On a recent evening in May, residents at Lakeside at Waterman Village could choose between two deluxe entreés at Savor, the new senior living community’s fine dining venue: citrus ancho roasted lamb loin chop or mushroom mille feuille. Sides included a choice of roasted beets with thyme, herbed orzo, pancetta and pesto risotto or wild mushrooms. The catch of the day was fresh swordfish loin.
If the central Florida residents had wanted something more casual, they could have grabbed a meal at one of the community’s two full bars ordering from menus with items such as wood-fired pizza.
And starting in August, if someone is hungry after hours they will have access to fresh sandwiches, fruit and drinks through an automated micro-market.
Doris Freeman, a Sodexo employee and director of culinary and nutrition service at Lakeside, planned the initial menus with her team. She says the dining team strives to ensure that all 442 residents “have a safe and yummy meal every day.” The entire community—residences, dining venues and all—opened this year on April 4.
Lakeside focuses on quality ingredients. The website for Waterman Village, Lakeside’s sister community that has been in operation for more than 35 years, says, “chefs use locally sourced ingredients, fresh caught fish and seafood and home-grown herbs.” Sodexo runs both dining programs and residents of either community have access to dining venues at the other. Waterman Village, which has just over 500 residents, has a café, a dining room and a celebrated bistro. Freeman runs an 80-member culinary team, including chefs Joseph Lee (head of Savor’s kitchen) and Dave Mudge.
“In our community,” Freeman notes, “we do all we can to make residents happy and reduce stress.” Residents who live independently have a simple meal plan: they can dine at any venue, eat what they want and take home what they don’t finish.
Photo credit: Sodexo
Photo: The new Lakeside dining room opened on April 4 as one of three concepts Sodexo is rolling out in the new community, with a bar/lounge and a micro market grab and go concept slated to open by 2023.
They also want residents to have access to meals. When one member of the culinary team asked how they could supply the community with 24/7 access to healthy, fresh food, Freeman discussed the possibility of a micro-market with Sodexo.
Located in the main building for residents in independent living, the micro-market will be an automated machine containing a variety of freshly made, ready-to-eat items for sale. Via credit card, residents will be able to purchase options such as Caesar salad, chef’s salad, and a chicken-almond salad with fresh berries as well as a variety of sandwiches: egg salad, tuna salad, chicken salad, ham or turkey. It will also contain fresh fruits and a variety of drinks, such as sodas and water. All items will be as free of sugar as possible. It will open in August.
At Savor, they continue to refine meal offerings, offering new menu items based on the creativity of Chef Lee and requests from residents. “Whatever the residents [suggest] to us, we try to add it to the menu. We do a chef’s table every week and we always bring something different. For instance, if we have a resident who wants noodles, we do that. We serve a lot of Asian noodles.”
They follow a five-week menu cycle, with two daily entreés. A resident can request the daily fish selection grilled, fried, broiled or baked.
The elegantly decorated dining room seats 79 indoors at tables that can accommodate between two and 14 guests apiece. Guests receive full table service and are served on Italian dishware. Big windows look out on Lake Margaret, the central feature of the community. They can currently seat ten guests outdoors; eventually, they will be able to seat 24 guests at tables and couches in the fresh air, a nod to the desire for outdoor dining options that blossomed during the pandemic.
Visitors and employees are required to wear masks at Lakeside. For residents, though, life has returned to normal in many ways. Residents sit together, unmasked, in the dining venues and attend parties in the dining rooms.
Freeman says Waterman Village’s track record with the pandemic is excellent. They reopened dining spaces—with precautions such as distanced tables and required masking unless a resident was eating—several months after the March 2020 shutdown. They didn’t have one Covid case until visitors returned in late 2021.
“Covid changed everyone’s life,” Freeman notes. She saw up close how deeply it affected their residents. “The olders,” she says, “are the ones who are more impacted.” Because of this experience, the staff understands the stakes and feels prepared to ensure that dining together at Lakeside is safe—and always delicious.