Chef James Braddock is all about fresh, healthy, and made-to-order
Overland Park, Kans. – Preparations for Sunday morning brunch at Tallgrass Creek, a continuing care retirement community developed and managed by Erickson Living in Overland Park, Kans., begin before the sun comes up.
"That's when we start prepping for the approximately 350 residents who join us for brunch each Sunday," says Executive Chef James Braddock, "We bake an assortment of homemade apple, raspberry, almond, and lemon Danish, along with our just-out-of-the-oven cinnamon rolls. Everyone enjoys our pastries."
Braddock's "office" is Tallgrass Creek's gleaming, restaurant-grade kitchen with its many food prep stations, state-of-the-art ordering and inventory system, and over-sized refrigeration, food storage, and automated dishwashing areas.
He oversees the culinary program across Tallgrass Creek's three busy restaurants which include the Blue Sky Restaurant, where residents select from about 20 different entrees each evening. The menu also has daily specials and multiple appetizer, side, and dessert choices.
Lunch is served in the bustling Sunflower Bistro, again with an extensive menu and daily specials. Residents also frequent Milo's Café, a casual coffee, snack, and mini-market with fresh soups and salads. Carry-out is available to residents at all three restaurants.
Dining that makes a difference
Braddock knows a thing or two about cooking for a crowd. Prior to Tallgrass Creek, he spent 10 years as a chef at a nearby college, where he coordinated meals daily for about 1000 students. Additionally, he taught at the college and feels communication is the key to performing successfully in the kitchen.
"I host a session each month with the residents called 'Dining for Donuts' that is always well attended,'" says Braddock. "Over donuts and coffee, I answer residents' questions, give updates from the kitchen, and listen to feedback. It's interesting, fun, and an informative time for all of us."
Braddock also touts Tallgrass Creek's Signature Dining, a commitment to providing a variety of fresh menu offerings, executed at the moment of service and delivered to guests in distinctive dining venues.
Featuring an impressive selection, Braddock's menus combine familiar favorites and regional specialties with weekly chef specials, seasonal dishes and holiday-themed events. Everything is cooked to order and served to each diner's individual specifications.
Braddock says this approach to service provides a more "personalized dining experience." Meals are prepared with the freshest ingredients and painstaking attention to detail and presentation.
Karen Cox heads up Tallgrass Creek's resident-driven dining committee and says the dining program is one of many things that sets Tallgrass Creek apart.
"I would be shocked if any nearby retirement community has the number of daily, fresh food choices and different places to dine that we do," says Karen. "And everything is cooked just the way you like it. It's a big positive."
Dedicated to dining
Braddock estimates that about 700 meals are made to order in Tallgrass Creek's kitchen each day. His team consists of a sous chef, lead prep cook, skilled prep and line cooks, several apprentices from a local culinary school, and dishwashers.
"We do all personal catering for residents, staff, and cater all the community's social events, so our kitchen is a busy place," says Braddock.
Doug Ohliger, Director of Dining at Tallgrass Creek says the entire kitchen team's mission is simple: to provide a variety of fresh, healthy, delicious dining options residents enjoy.
"We never forget that among our residents, there are lots of very good cooks we are serving every day, all day," says Ohliger. "It is a big job and Chef Braddock and his team work hard to ensure everyone has a great dining experience."
Braddock and his culinary team also find time to have fun outside the kitchen. They occasionally host "Iron Chef" competitions at cooking stations set up in the Blue Sky Restaurant where chefs whip up a dish with secret ingredients. Residents taste each dish and vote for their favorite.
"It's so interesting to watch the chefs create something wonderful right before your eyes," says Karen. "It's one more reason dining at Tallgrass Creek is special. I can't say enough about the entire kitchen staff and the fresh, delicious food they create for us here at Tallgrass Creek."
About Tallgrass Creek: Tallgrass Creek, one of 20 continuing care retirement communities developed and managed by Erickson Living®, is situated on a scenic 65-acre campus in Overland Park, Kansas. The community is located in Johnson County and is home to more than 500 residents who are supported by a team of more than 350 employees. Additional information about Tallgrass Creek can be found at TallgrassCreek.com.
Photo Caption: Executive Chef James Braddock presents one of the fresh, healthy meals served to guests in Tallgrass Creek's Blue Sky restaurant, where every dish is executed at the moment of service for an extraordinary, personalized dining experience.
Photo Credit: Rod Zeigler