In pre-COVID 19 times, the chef would create special socializing events to bring residents together over his food offerings for festive occasions, celebrate memorable holidays, family gatherings, and mark appropriate events for residents. Even though communities are in quarantine, the chef still needs to create special menus, interesting meals, and recipes to wake residents’ palates in the community. Unaware of the average appetite, the chef also needs to prepare tempting meals for vegans, vegetarians, and Kosher foods for some. Residents with food allergies must be noted, and their particulars kept on file. Although people are not gathering to celebrate around the table together, celebrations must still be honored and infused into planned menus to keep residents’ spirits raised. It is significant to residents who are now separated by necessity in these trying times.
In Kind Dining® training sessions, I encourage the food serving teams in retirement and long term care communities to keep the fire under their passion for always learning innovative new ways to serve meals and care for their residents. The entire team working together to provide good food and good service results from savvy planning and top performance service. Team discussions where everyone’s suggestions and ideas are taken under consideration are important for continued learning. Those who work in food service realize it is more than a job. It is a way of life. It becomes a part of you as subconsciously, you are always looking for a better way that slips into your thoughts; always learning something new.
There is pride in food traditions that outlast pandemics and create warm bonds in relationships with family, friends, and food servers who bring residents’ meals with a few words of comfort or news or any connection from outside their present environment. Celebrations may be held in different ways but are still meaningful and necessary. Chefs must be willing to expand their horizons when seeking information about other cultures to incorporate into their own recipe files. Inspiration often comes from unexpected sources, but their dependence on the food serving team to perform is constant. Team members depend on each other, and all members working in the foodservice department have the same goal in mind. Fulfilling that goal of keeping residents happy with their selections and the quality of meals served to them from the heart comes from drawing on their experience, practice, and satisfaction with their work. It’s loving what you do.
Our B♥ Kind® Tip: Remember your vision to build stronger mealtime relationships.
Even in these hard times of pandemic, we have much to be thankful for in our senior living community. We have been fortunate to learn quickly how to protect our environment, residents, staff, and have learned ways of social distancing in everyday activities. Incorporating virtual technology into our daily lives has kept residents from loneliness, kept all of us in touch with each other, including families and friends who cannot enter our premises. We combat the coronavirus by following safety rules.
The food servers in our communities have always been essential to healthy living by their service, caring, attitude, and the responsibilities they accept. Older residents have lived long lives, have endured the pitfalls of life, and survived. They are the first to know that this pandemic will also pass. Hopefully, it will make our communities stronger and wiser in the service they provide.
Beginning the holiday season with Thanksgiving Day, it is ideal for your food serving team to be aware of holiday blues, sadness, or unusual irritability that may be sneaking up on a resident. Often a loss of appetite is an indication of a problem pending and one that food servers can take note of. It is easier for your food serving team to notice a tentative problem when they are familiar with the residents they serve. They can also notice personal appearance and mental attitude. Your chef’s selections can make a difference by creating a healthy appetite during the holidays. An old Irish proverb: Laughter is brightest where food is best.
Memories are a big part of the holidays and are connected to food. Preparing the special requests of favorite or traditional foods will help to keep residents cheerful. Those who are new to living in the community may need someone to listen to them reminisce a bit. Food servers may encourage them in their conversation to form new traditions and remind them that these times will not last forever.
Kind Dining ® continually updates training to reflect the needs of food serving teams as traditional service changes to include new rules, regulations, and suggestions that keep residents healthy and safe. New challenges in community living have essential, loyal, and faithful food servers learning how to combine hospitality with healthcare using kindness and compassion. They master the skills of food service at a time when they must adapt to change with fortitude, patience, and kindness.
B♥ Kind® Tip: “Clean plates don’t lie.” — Dan Barber
“There is no sincerer love than the love of food.” — George Bernard Shaw
A friend who comes from a family of cooks starting with the great-grandmother, down to the grandmother, mother, and father, and two brothers who each had a neighborhood restaurant, one in the Caribbean and one in New Jersey, said that while the love of good food permeated the house, Thanksgiving Day was looked forward to the day summer ended.
Surprisingly, it was a day that the menu was the same as last year and the year before that, and the year before that, etc. Each of the three children had their favorite vegetable on the table, two of which were never served during the rest of the year unless requested for their birthday dinner. Their mom wouldn’t dare alter the turkey stuffing by trying something new! That would have brought out a lot of dissension! Of course, the table was laden with far more food than could be consumed even with a few guests pulling up a chair. Thanksgiving Day was a warm memory remembered and savored long after most of the family had passed away.
While different people favor different holidays throughout the year, Thanksgiving Day is when people who don’t normally travel commit to getting to the homestead. After coming together as a family, whether by family connection or by choice, the main feature is a day where food and the abundance of it are celebrated. This year many family and friends will need to use Zoom or Facetime to connect, but the food is still the main feature. It is a day for your community chef to put his whole heart into the menu to extend the variety of favorite foods that will be expected, whether in the dining room or delivered to the individual rooms. It is a time and purpose to share the many cultures that have populated and made our country different from any other.
Kind Dining® teaches how the power of good service comes with the food servers when they carry extra cheerfulness along with the food brought to individual rooms. Pleasant conversation complements good food and is vital on holidays. As food servers, body language, a smile that shows in their eyes (above their mask), and their voice tone will help community residents remember they still have much to be thankful for, and a happy food server is one of those assets.
Our B♥ Kind® Tip: Food servers have an important role in helping residents overcome loneliness and isolation, especially on holidays.
“Food is everything we are. It’s an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, personal history, province, region, tribe, and grandma. It’s inseparable from those from the get-go.” ~ Anthony Bourdain
The late celebrity chef’s chef Anthony Bourdain loved his work. He loved people, and he loved food and all the socializing around food; enough to travel the world to learn what we already know in the food serving end of long term care and retirement communities. Food is an individual love and the social aspect of it, go hand in hand like a pair of twins. Knowing this and knowing these communities are now in quarantine makes the food serving team bring joy to the residents. They can spend a few minutes to socialize while bringing good food. The power of enlightening the day of a resident is in the food serving team’s hands, including those working across departments.
It is vitally important that your chef is onboard, providing foods that show the residents are in his heart and mind. A great chef is a great planner. Along with planning an efficient kitchen, he knows what meals his diners are looking forward to, and they come from him. Now is a time for specialties to soothe the concerned resident. Food can appease and comfort. Since their food served comes from a team effort, the servers can pick up hints from these older people they serve, look for information about meals that created memories and meals that will bring pleasure in this stressful time.
Kind Dining® training sessions encourage teamwork. Working together by understanding and respecting your coworkers’ responsibilities and your own makes for a smoother transition of foods served at mealtimes. A skilled chef is aware that the kitchen is a workshop full of open fires, sharp tools, and people racing in and out to pick up and deliver hot meals. Top chefs educate themselves with ethnic cuisines of other cultures and methods of preparation trends. Passing along the wishes of diners allows the chef to add personal menus to his continuously expanding knowledge and innovations of different dishes and plate them. The chef knows more than how to prepare food and be in touch with the diners the recipes are created for. Anthony Bordain knew it was about the people he met, the friendships formed, memories kept, and the foods that brought them all together.
Our B♥ Kind® Tip: Confidence in your food serving team is an early step to loving what you do!