Portabella mushrooms stuffed with local crab and goat cheese. Succulent prime rib complimented by Yorkshire pudding and a medley of veggies. Duck confit, Dungeness crab cakes, braised short ribs. I salivate over the line-up of delectable edibles.
Being a travel and food writer has its delicious perks. But when the editor of Senior Living magazine asked me to write this residential foodie piece, I hesitated, thinking it would be a challenge to conjure up a mouth-watering overview. Boy, was I wrong! The fabulous fare at these four chosen retirement establishments could be dished up at any five-star eatery.
The Chefs Make it Happen
Lewis Hawley has been creating cuisine for four decades in the Lower Mainland. He was the executive sous chef for the BC Pavilion at Expo ’86 and executive chef at the 2010 Winter Olympics. For the past two years, he has held this esteemed position at Astoria Retirement Residence in Port Coquitlam. Hawley oversees four cooks and two prep team members, and works alongside Lanny Lipson, the Hospitality and Culinary Services Consultant of Leisureworld Senior Care Corporation.
“All of Astoria’s menus are designed with our Zest for Life™ philosophy,” says Hawley. “This concept puts the resident at the centre of everything we do as we promise to honour their choices and provide them with opportunities.”
Tailor-made portions, low-sodium soups, à-la-carte items and the use of fresh herbs from the Astoria’s summer garden are just a few of the integrated offerings.
Chef Ullrich Tilly is also a lover of homegrown ingredients. This European-trained chef has over 40 years’ experience in high-end hotels and restaurants. After training in classical French cuisine, he successfully operated his own French Restaurant in Wiesbaden, Germany. He then took over the Executive Chef position in the Mitsubishi Company Restaurant, overseeing 300 employees. In 1995, he moved with his family to Vancouver, where he worked as Chef Instructor at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts. Since 2007, Chef Ullrich has been the Head Chef of Victoria's Legion Manor.
"[Chef Ullrich] strongly believes in knowing where the food comes from," explains the residence's past President Dave Sinclair. "And makes each meal from scratch." A sous chef and two cooks join this chef in his kitchen, one that also incorporates the use of organic and free-range products.
Similar natural goodness is infused into mealtimes at Nanaimo's Oak Tree Manor. Holly Forbister has been the Resident Chef since 2009, when this residence opened. Prior to this, she worked at a complex care facility and managed her own restaurant on the Sunshine Coast. With the help of her two cooks, most of the fare, including the baking, is home-made, using fresh ingredients.
"Salt is used sparingly if at all," says Gordon Bibby, the residence's General Manager who has 22 years of experience in the senior housing market. "The weekly menus are published in advance, so residents can choose alternatives ahead of time should they not care for a particular entrée."
With so much recent emphasis on local harvests, it comes as no surprise that the Farm-to-Table trend has made its way into this sector of the community. Vancouver's Terraces on 7th, (a Retirement Concepts residence) offers two distinct Farm-to-Table Premium menus, in addition to their regular menus, every week. "We use as many local in-season ingredients as possible," Marketing Manager, Wendy Walker, passionately explains. "Residents renting at Terraces receive eight complimentary Farm-to-Table menus a month."
Executive Chef David Smith plans all the menus with the assistance of two full-time and one part-time Chefs de Partie, one part-time Commis Chef and Corporate Executive Chef Wolfgang Schmelcher, CMC. Smith attended Le Cordon Bleu School in London, England, and over the years has worked on cruise ships and in restaurants and hotels throughout Australia and Canada.
Diets, Diligence and Delectables
When catering to this aging sector, there are so many foodie needs to consider. How do these residences meet them all, while maintaining the tasty flavour? And how do they keep track of those who have appetites and those who don't?
The Astoria accommodates a variety of dietary restrictions and assesses each new resident when they move in. They also access a dietitian when clients are dealing with any specific medical concerns. "Every menu includes Zest for Life™ options, identified by our healthy choice symbol," Chef Hawley explains. "And many of our featured desserts are fresh-baked, so residents can enjoy gluten-free and sugar-free treats." Nutritional profiles are completed on every resident and special diets are posted in the kitchen, so all cooks and servers are aware.
Healthy ingredients and heart-smart goods are also incorporated into the Legion Manor's menus. Chef Ullrich produces two different entries at mealtime. Each is cooked from basics and dietitian approved. The portions are suited to varying appetites and careful note is taken of every resident’s intake. A few of their five-star favourites include rack of lamb Provencal doused with rosemary glaze, pan-seared halibut topped with papaya salsa, and slow-roasted prime-rib seasoned with peppercorn sauce. Hmmmm, yum!
By maintaining a close relationship with their residents, Oak Tree Manor is also familiar with the eating habits of their residents. "It's impossible to make people eat food they don’t care for," says Bibby. "So we try to strike a balance between what's good for them and their preferences." Specialized selections range from calorie-reduced to diabetic choices. And Chicken Parmesan is an in-house favourite - as well as six regularly featured desserts. Now that's decadent!
Terraces on 7th offers special diets on request. The home-style menus are balanced with proteins, fruits and vegetables, prepared in various ways. "We make all of our soups and stocks," Wendy Walker reveals. "Over 90 per cent of our food is prepared from scratch in-house." Although their food is not highly seasoned, Walker promises it's flavourful. They source out as many local ingredients as possible, including regionally-grown vegetables, local lamb, duck, seafood, grass-fed beef and chicken.
Special events, birthdays, holidays. All of these residential communities roll out the food spread when it comes to the traditional festivities. But what unique culinary events have they hosted?
What about a steak and lobster feast in honour of the Canadian veterans on Remembrance Day? Or Cook for the Cure, in support of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. Astoria takes credit for these edible events. "Both national and cultural holidays are also incorporated into our menus," says Chef Hawley. "We have Asian specialties to honour Chinese New Year, Indian dishes to celebrate Diwali and traditional fixings every Thanksgiving."
The Legion Manor also does their share of dolling out the international fare. Japan, China and Germany are just a few of the countries featured in their monthly theme nights. A dining room is available for private family functions - and the welcome mat is rolled out when officials come to call. "We've served two Lieutenant Governors," Sinclair says with pride, "as well as many senior officers of the armed forces."
It's all about location for Oak Tree when the annual bathtub race comes to town. "From our patio, we have an excellent view of the starting line," says Bibby. "It's a perfect venue for our annual pancake breakfast." Summer barbeques and a dinner magic show are also a couple of their special-themed entertainment nights.
Like the others, Terraces on 7th celebrate every holiday with a bountiful spread: Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter are a given. Add in Valentine's Day, Robbie Burns Day, St. Patrick’s Day and special events like the past Winter Olympics in Russia, and there's some foodie fun every month of the year.
Yes, being a travel and food writer may have its delicious perks, but by living in any one of these adult communities you get the flavours without the flying!
For more information:
Astoria Retirement Residence
2245 Kelly Avenue
Port Coquitlam, BC V3C 0B1
7601 East Saanich Rd
Victoria BC V1Z 2G6
Oak Tree Manor
325 Hecate Street
Nanaimo, BC V9R 4J9
Terraces on 7th
1570 West 7th Avenue
Vancouver, BC V6J 5M1
FEBRUARY 2015 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE
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