Personal preference a hallmark of meals at United
“It’s all about quality and consistency. Our residents wouldn’t want it any other way,” said Kevin Stephenson, the chef at United’s Garrison Green community.
Kevin earned his credentials at private clubs including the Ranchmen’s and Silver Springs Golf and Country Club in Calgary over a 30-year career. He knows a thing or two about fine dining.
“Our philosophy makes sense,” said Kevin, who together with chef Jayson Quimpo at United’s Fish Creek, work on menus, recipe development and costing. “You’re here to live and make a community and have friends and enjoy your meals. We want the residents, their families and friends to enjoy great, quality meals every time they sit down with us.”
United’s approach emphasizes flexibility. The kitchens are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and features a menu that is available throughout the day. After all, aging isn’t about one-size-fits-all. “We regularly review our menus and ensure they change to give our residents fresh choices,” said Kevin.
Meals are based on feedback from residents. When they move in, food interests and issues are discussed and noted in a database. When a resident comes in to eat, the kitchen teams know what the person prefers and what ingredients to avoid. Kevin and Jayson mingle with residents at meal times to learn what they like and what they don’t. They want them to be “wowed” when they leave the table. “For example, residents told us they wanted more beef options, so those are now included in the menus,” said Kevin.
Kevin and Jayson design menus with two goals in mind: to cater to personal tastes, and to provide nutritious meals. Half portions are a common request.
“We work closely with our dietitian, Marie-Anne Nason R.D., to ensure that our menus reflect the Canada Food Guide and offer the best nutrition,” noted Kevin. “To help us with that, we buy local as much as we can. The food is fresher, and we like to support local producers, to build a relationship with them. We are very aware of allergies and sodium, so we use more herbs to add flavour and reduce ingredients that can cause concerns.”
“Our menus reflect the current guidelines of the revised Canada Food Guide. It’s a terrific resource to help us ensure the menus offer a regular intake of healthy, nutritious foods,” said Marie-Anne.
And it’s not just about nutritional value. Meals are another way to socialize. It’s an important part of a resident’s day. Residents can eat what they want, when they want and with whom they want.
Art and Connie Giesbrecht are big fans of the meals at United. “The food quality is very, very good. I love the flavours. I would say that the meals are 110%. The variety is excellent, and the special meals they prepare are very nice. Kevin often comes around to the tables and talks with the residents to get our feedback. He has invited me to come to the next food committee meeting. We’re always happy to contribute.”
Residents get to know each other and forge some of their strongest and best relationships over a glass of wine or a perfectly done steak. They discuss current events, or other topics that they find interesting. Sometimes, the discussions lead to the creation of special-interest groups that open the discussions to everyone.
Fresh is the hallmark, and locally produced is the first choice. “Variety is the spice of life in everything including food,” said Kevin. “We take advantage of the seasons and holidays to introduce special meals. On St. Patrick’s Day, for instance, we served Irish-style food. We also do family dinners and work with residents to come up with menus for special events. It’s really important to have lots of choices. We work on a six-week rotational menu which means we don’t repeat meals the same month but even so, we make substitutions for special occasions, or make use of seasonal fruit and vegetables, so we certainly have the flexibility to change things up a bit.”
The culinary team also develops special menus for United’s theme months. March was focused on Austria so one or two meals with an Austrian twist were served. April’s theme was “wild life”, so Garrison Green served a special dinner featuring bison meatloaf, wild rice and wild mushrooms, asparagus and cherry tomatoes, and beaver tails (a Canadian pastry treat) with ice cream for dessert.
As Kevin says, “When you can laugh and enjoy food, that’s what life is all about.”
Photos by United Active Living, Sherana Productions. Videos by Sherana Productions.
Speak with one of our active living advisors about life in a United community. They can arrange tours of our Garrison Green and Fish Creek communities. If you know a friend or family member who could benefit from living in a United community, send them a link to our website or blog, or arrange a future visit. We are happy to help!