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Dedicated to dining

What’s cooking at Tallgrass Creek

Created date

October 28th, 2015
Residents chat with Doug Ohliger, Director of Dining
Residents chat with Doug Ohliger

Doug Ohliger, Tallgrass Creek’s new director of dining, comes to the Overland Park, Kans., Erickson Living community with a wealth of education and experience in restaurant and dining management. A Philadelphia native and graduate of Penn State University, Ohliger holds a bachelor’s degree in hotel, restaurant, and institutional management and has managed some of the country’s most successful upscale restaurants. 

Also an entrepreneur, Ohliger owned and operated a wholesale bakery in Philadelphia for ten years where he worked with high-end caterers, hotels, and restaurants. After selling his business, he became the restaurant manager at Ann’s Choice, an Erickson Living community in Bucks County, Pa.

“I’ve stayed true to what I enjoy and do best, which is the restaurant and food business,” says Ohliger, who joined Tallgrass Creek’s management team in August. “My background has allowed me to experience the business in unique ways, which is always challenging and never dull.”

At Tallgrass Creek, Ohliger oversees the community’s kitchen, menu choices, varied dining venues, and personnel. That’s a lot on one plate, so we sat down with Ohliger recently in Tallgrass Creek’s elegant Blue Sky Restaurant to find out how he does it all. 

Q: So how do you do it all? 

A: First, I love what I do. With that in mind, at Tallgrass Creek, whether residents are dining casually in the Sunflower Bistro, more elegantly in the Blue Sky Restaurant, grabbing a quick bite in The Marketplace, or enjoying a meal in Tallgrass Creek’s continuing care neighborhood, my job is the same. Each of our residents should experience great food and service in an appealing environment every time they sit down to eat. I’m motivated by that goal. 

Q: How do you make that happen?

A: Like most successful endeavors, it starts with people. We have some great folks in and out of the kitchen, but we want more people to know what a great place this is to work. For instance, to round out our dining staff, we recently hosted a lunch conference for 20 local high school counselors and principals so they can see for themselves what young people can experience when they work here. We want young leaders with great attitudes working with our residents.   

It is equally important to consistently stay in touch with the residents. Their insights and suggestions are integral to a satisfying dining experience. 

Q: How do you ensure good communication between the kitchen, dining staff, and residents?

A: Our entire kitchen and dining staff works hard to ensure the residents are heard. We host a town hall about food and dining each month called “Dining for Donuts” where the residents hear from us and we hear from them. It has been successful, eye opening, and fun.

Q: How do you keep the residents’ dining experience fresh and fun? 

A:  We are working to roll out a Signature Menu Program. It’s just like you see in traditional restaurants. We foresee a several-page menu with a wide selection of items, all cooked to order. We hear consistently that residents want healthy choices that taste good, and we will continue to find creative ways of preparing food to provide that. 

Q: You’re a Philadelphia native, so what’s it like living in the heart of America?

A: Coming from Philadelphia, which is a great restaurant town, I was pleased to find Kansas City is the same. The chefs are creative, and the restaurants enjoy all the same food trends we see on both coasts. And what they say is true. You have some great barbecue here! 

I live in Olathe, and the people have been warm and welcoming. But it’s also interesting being at Tallgrass Creek because it seems to be right in the middle of everything.