If you needed further evidence of the increased focus on culinary in many senior living communities, look no further than celebrity chef and Food Network star Jet Tila showing off in front of 800 diners at Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo earlier this month. The live cooking demonstration at the Great Lakes Café was a part of Morrison Senior Living’s Celebrity Chef Series that also saw “Spice Goddess” Bal Arneson dazzling residents at Glen Eddy in Niskayuna, NY, a week before.
The series is an extension of a program from parent company Compass Group and was launched by Morrison Senior Living in February. It provides interactive demonstrations from partner chefs Tila, Arneson, Fabio Viviani, José Santaella, Susan Feniger, Ken Oringer and Jimmy Banos Jr. at healthcare and senior living communities throughout the country.
“Bringing talented chefs like Jet to healthcare communities provides an incredible opportunity to showcase creative, healthy and accessible food,” says Morrison Senior Living President Kevin Svagdis.
The events earlier this month were the eighth and ninth of the year and are further testament to the elevated cuisine being offered at many senior communities. Regan Medzhibzher, the director of marketing for Morrison Senior Living, says the program stems from generational research showing today’s seniors are well traveled and looking for experiences that stimulate their senses. These interactive demonstrations with famous chefs well known for ethnic cuisines are an ideal blend of those two factors.
“This generation in our community right now is well traveled, educated and they have higher expectations,” says Medzhibzher. “We’ve got our food philosophy in place to match that and always try to bring upscale, local and seasonal fare to our community.”
While Tila was cooking and serving his Shoyu Ramen, Chicken Udono and Beef Pho at Erie County Medical Center, Arneson prepared a lunch focusing on the flavors of India for Glen Eddy, a premier senior living community and affiliate of St. Peter’s Health Partners.
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“At ECMC, we are always looking for opportunities to engage our patients, staff and the larger community,” says Richard C. Cleland, president, chief operating officer and interim CEO for ECMC Corp.
His colleague at Glen Eddy felt the same way about Arneson’s famous No Butter Chicken, Lentils and Lentil Cookies lunch.
“Programs like the Celebrity Chef Series are central to our mission of providing exceptional experiences for our residents,” says vice president of Eddy Senior Living Communities at St. Peter’s Health Partners Scott Flagel. “Chef Bal’s energy and presentation provided the perfect blend of education and excitement, drawing in our residents and showcasing vibrant Indian cuisine in an accessible format.”
For Morrison, the series provides not only clients and residents a special event, but also what Medzhibzher calls “associate engagement.”
“That is huge—the chefs come in hours before, work with our back-of-house team on prepping and educating them on the ingredients and then the actual presentation of the final meal,” she says of how much of a learning experience it can be for employees, too.
The communities often then feature some of the recipes and cuisine on their menu after the celebrity chef departs. They definitely do beforehand, as part of the marketing and promotion of the event, which sometimes is open to friends and family of residents.