July 10, 2012
GERMANTOWN, Md. - When Evaristo Gustines – Chef Gus – came to Asbury Methodist Village, a continuing care retirement community in Gaithersburg, Md., to interview for an executive chef position four years ago, he worried he might be spending a lot of his time using a can opener. What he found was quite the opposite.
“People think just because it’s a retirement community, it’s the bottom of the barrel with fresh veggies and meat,” said Gustines, senior executive chef at Asbury Methodist Village, who also will be among a select number of North American chefs cooking for athletes and the media at the London 2012 Olympic Games beginning July 27. “Everything that I had purchased in restaurants, country clubs and for caterings at $150 per person . . . there is no difference here,” Gustines continues. “We do everything from meat loaf to prime rib and scallops.”
Increasingly, retirement living communities are recognizing how important dining is to residents’ living experience. Take the Chef’s Table program, which gives residents a chance to vie for a spot to enjoy a gourmet tasting menu in the kitchen. Prior to each course, one of the chefs explains the item and preparation techniques. Recent entrees included White Bean Tomato and Spinach Cassoulet with Braised Pork Belly and Lemon Crusted Arctic Char followed by a Pear-Ginger Sorbet before the fifth course – Cabernet Braised Boneless Veal Shank with Israeli Cous Cous, Carrot Syrup and Veal Demi-Glace.
In the monthly Chef’s Center Stage program, all diners get in on the action. “We set up a cooking station right in the dining room. It’s informal and people get up to watch us cook and learn, laugh and have fun,” Gustines said. “Elegant Evenings” is an annual function where residents come in formal wear for a three-or four-course menu, with one of the favorites being filet mignon and salmon.
To meet the myriad dining needs of a community of 1,300 residents and more than 800 staff members, Gustines works with four executive chefs and a dining and culinary staff of 140, ensuring implementation of new culinary programs. There is plenty to keep them busy. Each day, 650 meals are served to independent residents in Asbury’s three dining rooms. Mondays through Fridays, 140 meals on wheels are prepared and delivered on campus. Another 1,200 meals are served daily to the community’s healthcare residents. Even there, where there may be pureed meals or soft meals, all food is based on resident surveys.
Asbury Methodist Village is a CARF-CCAC and EAGLE-accredited continuing care retirement community that is part of Asbury Communities, Inc., which provides management and support services for a system of continuing care retirement communities for older adults. Asbury Communities is ranked by LeadingAge and Ziegler Capital Markets Group’s AZ 100 as the 15th largest not-for-profit multi-site senior living organization in the country. Asbury Methodist Village is also a member of LifeSpan Network.