Focus on freshness

Signature Dining serves great food, made to order

Created date

May 23rd, 2019
Fox Run Executive Chef Michael Bootz first started working at the Novi, Mich., Erickson Living community as a prep cook when he was just 19 years old.

Fox Run Executive Chef Michael Bootz first started working at the Novi, Mich., Erickson Living community as a prep cook when he was just 19 years old.

Fox Run residents consistently say that one of the best parts of living at the Novi, Mich., Erickson Living community is that they no longer have to prepare their own meals or do all of the grocery shopping, meal planning, and cleaning that accompanies cooking. Instead, they can enjoy leisurely meals with friends at the community’s four on-site restaurants, while Fox Run’s professional dining staff handles all of the work. 

Whether they’re craving a salad or deli wrap for a light lunch at the Hunt Club Café, a perfectly cooked steak and a glass of red wine at Signatures Restaurant, or an elegant Sunday brunch with family at the Fireside, community members can find the dining experience they’re looking for at Fox Run.

A taste of home

Dr. Steve Lerner, a former faculty member at Wayne State University School of Medicine, and his wife Lisbeth moved to Fox Run a couple of years ago. They enjoy getting to know their neighbors over meals at Fox Run.

“One of the nice things is that every time you eat, you’re often with someone new,” Steve says. “The food is great, and there’s always something really good to eat.”

One of the key people responsible for preparing the meals served at Fox Run each day is Executive Chef Michael Bootz, a Michigan native who first came to the community more than 15 years ago when he was just 19 years old. Bootz learned about Fox Run from a friend who worked there, and he first joined the staff as a prep cook.

Over the years, he worked his way up through the ranks and took advantage of Erickson Living’s tuition assistance program to attend Schoolcraft College’s renowned culinary arts program. After his graduation, Bootz was promoted to executive chef at Fox Run.

In his cooking, Bootz likes to focus on fresh and local ingredients like Michigan cherries and sweet end-of-summer corn. He also takes advantage of Fox Run’s proximity to the Great Lakes by bringing in plenty of fresh lake perch, walleye, and whitefish from Lake Huron and Lake Superior.

“Many residents especially enjoy these fresh seafood dishes since they’ve grown up eating them and serving them to their families. It’s like a taste of home,” he says.

From scratch

Bootz’s focus on freshness melds perfectly with Fox Run’s Signature Dining program, which was implemented about three years ago. At that time, the community transitioned from batch cooking to à la carte preparation.

All menu offerings are now made to order at the moment of service. Signature Dining creates an exceptional dining experience for community members because it ensures that food is of the highest quality and served at the peak of freshness.

“We pride ourselves on making many of our foods from scratch, including soups and sauces,” Bootz says. “Our goal is to make sure that everyone enjoying a meal in our restaurants has the freshest, highest-quality ingredients.”

Rob Miller, Fox Run’s director of dining services, oversees the entire dining department. Miller says Bootz is a valuable member of his team.

“Mike has impressed our team with his commitment to our mission,” he says. “His passion for creating delicious food and exceptional dining experiences for our residents comes through in everything he does, and we are grateful that he has chosen to share his gifts with our community.”

Miller, Bootz, and other leaders from Fox Run’s dining services department regularly solicit feedback from residents to make sure that they are exceeding expectations when it comes to the food they serve and the dining experience they create.

Empowered eating

Barb Birmingham, who was one of the first people to move to Fox Run when it opened, has special dietary needs. But she says Bootz and the Signature Dining program empower her to eat well while sticking to her diet.

“He is very accommodating, a very caring person,” Barb says of Bootz. “He has always been the one to make sure that there is something delicious and healthy for me to eat. He really wants everybody to have a good experience in the dining room. He listens and treats everyone as if they are special.”

Bootz takes that kind of praise to heart because his top priority is to make sure the people he cooks for feel like he’s listening to them. He doesn’t see his job as simply preparing and serving meals. Rather, his goal is to try to “enrich people’s lives through food.”

“I’ve known some of the residents, like Mrs. Birmingham, for 15 years. It’s like they’ve become family,” Bootz says. “They have watched me grow up, graduate from college, and get married. I’ve watched their families grow and, many times, helped to celebrate an important moment in their lives. It’s incredible to have the opportunity to make that kind of personal connection with hundreds of people.”

Now that he’s a veteran member of Fox Run’s dining services team, Bootz mentors newer staff members. He says that is one of the most rewarding aspects of his job.

“We create some amazing meals, but nothing beats seeing a colleague start out as a dishwasher and work his way up to sous chef,” Bootz says. “At Fox Run, there is so much opportunity to grow your career while also having an impact on people’s lives.”