expectations."
To illustrate what this means, Morgan notes that a recent inventory revealed that the number of line items the kitchen purchases has expanded from around 1,200 when she started to more than 2,000 today.
Kendal now has an executive chef, Lee Matson, to oversee meal production and provide choices that are not only healthful but appealing."We don't add salt to any recipe, except in baking where it serves as a stabilizer," Morgan notes."We use all low-sodium bases, and as many fat-free and reduced-fat products as possible.We also have a very vocal group that demands as many trans-fat-free products as possible, and we try to accommodate them.This is a very health-conscious community."
That is signified by the fact that Kendal at Oberlin boasts not only a resident food committee but also a resident nutrition committee.The dining department's job is to reconcile the two when they are at odds, Morgan laughs."Our perspective is that a dish is not nutritious unless it also tastes good because if people won't eat it, it won't provide any nutrition."
To provide flavor without salt, the kitchen focuses on seasoning with spices and fresh herbs from a garden residents plant and maintain."Our cooks go out and pick the herbs to use in the dishes each day," Morgan says."We provide them with training on how to cut them properly."
Salsa is often used instead of gravies and sauces, and meats are prepared using steaming, poaching and braising."We even have our own smoker and an outdoor grill," Morgan notes.
An alliance with a local grower, Grobes Produce, provides the Kendal at Oberlin community with fresh in-season, locally-grown fruits and vegetables. "Obviously, we can't afford to use all local produce because it's too expensive, but we use as much as we can," Morgan says."But we also sell their produce in our in-house market, and several times a year we have them come in and set up a farmers market to sell to residents and our staff."