Chefs enjoy healthy work-life balance and creating expertly prepared dishes
Pequannock, N.J. (February 21, 2019) — For most chefs, especially those working at independent restaurants, the idea of maintaining a work-life balance is laughable. It's just not common in the industry. But when Chris Jerred discovered Erickson Living, a Baltimore-based company that develops and manages senior living communities across the country, he discovered a company that holds work-life balance at a high priority.
Jerred, like some other chefs, started his culinary career as a teenage dishwasher who worked his way up as prep cook and line cook at barbecue joints and steakhouses throughout Kansas City, Mo. His schedule consisted of late nights and long days.
"Before I worked for Erickson Living, I was a chef at independent restaurants. In that environment there is zero work-life balance. Cedar Crest so far has been the best as far as letting their employees achieve a work-life balance," says Jerred, executive chef at Cedar Crest, an Erickson Living developed and managed retirement community in Pequannock Township, New Jersey.
"We want to create an extraordinary experience for each of our team members, which, in turn, translates to extraordinary experiences for our residents," says Dining Director Paul Cimins.
Jerred started at Cedar Crest nearly four years ago as a sous chef at The Fireside, one of five restaurants on campus—a buffet. Last year, when The Overlook, the community's fine dining restaurant, reopened after renovations, Cimins asked Jerred to apply for the executive chef position. He did, and now a year later he's thriving at the helm.
One reason Jerred is so beloved on campus is his reciprocal love for the people he serves.
Aside from work-like balance, Jerred says the second best benefit of working at Cedar Crest is his interactions with residents. "I love talking to our residents. They really appreciate what we do for them," he says.
Another reason people appreciate him: the quality of food he and his team prepares.
About three years ago, Cedar Crest introduced Signature Dining, a change from batch cooking to fresh, made-to-order, resident-focused menu offerings, executed at the moment of service to deliver an exceptional dining experience.
Signature Dining empowers chefs to cook with more creativity and meet special dietary needs or requests of their diners.
"I think Paul Cimins and the chefs have worked hard with Signature Dining to make it a wonderful experience. There's a lot of choices and such lovely variety," says Marcia Ivans, dining committee chair to the resident advisory council (RAC).
As dining committee chair, Ivans acts as liaison between her fellow neighbors and the dining team leadership. She works closely with Jerred and Cimins to convey residents' needs and desires and to put them in the menu rotation.
In Jerred's case, those requests are most notable in the daily specials at The Overlook. "Our daily specials are pulled almost 100% from our resident comment cards. Whatever they request, I make sure that ends up on our specials rotation within a couple of weeks," Jerred says. "I also devote time in the dining room to talk with residents. They are the reason we're here. If they want to see something specific on the menu, I work hard to get it for them."
In addition to menu variety, residents can always find staples like the roast chicken, salmon, flat iron steak, burgers, hot dogs, soups, salads, and a pasta station which offers gluten-free pasta and whole-wheat pasta for those who request substitutes.
And when they just want a quick turkey sandwich or cup of yogurt and granola for breakfast, most people enjoy those meals in their apartment homes, which are all equipped with full kitchens.
"It's great that we offer the service where they don't have to cook and clean up, but it's also very valuable that they can cook in their own apartment homes. It helps with variety," says Jerred.
Jerred and his dining services team also take the time to get to know specific dietary needs of certain residents, and they make sure the meal is prepared as needed.
"I love who I work for and who I work with," says Jerred. "This is my career. I've been doing this for 20 years, and these guys make it a joy to come into work every day."
For more information about career opportunities in senior living, please visit https://jobs.ericksonliving.com. Visitors can register for email alerts about job postings by field of expertise and location.
About Cedar Crest: Cedar Crest, one of 20 continuing care retirement communities developed and managed by Erickson Living®, is situated on a scenic 130-acre campus in Pompton Plains, New Jersey. The community is located in Morris County and is home to 1,800 residents. Additional information about Cedar Crest can be found at CedarCrestCommunity.com.
Written by Julia Collins