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Ask The Chef, Part two

So about a month ago, I wrote an article about some of the common questions I get, and tried to answer them the best I can. I wasn't sure how this would go over-my communication isn't always the most diplomatic, but many people were happy and said it helped them understand how and why we do things.

Check it out here by clicking this link.

So here's another installment of "Ask the Chef". If you have any questions about how things operate in Food and Beverage at Vi Highlands Ranch, or have a suggestion on how you think things should go please let me know. I can be reached at, or in my office at 720 348 7810, or just drop by, I am in the office pretty much Monday through Friday.

Crab and Mango salad with Basil Oil

Why does my Salad and Soup sometimes arrive at the same time? Well, It depends. So we basically work dinner by Courses. First course, second course etc. None of this is written in stone, but basically the first course is Soup, the second is Appetizers and Salads, the third course is Entrées, and the fourth course is Dessert. Now, having said that, what if you ordered soup and salad, but your table mate ordered only salad? how awkward is that? The server doesn't want someone sitting at the table with no food, while others are eating any more than you do. Of course it's a no-win situation because some residents want a formal meal with proper coursing, while others just want their meal with a minimum of fuss. They do the best they can to anticipate your wishes. What I can tell you is once the food is made, the Chef is pretty insistent that it needs to go straight to the table and the runners generally listen to the chef. It all depends on how it is ordered into the kitchen. If the server rings everything in on one course, then that is how the cooks and food runners are going to make it. If the server separates the order out into first course soups, second course salads etc., then that is how it will come out. If you have a preference, please state it [for instance: "Please course my meal." or "Please just bring everything at once/as it is ready." Extra courses takes more time, if a slow, leisurely dinner is what you are looking for, tell the server. If you are not interested in waiting, tell them that too. At Lunch, we generally don't wait for courses, food comes out as soon as it is ready.

Pistachio Crusted Steelhead Trout over baby lettuces

Why did my meal take so long? There are times and situations that can cause this, one answer simply will not do. So here's the simple one; It could be the wait staff, it could be the kitchen, it could be the residents, or it could be all three. Without going into too many scenarios, ask yourself if there is a big gap between ordering and receiving the food. That's the big key, if it seems like more than five minutes then there is a problem. Call a manager. if it seems like there is a big gap between finishing your salads and the entrée arriving call the manager. Seriously, if there is a problem call a manager or the lead server. There should really be no delay here, this is the key to getting good service. Another big thing to remember, is that while I tell people all the time that they can alter the menu to match their personal taste, that doesn't mean it will be just as fast or efficient as if they hadn't. Special requests complicate the server's job, take longer to order, longer to prepare, and are more prone to error. It's just a fact, nothing to be worried about but since we're looking at reasons, that is a big one. There are a lot of factors that can go right or wrong during a meal service, probably the best way to ensure you get in and out of the dining room promptly, is to let the server know that you don't want a long meal period. There are residents in the building who very much don't want to be hurried, and the server doesn't automatically know your preference. They can make sure your food isn't delayed and it gives the manager a heads up to keep an eye on your table.

Cognac Tasting 2021

Can I get gluten-friendly items? Yes. Keep in mind that I use the phrase gluten-friendly, because nothing that comes out of our kitchen is truly gluten-free, nor can it be. On any given day, meals are made and prepared in an environment that contains lots of flour, beer, and barley. Airborne particles of these items are often enough to trigger a reaction in someone with celiac disease, and there can be confusion with calling something gluten-free if it isn't really.

Our menu is simply not designed to make individual meals, we can't keep separate items for specific residents. We do have gluten-friendly items on the menu, and they are marked. I can't make a gluten-friendly version of the entire menu, any more than I can make one for people who are allergic to garlic, or seafood, or nuts. Our menu is, however, pretty large and versatile so go ahead and ask what components contain gluten. Often there is a menu item that would be gluten-friendly but for a single sauce or side so please ask your server which items can be omitted or substituted. As always, come to the Culinary Corner on Mondays, and ask the Chef in person.

2022 Hops from the Chef's backyard

Why does the chef focus so much on Booze? Good question. All jokes aside we all know that consuming alcohol isn't good for us, and in the elderly there is an increased risk of alcohol problems associated with medication, reduced liver function, and the danger of falling. If we are truly looking out for our residents then why all the emphasis on something so unhealthy? Honestly this is kind of the same question that is ongoing about healthy eating. We all know we shouldn't eat unhealthy foods like fried chicken, ice cream, butter, bacon, and cookies. We know this but we ignore it, because we like these things. When I write menus, I am considering things like heart-health and glycemic index, but what I am really doing is writing a menu that will make people happy, and the same goes for events. Sip and Savor is one of our most popular events every month, and the house-made beer is popular to the point that I really can't keep up with demand. Almost any event or gathering is instantly made more popular with the addition of a bar, and we respond to resident excitement accordingly. Simply stated, we give the people what they ask us for, not directly but with their menus, their comments and their presence at events. Quite frankly, being part of a community like this means that the events and menus are going to be tailored to what the community likes. You don't need to drink alcohol to come to one of these events, and in every Sip and Savor there is someone who simply enjoys the food and company and doesn't partake in alcohol.

What will happen when we shut down the dining room? Well, that depends. Basically sometime late in 2023 we are planning on doing this massive renovation of the dining spaces which will of course force us to close the dining room. How long? Well, I really have no idea, but certainly months. Luckily, not much work is being done on the kitchen that I am aware of, so we can still produce food. I expect a combination of takeout and buffets hosted in the Centennial Room as space and time allows. Buffets are my preferred option, as we can still have fun, do some impressive dinners and feed everyone easily. I expect we will know more as the time approaches, and I would hate to give details that I really don't know so just trust me when I say we will keep everyone wellf-ed and entertained for as long as we need to.

Farmer's Market 2022

Can I invite people for dinner? Yes. Please bring in your family and friends, there is no restriction on who can be here. As always, I would recommend checking with Lora or Bob to make sure if reservations are needed or not. Breakfast and Lunch are still pretty casual, and I don't expect that you would need much advance notice there. If you have a friend who lives at another senior living facility such as Windcrest, Lincoln Meadows or Holly Creek, please bring them in as my guest. That's right, I am so sure that our food and dining is better than the competition that I will buy their meal if they eat here. I promise we won't tell the Sales Team that they are here or try to get them on a list, but if there is someone you know that you would like to have as a neighbor bring them in.

Why is my takeout meal sometimes wrong? This one comes up a lot. Sometimes even though we do our best, the entrée is wrong, or doesn't look appetizing in a box with no sauce, or doesn't have the right sides and isn't hot. I get it, it's frustrating. Honestly though, if you look at what goes into the takeout program, the question should really be "Why is my takeout meal sometimes right?". Our menu, just for dinner, has two soups, six salads/appetizers, seven dressings, eleven entrees, with as many as twenty sides and sauces, bread with butter, five desserts, numerous beers, wines, cocktails, juices, milks, coffee. We often get between thirty and seventy different dinner orders, all of which need to be recorded, confirmed, rung in, cooked, boxed, bagged, checked, and finished or delivered between two p.m. and four p.m. The fact that most of these are correct is astonishing to me, and that is assuming that the resident is ordering from the correct menu, gave us their name, and ordered an existing menu item from the current menu in the first place. I'm not much to complain about hard work, but man, that is an accomplishment. I guess what I am saying is that we are doing the best we can, with what is not really a tenable situation, and one that we will probably have to simplify if we are to continue. I encourage you to double check your order before leaving the dining areas, and if something is wrong, call immediately. We will fix it if we can.

OK, I hope this helped answer some of your questions. I know that there are always more, and feel free to speak to me privately of there are. Keep in mind that if you haven't been on a kitchen tour, or if it has been a while please watch the events calendar for the next one. It really helps to go behind the scenes in person and see how things are done. I hope to see you all soon, and If I don't, have a great holiday!

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