“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well if one has not dined well.” – Author Virginia Woolf.
United’s new food services manager is carrying on the tradition of serving fresh, unprocessed foods at United’s two communities, but with a few twists of his own. Ryan Bourquin joined United in October, and oversees a team of eight cooks and about 10 serving staff at Fish Creek, and eight cooks and 15 servers at Garrison Green.
“I began apprenticing as a chef in 2002, and worked at a number of Calgary’s well-known restaurants, and introduced healthy, chef-prepared take-home meals at several restaurants and stores since that is a growing lifestyle trend in the city right now,” said Ryan. “To me, food has to be fresh, which means no preservatives and prepared as close to mealtime as possible. We don’t have large freezers at United, and we ensure that food is delivered at least three times a week so that we are always serving the freshest food possible.”
Ryan was attracted to United’s philosophy of community and finds the atmosphere at both Fish Creek and Garrison Green comforting and inviting. “United’s approach to serving nutritious five-star meals makes perfect sense,” he said. “Our residents were attracted to United because of the lifestyle, the community, the social aspect, the activities and programs. Healthy, nutritious meals go hand-in-hand with the lifestyle.”
One of the attractions of living at United is the flexible mealtimes and all-day menu. The kitchen is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and features a menu that is available throughout the day.
Residents can choose what to eat, when to eat, and with whom to eat. Plus, the all-day menu gives residents flexibility should they arrive back home after an outing and want a meal or snack.
Ryan regularly discusses food with residents and ensures their concerns or suggestions are considered when planning menus. “We operate on a four-week rotational menu, which means the same meal is never served twice over a 28-day period. This gives us a great deal of latitude to provide a wide variety of meal options. Residents’ preferences are noted and when a resident comes in to eat, we know what the person prefers and what ingredients to avoid.”
Ryan is working on introducing a new menu in February. “About half of the menu will be new dishes. The other half are favourites that the residents told us they wanted to keep.” The all-day menu will expand to include lactose-free and gluten-free options and diabetic alerts. “I’ll also be looking at introducing smoothies, which is a quick, tasty way to introduce more ‘greens’ into the diet.’ He works closely with dietitian Marie-Anne Nason, to ensure that the menu reflects the Canada Food Guide and offers the best nutrition.
“To enhance the dining experience, all of our staff go through customer service training. It’s all part of the five-star dining experience,” said Ryan.
What’s on Ryan’s wish list? “Our relationship with suppliers will give us access to demonstrations here in the community so residents will be able to see how the food is grown and ask questions. I will also be introducing cooking classes, Sunday brunches and family dinners. Plus, we have space in the courtyard at Fish Creek for a garden, so that would be a nice addition to meals.”
In some cases, Ryan and his staff can see a positive change in residents who are eating better than they did on their own. “Often it can be difficult for an older adult to prepare nutritious meals if they are on their own. When they come here, we often see a healthy weight gain because they are eating complete meals and have access to healthy snacks. That’s an important factor when considering a move to a United community.”
Ryan is new to the United community, but residents have been quick to count him as a member of the family. “The sense of community is strong here, and it’s nice to be part of that. Being able to deliver something that makes people happy – that’s what transforming the experience of aging is all about!”
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