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Building Strong Senior Dining Service Teams

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Cooks, Camaraderie, and Creative Senior Dining Offerings

There are few arenas that require more flexibility, creativity, and discernment in presentation than cuisine for Senior Dining. With food as the forerunner to community, entertainment, and health, there can never be enough ways to make sure all staff members of your food service team are expanding their horizons and becoming top notch, culinary artists in ways that directly apply to resident satisfaction. This means coming up with creative recipes that look good, taste amazing, and inspire interest while being scalable, nutritious, and affordable. Recently, our senior dining executive chef Bill and food service director Jaimie decided to hold a competition for any cook, regardless of title, to make the most creative dish possible with shrimp and scallops (a regional favorite). Below, Jaimie explains the process, winning dish, and overall joy and comradery that ensued from their culinary competition..

Thomas Cuisine Senior Living Food Service
Jaimie Cherok, Thomas Cuisine

I couldn’t have been more proud watching our culinarians working together, giving advice and bouncing creative ideas off of each other.

- Jaimie Cherok, Director of Senior Dining Culinary Services

From our Director of Senior Dining Culinary Services, Jaimie

Chef Bill Ward and myself are constantly talking about things we can do to engage the team, along with ideas to do the same with the residents. He said, “Let’s have a competition!”

We have a team of cooks with varied skill levels, from apprentice to executive chefs in their previous jobs, so a cooking competition seemed to be a great activity for them.  Chef Bill communicated the idea and set a few ground rules.  They needed to use shrimp and scallops and the day was set, the rest was up to them.

Roger Seanor, the winner of the competition has been at FVSH for 10 years and came to us with experience at some of the top restaurants in the Pittsburgh area.  He started experimenting with couscous immediately to make it look like caviar.  He used beet juice to dye it a beautiful purple and from there he continued with his creativity.

Roger's Winning Plate

Roger Seanor was the winner of this Cook’s Competition, with his idea to create purple couscous caviar in his rendition of scallops and shrimp.

The Pressure's On

In the meantime, Chef Bill invited the community directors and the executive director to join us for judging the dishes prepared by 9 of our cooks.  He also reached out to Thomas Cuisine leaders to join in a virtual judging, which was gladly accepted.  

The actual competition day was a sight to see. I couldn’t have been more proud watching our culinarians working together, giving advice and bouncing creative ideas off of each other. Each cook presented their dish to the panel of judges while fellow team members took photos – it was a momentous event to see everything come together.  The judges were very happy to be a part of this activity and couldn’t believe the amount of talent standing before them. 

The Ceremony Day

Fast-forward to award ceremony day! Chef Bill again planned and executed the entire ceremony. He had a display of medals and pictures of each contestant’s dish; it looked amazing. Two of the judges, our executive director and HR director presented the medals during the ceremony to each cook along with being a part of a photo op.  Every team member within our department attended the ceremony and participated in cheering on the cooks.  They were doing the wave and drum rolls, which caused an immense amount of excitement that anyone walking past our dining room, stopped to see what was going on. Residents and team members from other departments began cheering on our very talented cooks which filled the community with so much love and support, it was truly amazing!