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From feedback to family recipes

New local chef gives diners personalized experience

Created date

March 20th, 2012

For many people, quality of food and dining options largely determines their choice of retirement community. That is why the management team at Tallgrass Creek, an Erickson Living community in Overland Park, Kans., takes great care in choosing its dining services staff. The community recently hired a new director of dining services and a new executive chef. Brent Smith, the new restaurant manager, comes to Tallgrass Creek with 25 years of experience in the food and beverage industry. He started washing dishes at age 15 and quickly worked his way up to management level by age 17. Smith has worked in dining services at restaurants, casinos, and hospitals. He views his new post at Tallgrass Creek as a special one. This is our residents home, and we feel privileged to work in their home, he says. Marc Lewis, Tallgrass Creek s new chef, also got his start washing dishes at age 15. He worked his way up the ladder and most recently worked in corporate dining and catering for Heart of America Food Service. He says he likes getting to know his customers at Tallgrass Creek something most chefs don t have the opportunity to do. In a restaurant, you don t see your guests during their dining experience, Lewis says. Here, you re basically with them in their home.

Broad menu

Erickson Living provides all of its communities chefs with a suite of healthy and tasty recipes they can use to design menus. Each chef also has the freedom to customize menus to include regional favorites or specialty cuisine. Every evening, community members have two to four entrees from which to choose, along with several different options for salads, soups, side dishes, and desserts. I haven t had a bad meal in the three years I ve been here, community member Don Blim says. Tallgrass Creek s Blue Sky Restaurant operates like any full-service restaurant. Diners are seated by a host, order from a menu, and are served by waiters and waitresses. Don says the atmosphere at the restaurant coupled with the quality of the food makes dinner a special experience and the perfect opportunity to catch up with friends and meet new neighbors. People are always happy, and they re smiling and talking, Don says. It s the highlight of the day. One recent week at Tallgrass Creek, dinner entrees included fried chicken with macaroni and cheese, mahi mahi with a teriyaki glaze, and Moroccan-style lamb with couscous. Sweet treats like peach pie and lemon layer cake are always available. Janet Filiault says one of her favorite meals is a classic and comforting chicken pot pie, which was served this past winter. Janet also enjoys dessert, and she says she loves Tallgrass Creek s sweet smarts desserts made without sugar so health-conscious diners can literally have their cake and eat it too.

True home cooking

Lewis says many of the Midwesterners living at Tallgrass Creek love traditional meat and potatoes, so he serves plenty of that. But with his experience cooking Italian, French, Southern, and even Asian cuisine, he spices up the dinner hour with some unique dinner choices. Lewis says he wants to give diners meals they enjoy. He solicits their feedback and listens to their suggestions. He says a Southwestern pasta dish he recently served got rave reviews, so he made sure to put it on the menu again. Lewis and Smith are so open to ideas and dedicated to making community members feel at home that when someone recently asked them to cook one of his own favorite dishes, they were happy to oblige. Jim Bikson provided his recipe for amaretto chicken, and Chef Lewis prepared it for the entire community to enjoy (see Jim s recipe above). It was a lot of fun, Lewis says. And, Jim got to brag to the rest of the community.

Jim Bikson s Amaretto Chicken

Serves 4-5 Ingredients 4 5 chicken breasts 1 Tbsp oil 3 Tbsp butter or margarine 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard 1 6-oz can frozen orange juice (undiluted) ' cup water 1 cup amaretto Seasoning ' mixture: 1 ' tsp salt 1 ' tsp white pepper 1 ' tsp paprika 1 ' tsp garlic salt 3 Tbsp flour Directions Coat chicken with seasoning mixture. Fry chicken in butter or margarine and oil on both sides until brown. Remove chicken from pan and place in casserole. Add thawed orange juice, Dijon mustard, water, and amaretto to skillet drippings. Bring to a full boil, stirring until sauce is completely blended and thick. Pour sauce over chicken. Cover and bake in a 325 ' F oven for 45 minutes or until chicken is covered with sauce and juices run clear.