When the senior living community of Atria Chandler Villas had a vacancy in its leadership, someone needed to perform important day-to-day duties until a permanent replacement could be found.

A promising individual came to mind – one whose expertise, till that point, was in culinary.

“I got a call from our Regional Vice President (RVP) asking, ‘Can you fill in for a week?’” says Kirk Brooks. “I had to dust off my dress shoes and find a tie because, as a chef, we had different attire in the kitchen.”

At the time, Brooks had been a Director of Culinary Services for more than two years. He managed the culinary program at his community and had developed a reputation as a leader who could boost food service at other locations in need of support.

“I had traveled quite a bit, helping communities as a chef. It was early in my career – my RVP saw something in me and trusted me. That made me feel good,” Brooks says.

One week leading Atria Chandler Villas became two. Two became three. Brooks discovered he had an aptitude for the role and a leadership style that resonated with staff.

Quote from Kirk Brooks

He realized the skills that served him in the culinary world could be effectively transferred to community operations. Brooks requested an opportunity to interview for the position full-time.

“And that’s how I became an Executive Director,” he says.

Looking back, it was earning the respect of the department directors and staff that convinced Brooks he was suited for leadership and eliminated any doubts about shifting his career path.

As Executive Director, he hit the ground running, and within six months, Atria Chandler Villas experienced full occupancy – and naturally – a delightful culinary program.

After two years in community leadership, a new national position at Atria was created that seemed tailor-made for Brooks’ unique background.

National Operations Specialist is a unique position that helps solidify processes and implements company protocols to provide the best possible experience for residents.

Brooks has served in this role for the past eight years, traveling to communities to oversee, train and streamline operations.

“It’s wonderful – the best job I’ve had,” Brooks says. “In some ways, it feels like I start a new job every four to six months. I learn a new community, get to know its staff and residents, and implement proven methods to elevate operations. Hopefully, I leave them in a better place than when I arrived.”

Having traded in his chef’s coat for dress attire and neckties, it’s now a tradition for Brooks to receive a tie as a present from the staff when he finishes a stint serving a community.

“I have 20 to 30 now, which means a lot to me,” Brooks says. “Atria sees potential in people who will work hard and add value to these communities. They’ll give you a shot – you have to be ready to take it.”