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Ask the Chef, Part Three

As you might imagine, I get questions all the time. I try to answer them as well as I can, but when I hear the same questions multiple times it becomes easier for me to organize my thoughts and address them in written form. If you have a question you want me to specifically address, please let me know. I am usually in the office Monday through Friday and can be reached at 720 348 7810, or gstrickland@viliving.com. One of the best places to ask (of course!) is at the Culinary Corner meeting that we have every Monday in the Dad Clark Bar at 10 am. Anyway, here goes...


David and Pah pose in front of a beautiful ice sculpture.
  • Why is my food cold? Good question. This bothers me a lot as I feel like hot food is literally the least we can do. Even a terrible chef should be able to put out hot food. First of all, if you ever get food in the Dining Room that is supposed to be hot but isn't please let us fix it. There is nothing more frustrating than hearing about something much later and there being nothing I can do about it. Your hot food in the dining room should be piping hot-no questions asked.

One thing you have probably noticed is that the dining room is always a bit chilly--especially in the summer, for some reason, when we have to distribute throw blankets. I am not trying to make an excuse but it would be hard to say that these things not are related. Even a hot plate, if left for a few minutes uncovered in a cold room, will not stay hot very long.


Timing is a big part of this, if you are taking your time on a salad, or are leaving the room for a moment, please ask your server to keep the plate hot until you're ready. To compound this problem, the kitchen has two giant hood fans overhead sucking all the exhaust from the gas stoves. If it is busy, or if the doors get stuck in the open position, all that cold air from the Dining Room gets sucked into the kitchen, over the top of your hot food and out the exhaust fans. Kendall is looking at repairing or replacing the doors to the kitchen, but it is something we are monitoring. In the kitchen itself, the food is cooked-to-order with very few exceptions, and so should be hot to begin with, but we need to make sure that the plates are hot too. I have replaced one of the heat lamps in January, and a repair company is rewiring the remaining heat lamps to make sure that our hot food stays hot. Education is the final key, cooks and servers need to be committed to this problem, and I can assure you it is something I am not going to let go of.


  • But what about Sunday Brunch? On buffets, we have a bigger problem, our chafing dishes are not really made for the volume we do, and may not be staying hot-especially if they are open a lot while we are busy. There is a plate warmer for the buffet but a few weeks ago I was at the buffet and realized it was turned way down. When I asked why it seems that some residents complain that the hot plates are difficult to carry. Add this to the already cold dining room and I am at a bit of a loss. Hopefully the new dining spaces will have better and more efficient buffet arrangements. We might need to have servers carry hot plates for people, I will keep working on it.


  • Why am I getting soda and juice in different containers instead of a can or bottle with my takeout? From the time we opened in 2008, until the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, we provided soft drinks, juices, and coffees in cups with takeout meals. Yes, there were some incidents of spillage, and no, it was never perfect; but most residents understood that the takeout meal was not meant to be the same as a meal in the dining room. When the Pandemic struck, we closed the dining rooms altogether for a long time, and when we re-opened, it was a while before we were up to full strength and normal operations. During this time we switched to canned sodas, along with pre-packaged condiments, juices, and salad dressings for sanitation concerns and ease of service. Now, it is time to return to normal operations as much as possible. Soda in a sealed, plastic bottle doesn't spill, and will stay carbonated for least a day (we checked). Is it just as good as a can soda a month later? Probably not, but the takeout food is not meant to be a replacement for groceries anyway, right? You simply pour it into a glass as you would with a can and drink it with your meal. This is simply good stewarding of the resources we have. I understand that this might affect those who order takeout frequently, but we strongly encourage you to come to the dining room. The food is hotter, presentation is nicer, and you have some really awesome neighbors who would love to see you there.


  • Why is The Social so early? Well, we have it early so it doesn't interfere with dinner. I would also rather have it later, and maybe we will change the time in the future. The Bar as a place for people without reservations has become the norm here but it's far from the intended purpose. Since the day I started here, it has been observed that the Dad Clark Bar was advertised as a place to get a drink before dinner, but that has never really been the case as it is always packed with people eating the full menu. Honestly I think that we shouldn't be serving meals in the Bar at all and that it should be for drinks and maybe light foods but not everything is up to me. So- we wanted to do a function here in the Bar, but didn't want to compromise those seats, that's why it's early. Personally, I think a free drink or two with a meal is a great time, and you can't beat the price.


  • Why is Chef's beer free? Well contrary to the opinions of some, it's not because of poor quality. Since 1978 it has been legal to brew beer in your own home for personal consumption (thank you to President Jimmy Carter), but that doesn't give you the legal right to sell it. I am probably stretching the definition of "home" since I don't actually live here, but since residents are part of the process I think we are safe in that regard. The Federal Government takes a very dim view of people who sell alcohol without a license or paying proper taxes, and as you all know I am kind of a "rule follower". Actually, I see the brewing as more of an Activity than a Food and Beverage transaction and if our beer isn't quite as good as some professional breweries at least I can say the price is right. If we ever get our act together enough to start actually selling our beer we will do it in the appropriate legal manner.


  • When will the Bees be back? Great question. During the winter, the bees huddle for warmth, and eat the honey that they have stored up. Usually about the middle of March, I go and check on them, and find a few flying around on warm days. Right about the first of April, I do my first real inspection, to see how they did, how much food they have left, and if the queen has started laying eggs again. In Colorado, the first real flowers don't start until mid-May, so I will probably give them some supplemental sugar syrup to help get them through this difficult time.


  • When will you plant the Garden? Man, you guys are really on me today aren't you? OK, well as you know we have two gardens -one is mostly herbs with some pollinator plants like Bee Balm and Lemon Verbena mixed in. The other is a larger vegetable garden. The Herb Garden has some perennials like sage and oregano that will come back on their own, and we will plant some of the annual herbs right before Mother's Day. In the larger garden, I have ordered some Hops rhizomes that will arrive in mid- April. That garden needs some serious soil improvements too, I am planning to ask Kendall to get some composted manure delivered so I can add it in, probably around the end of March so that we can plant when the danger of frost has passed (in mid-May).


  • What happens when the dining room closes for renovation? Well, that's a good question. My tentative plan is to begin having buffets in the brand-new Centennial Room nightly, as wells a limited takeout menu. The truth is, it will be difficult no matter how we do it, but the last thing I want to do is simply close the dining rooms and not serve hot food. The good news is that no renovations are happening in the kitchen at all, so the problem won't be how to make food, just how to serve it to the residents. All I can say is that we will do everything in our power to make a pleasurable meal for you and get through this difficult but long-anticipated renovation together.


  • Do we Recycle in the kitchen? What about Composting? Well, unfortunately we do neither at the moment. Waste Disposal falls under a corporate negotiated contract, and those of us at the property have little say. At some point in the past we did have a recycling program for recycling cardboard boxes, but the company couldn't handle the volume we produce and it quickly made a huge mess for us. I would love to see a program like this again, but maybe with a better assessment of what we need. As far as composting, it is a similar issue, we produce a large amount of organic waste. If a company were able to handle it, we would love to take part in a program. For composting here on property, without specialized equipment we would be forced to do it the old-fashioned way which would not make the city or our neighbors very happy with the smell, sight or idea of large amounts of compost "cooking". I will keep asking, if this issue is important to residents, I hope you are all making your views clear and maybe we can make changes in the future.

I hope this helps answer a few questions, I will do some version of this article periodically so if you would like to contribute, or if you want clarification about any of these things, please let me know.





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