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Concordia head chef Tony De Lara

Senior Living Community Offers New Dining Experiences for Residents

Originally posted by News OK.

The word “foodie” isn’t out of place in senior living communities anymore. High-quality culinary experiences involving fresh ingredients and innovative dishes have become the norm. The trend toward five-star level dining has found a home in the Oklahoma City food scene, and it is one Concordia Life Care Community has wholeheartedly embraced. The Northwestern OKC community recently incorporated a new menu and added foodie-forward classes and experiences, allowing its residents to fully enjoy this tasty new trend in senior living.

“We know that for today’s consumer, dining is about the experience, and senior living is no exception,” said Danny Eischen, executive director and CEO of Concordia. “A good dining experience drives satisfaction which is why we’ve added programs such as What’s Cooking which gives residents the opportunity to practice new cooking skills while learning from our expert culinary team.”

Delicious Learning

What’s Cooking is a recurring cooking class led by Concordia’s head chef, Juan Antonio “Tony” De Lara. De Lara brings with him over 35 years of experience in the culinary industry and an eye for fresh, fun dishes. In De Lara’s classes, residents learn hands-on skills while tasting exciting, unique dishes like Steak Diane and chicken marsala.

“We’ve had a lot of people say they really enjoy the different meals,” said De Lara. “They enjoy that we’re improving, making things better for them.”

Though some people may have a preconceived notion that senior living communities dish out cafeteria-style meals from drab buffets, communities on the cutting edge like Concordia embrace the trend of higher quality options and new ways of sourcing their ingredients. Moreover, fans of comfort food have plenty to choose from as well, since Concordia prides itself on tried-and-true dishes such as chicken and dumplings and meatloaf.

In future months, Concordia will unveil their Farm to Fork program, where they’ll sponsor local farms and gardens for certain meals.

“We’re working daily to produce better quality food, to create better garnishes, better plating,” said De Lara.

New and Improved

In addition to Farm to Fork and What’s Cooking, Concordia also revamped their entire menu, providing space for more locally-sourced ingredients and fun, delicious options such as short ribs and chicken cordon bleu.

“One of the really exciting things we’re doing, and Concordia is leading the way on, is standardizing all of our recipes,” said Darin Leanordson, Concordia’s newly appointed chef consultant. “Our starting place with that was creating a menu survey for all of our residents.”

Leanordson said that part of his method was having residents provide their honest feedback at all stages of the menu revamping process.

“We totally repositioned the menu to focus on the dishes that received the highest ratings,'” said Leanordson.

“The new menu is a way for us to show residents we’re thinking of them,” Eischen added. “We care about their experience and input and want to involve them in the process.”

Standardization and consistency are crucial for dining success in any industry. Leanordson, who used to work for Google and recently took part in Disney’s Customer Experience Summit along with Concordia’s dining directors, recognized this and emphasized the importance of ensuring residents receive a consistently tasty meal every time they walk into Concordia’s dining room.

“We want to take it to the level of Starbucks and Panera Bread on consistency,” said Leanordson. “We’re focused on getting a quality product.”

He noted that photos of the menu items are hung up in Concordia’s kitchen for both the cooks and the servers so that there’s double accountability to ensure residents receive the same beautifully plated dish every single time.

Puttin’ on the Ritz

Along with consistency, Concordia makes space for its cooking staff to stretch their culinary muscles. De Lara mentioned that both residents and his team enjoy Concordia’s Gourmet Nights, fine dining-inspired meals that happen every quarter. For Gourmet Nights, De Lara’s team creates a five-course meal similar to what residents would experience at a high-end restaurant. Dishes such as steak and lobster, chicken stuffed with artichoke dip or sea bass with locally sourced veggies are the norm for Concordia’s Gourmet Nights.

Whether its championing a local microgreens farmer, tucking into five-star cacio e pepe or taking charge of the frying pan themselves, older adults of today are ready for an elevated, experience-based dining experience. It seems that Concordia Life Care Community is up for the challenge.

For more information about Concordia’s dining options or to schedule a visit, go to concordiaseniorliving.com.

Concordia Head Chef and Residents
Participants of Concordia’s Fire and Flavor cooking exhibition enjoy delicious food and time together. Left to right: Donna Seible, Bertie Poole, Fran Christenson, Chef Tony De Lara, Helen Lekawski, Joan Dozier, and Elena McVey.


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