As seen in January 2018 LiveWell magazine
Every day, a devoted group of executive chefs and sous chefs working in six Sun Health Senior Living kitchens prepare between 1,500 and 1,700 meals a day for the nearly 1,000 residents who live at the three campuses.
Tom Smith, system executive chef at Sun Health Senior Living, says each executive chef runs his or her own kitchen and decides on the menu and any special meals.
“In the culinary department, we strive to do everything we can from scratch. We are all classically trained chefs, who endeavor to offer quality and consistency in the meals that we prepare for our residents,” Tom says.
Tom, who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, says he originally intended to specialize in working in country clubs.
“But in 1997 I began working in senior living and I just fell in love with it,” he says, adding that he has been working at Sun Health for about 12 years.
“It can be challenging at times, but with challenges come so many rewards. We are doing something different every day, and we are able to step outside of the box and bring our own techniques and talents to the kitchen with us.”
Tom says he enjoys speaking with chefs from other industries, and dispelling the myths that preparing meals for seniors involves making lots of purees and bland foods.
“Here, we do a lot with fresh fish, we butcher our own meat and we offer just about any type of food.
We like to offer a heart healthy/fit item every day, and a lot of our residents want to eat healthy,” Tom says.
“But our residents also still want to eat meals that they remember when they were younger—like the time I made a Frito pie, and they ate it up.”
Tom can relate to the way food can evoke positive memories; he fondly recalls growing up in Southern California and sampling authentic cuisine in Chinatown and ordering from the taco carts in Baja California.
As for his favorite cuisine to prepare when he is not at work, Tom says he can often be found in his home kitchen on the weekends preparing enough Italian food for a figurative army.
“When I make sauce, I fix enough to feed a hundred people, or I’ll make dozens of meatballs for the three of us at home,” he says.