Wherever people gather, it’s a sure bet that food and drink are near at hand. It shouldn’t be surprising then that senior living communities have become thriving hubs of creativity and growth for culinary enthusiasts.
Atria offers aspiring chefs a unique opportunity for a career that affirms what they love about cooking, minimizes the downsides of the profession and brings people together over plates of delicious food.
Work-Life Balance – A Recipe for Success
One attractive aspect of a culinary career in senior living is the potential for work-life balance. Traditionally – and somewhat notoriously – culinary work has been typified by grueling hours, demanding schedules and high stress.
Unlike many restaurant kitchens, senior living communities adhere to more predictable schedules that allow chefs to have a life outside the kitchen.
“It was my husband who actually applied on my behalf!” says Cindy Carinci, now the Regional Culinary Director for Atria Retirement Canada. “In my previous job, my work hours had gotten out of hand and I was too in the thick of it to see it myself. So, he filled out an application online for a chef position that seemed like a good fit for me. Needless to say, I was surprised to receive the call to interview! But he was right, and it’s been such a rewarding journey ever since.”
Now with Atria for over eight years, the balance she’s found in senior living has allowed Cindy to stay focused and inspired.
“My staff and the residents are what drives me,” she says. “I love people, and I love making people happy through food. I’ve been able to do that and continue to grow as a chef – but with a better quality of life.”
Creativity Flourishes in a Supportive Community
Times are changing, as are stereotypes about seniors and food. In the past, cooking in senior living could be seen as stifling to the creativity chefs crave.
“That hasn’t been my experience at all,” says Haylie Goodman, Executive Chef at Holiday Aspen View. “We specialize in comfort food here like fried chicken or meatloaf because residents love meals that are connected to those memories. But under that big umbrella, I’m constantly putting new spins on recipes and experimenting with flavors.”
With rotating menus and special events that spotlight unique dishes, Atria communities present chefs with an evolving challenge to satisfy tastebuds.
Atria communities even hold monthly meetings where chefs and residents talk about menus, upcoming events and recipes, and then brainstorm ways to reflect their culinary ideas on a regular basis.
“No one wants to eat the same thing every day – no matter how good the dish is,” Haylie says. “We change things up to keep our cooks inspired and our residents happy. It’s a dynamic kitchen.”
The Joy of Impacting Lives
With jobs in catering, fine dining, purchasing and restaurant openings – there’s not much in the culinary world that Kelley Miracle, Atria’s Director of Culinary Support Operations, hasn’t done.
“I never have the same two days in a row, and I love that,” Kelley says about her multi-faceted role. In addition to project management, recipe writing, ordering guidelines and tech support for kitchen operations, Kelley works with Atria’s national chefs and is intricately familiar with the important role food plays in each community.
“Cooking for residents brings a deeper connection than your standard restaurant kitchen,” Kelley says. “In a restaurant, you cook for people and that’s rewarding, but you rarely see them face-to-face or get to know them. In our communities, you cook for the same people every day. There’s a rewarding familiarity and a closeness that’s unlike anything else in culinary.”
For those who fell in love with cooking because of the joy it brings people, there’s perhaps no better place to pursue the path than in the kitchen of an Atria community.
“Food and dining are so important in our communities,” Kelley says. “Meals set the foundation for the day. Every chef I know wants to cook where food matters to people. And that’s here. That’s at Atria.”