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Eating in a lot like going out

From meatloaf to mango sauce, facility chefs offer comforts of home with restaurant flair

February 25, 2011
By GARY S. ANGELO Tribune Chronicle correspondent
With the growth of alternative care facilities, assisted living establishments are striving to create a home-like setting. Increasingly, these “comforts of home” include tasty and nutritious meals. Chefs and dietary staff members at assisted living facilities incorporate their past professional experiences to provide residents with quality food service. Paul Landerfield, head chef at the Manor at Autumn Hills, 2567 Niles-Vienna Road in Niles, cooks everything from grilled Indian spiced chicken with mango yogurt sauce and parmesan amaretto to red snapper francaise to traditional meatloaf and mashed potatoes. “I’ve heard horror stories about hospital food and want to give residents the luxury of a restaurant atmosphere,” Landerfield said. “I have passion for cooking, and it’s all about technique. I want residents to know that someone took pride in making that meal when it is served on the table.” Much like a restaurant, the Manor at Autumn Hills serves an open breakfast from 7 to 9 a.m. daily, but all residents are required to eat lunch and dinner at the same time. “We serve lunch at the downstairs dining room at noon and upstairs at 12:30 p.m.,” Landerfield said. “We also offer napkins and place settings much like a restaurant. Residents can also choose to have alcohol with their meal, only if it’s purchased by themselves or a visitor outside of the facility. Alcoholic beverages and alcohol accommodations depend on a resident’s medication requirements.” Stephanie Rouan, executive director at the Manor at Autumn Hills, believes that the facility’s menu offers a great sense of a healthy environment for the residents. “We always hire employees for our kitchen staff who have had previous experience cooking in the healthcare industry,” she said. “All of our meals are approved by a dietitian. We want our residents to feel that our facility is like their own apartment, and residents have their independence.” Landerfield has been working with the Manor at Autumn Hills, which is owned by Briarfield Healthcare, for eight years. Before working in the healthcare dietary field, Landerfield worked in the restaurant industry. “Some of the residents were accustomed to upscale ways of living and eating out, and I wanted to get away from the standard roast beef and tuna fish sandwich-type meals,” Landerfield said. “I change the menu three or four times a year, and our overall menu cycle has done well. Our residents are eating excellent quality fish, like salmon or orange roughy.” Scott Danchise, director of culinary services at Lake Vista of Cortland, 303 N. Mecca Road, Cortland, says that 75 percent of the facility’s dishes are made from scratch. “Every six weeks and six months, residents will have the same entree options,” Danchise said. “We have winter and fall entrees and spring and summer entrees. From April to August, we offer a different set of menus, which include lighter dishes, and options are double. We offer a variety of eight different entrees, and residents have their option to pick any selection of soups or salads ” Danchise said. Some of Danchise’s entrees on the Lake Vista of Cortland menu include pan-seared snapper, Beef Wellington, strip steak ribeye and popular seafood dishes ranging from salmon patties to grouper. Danchise cooks the meal options of the day ahead of time for residents, containing the food on steam trays inside the kitchen and serving it to the residents at their convenience. “We have a more leisurely, diverse schedule,” Danchise said. “I feel fine dining is a great opportunity for chefs to give the elderly high quality service. In previous years, assisted living facilities offered TV dinners or frozen foods, and offering freshly made foods is a huge turnover. About two years ago, I made changes to the menu on my own. I had a lot of time to make dishes, and I thought to myself, ‘what is the point of calling yourself a cook if you just heat foods in a plastic container?’” Jody Mitchell, director of Windsor House at Liberty Arms, 1353 Churchill Hubbard Road, Liberty, said that the facility’s residents have an option to select the meal, side or entree choice from their menu, much like a restaurant. “We usually have a small printed menu, where meals are listed and residents circle a meal choice and place their signature at the bottom of the menu,” Mitchell said. “The residents have two options for entrees and multiple choices for side dishes. Our wedding soup is phenomenal. We also offer dessert options ranging from fresh fruits to diabetic safe desserts.” Maureen Knapp, nutrition director of Windsor House of Liberty Arms, said that the facility has food meetings for residents. This is where residents have the freedom to make suggestions for the menu. “We look at what meals residents circle on the menu to see what their likes or dislikes are,” Knapp said. “If a food option on the menu is never chosen by a resident, we usually take it off the menu. I also talk to residents about what they like or dislike about the menu.” According to Landerfield, the culinary experience is popular among the residents of the Manor at Autumn Hills. “For a lot of the residents, the food is the highlight of their day,” Landerfield said. “I enjoy changing up the recipes and cooking. It’s enjoyable when I’ll hear comments from the residents like, ‘I never had swordfish before.’”

Article Photos

Paul Landerfield is head chef at the Manor at Autumn Hills. Below is one of his dishes, a Chicken Fiorentina.



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