Do you LOVE cooking? There are more options in the Food Industry for a skilled Chef than you might think, here is one example as we put a spotlight on Beau Veldhuis, Dining Services Manager at Seasons Amherstburg.
Q: How long have you worked at Seasons Amherstburg Retirement Community?
A: I have worked here since we opened in 2007.
Q: What inspired you to work at Seasons?
A: I knew I wanted to be a chef since I was 12 years old. As an adult, I was living in Ottawa with my family but we wanted to be closer to home. When the work opportunity at Seasons presented itself, I couldn’t turn it down because it offered everything I wanted: a new direction in my career and solid work-life balance in my hometown of Amherstburg.
Q: What is your favourite cuisine and what types of cuisine are you capable of producing?
A: I can’t say I have a preference for cooking any particular types of cuisine. I’ve had many people ask me this over the years and find it difficult to narrow it down. I do know I enjoy cooking seasonally, and I love being able to get local produce when I can. I feel that I have gained enough experience over the years that I can cook most cuisine if it is requested, whether its Mexican, Thai, Chinese, or Italian.
I couldn’t turn it down because it offered everything I wanted: a new direction in my career and solid work-life balance
Q: If you were asked to reduce fat and sodium in a menu, what would you do to maintain the flavour and quality of the dish?
A: One skill I learned right away was how to deal with salt. My background had always taught me to “season, season, season.” I quickly learned to back off. To create flavourful dishes, such as soup, using raw, natural product is necessary.
Properly roasting vegetables, instead of steaming them is just one way to enhance flavour. The use of herbs and spices in the right ratios is also important. We do have residents with sodium intake concerns. Prepared, packaged, commercial foods almost always contain more sodium than meals made from scratch.
This is one of the reasons we are adamant about cooking nutrient rich, naturally sourced meals for residents. The “convenience product” route does not account for attention to ingredients and leaves little room for chef creativity.
Q: When are you happiest at work?
A: I love the feeling in the morning when my team and I are humming along, getting ready to serve delicious food. At this time, residents are enjoying their first meal of the day and I am able to greet them all and say good morning… and, of course, the smell of fresh coffee gives me a boost.
Our team has many years of experience and all of our staff come from a restaurant or hotel background.
Q: What can you tell us about Dining Services at Seasons?
A: We serve three meals a day and stock a 24 hour self-serve bistro. Whether the meal is plated or buffet, our a la carte menus offer different options, so residents always have plenty of choice.
Our dining experience is unique because, while we follow standard recipes, we allow our cooks the freedom to use their knowledge to make a meal better by adjusting its flavour or texture profile, for example. In the end, this gives our residents a better dining experience. Our team has many years of experience and all of our staff come from a restaurant or hotel background. Our team often has new ideas for menu items or ways to improve presentation. We put our culinary skills to good use, each and every day.
Q: Do you incorporate menu items to suit residents’ likes and dislikes?
A: We use a local supplier to source as many fresh vegetables and fruits as possible. Even though it costs a bit more, we want our residents to eat the best, most nutritious foods, available.
At my home, all soups are made from scratch, and over the years we have become known for them. Every five weeks I re-evaluate the menu to determine what’s working, and what isn’t. We host a monthly Resident Council meeting with staff and residents to collectively evaluate quality, selection and service.
These meetings give residents a say in what kinds of food we are serving, and it helps staff understand how to improve. The objective of our menu is to prepare meals that our residents enjoy eating – that’s our goal!
Thanks for your insights Beau!
Are you a chef or at culinary school currently? Have you ever thought about retirement communities as a place to work? What about other options in the wider Food Industry?
We would love to hear from you….
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