The Resident Satisfaction Survey begins this Monday October 10th. You should al be receiving invitations to join from innovative insights with a link to take your survey.
Next week, we will be hosting a series of events, some big, some small to highlight the importance of this survey, but also to have fun along the way. On Monday at Coffee and Conversation, there will be spare computers and people to help with any technical problems.
On Tuesday Morning at 8 a.m. In the Mt Rosa Dining room, we will be hosting a pancake breakfast with none other than Yo Anderson flipping pancakes and keeping you fed. Please come to this one, we will also have waffles, Omelets, and other yummy items. Jesus will be joining Yo, and I of course will be there pouring Mimosas. Yes, we are serving Mimosa's, I want everyone in a good mood when they fill out this survey, just don't tell Lora that I am using all her champagne. There are several other events next week and the week after, all with the idea of allowing time to fill out the survey and have people and computers to help if you need it.
Obviously, I would like to see Vi at Highlands Ranch be rated the top cuisine in the company, but blatant pandering is frowned upon. I do want everyone to know this; we are on the same team. One of the biggest things that I have tried to do with our food and beverage over the years is take our relationship away from traditional "us/them" that restaurants and hotels have (you give us money, we make you food-end of transaction), to relational. We want to hear your voice, we want to know your story and most importantly, we want to be a part of your story. I have found the relationships we build over the years to be the strongest draw to this line of work, and I wouldn't trade this position for another.
One thing that I realized a few years ago is that good food is not something to brag about. yes, I think my food is the best. So does the Chef at Windcrest. So does the Chef at Lincoln Meadows. The truth is that food is highly subjective, and almost everyone does something really well. The question I asked myself is what makes us better? What makes Vi at Highlands Ranch the best? The programs we have in place are unique to Highlands Ranch, and many of them have been put in place since the last survey in 2018. for me, this survey is a referendum on what we are doing and how effective it is in the overall happiness and well being of our residents. It's all very fine for me to congratulate myself on things I think are successful, but this is the first real opportunity to hear from all of you whether that is true. Please don't think that an "excellent" suggestion means that nothing ever changes and we stop trying, far from it. If anything the encouragement of knowing that the things we do here matter is the force that drives our creativity. So anyway, I thought this is a great time to talk about some of the things here at Vi that I find special.
Bees. This one was a big leap of faith, and I think has made the biggest impact on all the other things we do. In Spring of 2019, we started with one Beehive. https://youtu.be/0Rf3IV56AMo A resident was there to assist with our first hive, and recorded the event for posterity. We are currently at five Hives, all pretty healthy and producing the most delicious honey in Colorado-possibly the world, but I may be biased a bit. The bigger impact is actually seen in the grounds and gardens here. I personally have seen a huge improvement in the profusion of blossoms that we have on property, and our herb garden of course is second to none. Considering the fact that I knew next to nothing about bees when we started this, I feel really proud of our accomplishment and I don't know of any other Senior Living Community with it's own apiary. Finding out along the way that I am actually allergic to bees added spice to the process, but aside from a few unfortunate side effects I think this one is a success and I hope other communities will take interest. If anyone has friends an any other senior living community that might want to try this, I am completely willing to help them get established.
Sip and Savor. This is probably my favorite event here at Vi. I don't exactly remember when this started, but a few years ago we decided to have some fun and learn about wine. This event more than any other has brought me closer to the community as well as broadening my own horizons. as anyone who attends these knows, I am really no expert on wine but I try to make it entertaining. We have done most of the major wine regions around the world, as well as beer, several varieties of whiskey, Tequila, brandies, and even Sake. My favorite part of these is when I hear stories of resident experiences along their long lives, and how what we are tasting brings back memories from decades ago. There aren't many easy avenues where residents and staff can all relax and enjoy something together like this and I have come to treasure this experience.
Culinary Corner. This event has been going on pretty much every Monday since 2008,
so it's easy for me to forget that this meeting is pretty much unique to Vi at Highlands Ranch. The premise in the beginning was simple; a place to discus the menus so that residents can plan their meals for the week. what has evolved over the years is a forum where Residents make suggestions, ask questions, share their likes a(and dislikes), and generally have a great food related conversation. For me, I have found this a great place to share a peek behind the scenes of what we do; this is where this recipe comes from, this is why we do the food this way, these are the players in the kitchen who prepare your meals. I love sharing stories with people, and over time the residents and I get to knw each other so much better. This kind of relationship is nearly impossible in restaurants, resorts and hotels, so I try to approach it like having coffee with friends. Many menu improvements and changes have come from this informal gathering, and many residents come away with a greater understanding of what we do here and how things tick.
Gardens. Our herb garden supplies much of what we use in the summer, even if our cup runs over at times. over time, the gardens have become a mixture of culinary ingredients and pollinator attractors for our good friends the bees. I strongly believe that the great taste of our honey is because of the Bee balm, Lemon Balm, Lemon Verbena, Chives, Oregano, Thyme, Mint, Basil, Cilantro, Sage, and others that the bees pollinate all summer.
Did you know we have our own YouTube channel? Pretty trendy, I know. During the Pandemic, we were concerned about not seeing all of you for so long. I don't need to go into how terrible that time was, but one good thing is that we developed a series of videos to help keep people as entertained as we could. Please understand that we are not expert videographers but were going just as stir crazy as you all, and wanted to reach out. There are 27 videos I think, mostly about 15 minutes each. Once things started to open up again, the video production died down. Our Cameraperson Flo Spelt has moved on, but I still have dreams of starting this up again, as I think it is an underutilized resource for communication. All of the videos are available right here on the home page of this website as well.
Brewing. This one has been really fun. In 2018 or so, we did a couple of small batches of homebrew for fun, and the residents really liked it. Now this was mostly just me with a couple of buckets, but over time we decided that if we were going to brew in Colorado, we needed to go bigger. late last year we finally got the green light for a bigger and more elaborate setup, definitely more professional. I was so sure that the Corporate Office would reject this that when they said yes I actually had no plan as to where to put the darn thing. A brewery needs water, power, lots of drainage, and lots of ventilation before anything else. We spent all last winter trying to figure out where the heck we were going to put this thing, and finally came up with the idea of open air brewing out on the Dad Clark Patio. "But Chef" you're probably thinking, "wont you get rained on, sunburned and freeze in the winter?" Yes. Yes I will. It's actually easier than getting stung by bees though so in the larger scheme of things it's really not a big deal. We started with a Honey Wheat brew, had a Colorado Cherry brew (bright pink!), a Doppelbock that disappeared within half an hour at Oktoberfest, and are now working on an American Pale Ale. I definitely don't know of any other Colorado Senior Living communities with their own Microbrewery and I think this one is so far a success. if you have a favorite beer or just want to come watch, let me know. Up next is a Stout beer, and we are open to suggestions for the Holidays. Keep your palates open for Mead too, I am working on a batch, but probably won't release it till next summer.
Food. Sometimes when people hear I am a chef they will ask "what's your specialty?" And I usually make something up because if I do have a skill, it is in surrounding myself with talented people like Jesus Martinez, Anna Coconati, David Meraz and dozens more over the years. Yes, I know, I say that food isn't anything to brag about but I'm going to do it anyway because I have the best kitchen crew in the whole company. Our menus are written in house, using input from residents, seasonal ingredients, local whenever possible and with a huge addition of creativity from my staff. Our staff comes from all over the world, with different experiences, different languages, cultures and cuisines. I would be lying if I took the credit for the great food we serve because my staff goes the extra mile and they love nothing more than to hear that you like what they made.
Anyway, I hope you have no trouble filling out your survey, and I do hope to hear that we are the best, because we think you're the best. Look for another Blog entry this Sunday with the Culinary Corner wrap-up, and I hope to see you at one of the events this week.