Take a culinary journey beyond mashed potatoes
Okay, okay, put the (pitch)forks down, none of us are here to disparage the tenacious tuber in any of its forms. After all, you’d be hard-pressed to find a culture across the globe that doesn’t have at least one potato dish among their anthology of national fare. Potatoes are easy to grow, store and prepare, they’re packed with nutrients, budget-friendly, and they’re versatile—potatoes are considered by historians and dieticians to be one of the original superfoods.
Though the potato is a culinary marvel, in many community settings—from school cafeterias to senior communities—it gets a bad rap for being the default filler on a plate of bland, uninspired food. You can imagine the cafeteria queue, watching as an overtired line cook heaps a gloopy pile of mashed potatoes onto a plate next to a semi-questionable main right before distractedly sliding the plate in your general direction. Not exactly the culinary experience you were hoping for.
But maybe, if you’re considering the dining experience in any community setting, it’s not just about the potatoes.
Traditional ingredients, reimagined
If you’re sitting down with a loved one to explore senior community options, it’s possible there will be reservations (and not the kind you make at a restaurant)—after all, the stigma surrounding post-retirement communities is real, and the desire to maintain the comforts of home, understandably strong. It’s likely someone facing the decision to move to a community for older adults may be thinking about a major shift in lifestyle. Perhaps they worry about losing independence. Or their freedom to choose. It’s a lot to take in.
Of all of the reasons someone might resist making the transition to a senior community, food often ranks pretty high on that list. If you’ve spent a lifetime bonding with loved ones over comfort food at the dinner table, suddenly having a set meal with limited options seems like a loss of freedom. There may be apprehension that a quality culinary experience will evaporate faster than water in a hot pan.
It’s definitely not (just) about the potatoes.
A culinary team that ‘gets it’
United’s culinary team is headed by Chef Kevin Stephenson and Chef Jayson Quimpo—two established professional chefs with a passion for sharing their craft. From creating menus and leading teams in upscale hotels, cruise ships, and golf courses, one might think that stepping into a role at a senior community offers less opportunity for imagination and inspired culinary creations. Chef Jayson explains otherwise: “I initially chose this role seeing it as an opportunity to spend more time at home with my family, but the residents challenge me to be creative and keep my skills sharp—it’s different when you’re cooking for someone occasionally, but we serve residents three times a day, every day. We need to make sure residents stay interested in the menu.”
Similarly, Chef Kevin loves to bring his own culinary adventures into the kitchen at United. “I love trying out local restaurants to find inspiration and bring variety into the dining room. Occasionally we see residents hesitate to sample a new feature, but having a combination of an all-day menu and features that change daily gives everyone the chance to try something new each day or choose a tried-and-true favourite. If a dish doesn’t resonate, there’s still plenty of familiar options that will result in a great dining experience.”
Starting from scratch, and beyond
The daily features aren’t usually a hard sell, however. After all, residents have come to United from a myriad of diverse backgrounds, and many more spent years globetrotting, experiencing a variety of culinary delights along the way. Back in the United kitchen, recent favourites include Cuban-inspired sliders, and a hearty Chicken Adobo—definitely not the typical fare you’ll find on a menu for a 65+ community.
“We create fresh sauces and prepare ingredients in-house,” Chef Jayson explains. “Especially for the daily features. It gives us the opportunity to make something special for the residents, and give each meal a personal touch.” Chef Kevin adds: “By making as much as possible in-house, we are able to introduce new dishes in a way that appeals to residents. A lot of the time, we’ll get requests to repeat features, and even add them to the all-day menu. We try to incorporate resident feedback into what we make, how we make it, and update our menus to reflect changing tastes and preferences.”
Those in the know: foodies share their reviews
As residents filter in for lunch, the dining room is buzzing. The serving team know their clientele well—right down to the particulars. “My go-to is a BLT,” Lorna laughs, “but I like trying all the specials.”
Maggie frequently enjoys having breakfast for lunch: “I like that I can choose whatever I want, and if I miss breakfast, I can still get an omelet made just the way I like it.”
Inge loves how fresh everything is, and always enjoys a bowl of fruit with her meal. “It offsets the bacon,” she jokes.
Team members are fans of the food too. “The caesar salad and salmon is my favourite lunch staple. The salmon is always cooked perfectly,” says Arianne, VP of Marketing and Communications.
Felicia, Senior Active Living Advisor, enjoys watching guest’s reactions when they visit United: “So many residents have commented that the food is the clincher when it came down to making a decision to move in. It really speaks to the efforts the Culinary team makes each day to show how much they care for the residents.”
Home, à la carte
United Active Living’s culinary philosophy is backed by an all-day menu: the kitchen is open daily from 7am to 7pm—offering residents a variety of classic menu items, including an all-day breakfast. For the culinary adventurous, two feature meals a day offer unique flavor combinations and chef-inspired creations from around the world. There are no restrictions at United’s table—dine when you want, with who you want, without any requirement to pre-order meals.
Residents order as they wish, and can work with United’s service-focused culinary team to tailor meals to suit individual dietary requirements and personal tastes. “Like everyone, some days, you’re up for an adventure, and others, you may be craving comfort food—living in a community doesn’t change that. There are ways to accommodate both,” both Chef Kevin and Chef Jayson agree. Their spin on classic fare and modern cuisine gives everyone that choice, because let’s face it: no matter how bold your palate is, some days, a helping of buttery mashed potatoes really does offer comfort, in food form.
The après dîner sojourn
Rather than being rushed out at the end of a meal, when appetites are satiated, residents are encouraged to enjoy the dining room long after plates have been cleared. After all, community is one of United’s core values: how better to build those connections than by breaking bread together (and then sticking around for dessert)?
“We love to see residents lingering in the dining room, enjoying a glass of wine with their friends after dinner,” says Helder Meneses, Dining Experience Lead, “United is their home, we want them to feel like the dining room is an extension of their suites.”
If all this talk about mashed potatoes and other culinary delights has whet your appetite, check out United’s all day menu and sample daily features menu.
Better yet, give us a call at 587-602-0921 — we’d love to buy you lunch!
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!