We’re taking a peek behind the scenes into the kitchen of Friendship Village Chesterfield. Food and beverage director Emmanuel Teferi and his team keep things fresh and innovative at the senior living community with a constantly evolving menu. He shared with T&S how collaboration between residents and his culinary team is the perfect recipe for memorable dining experiences.
What are the dining options at Friendship Village?
Our main dining room is called the Chesterfield. It’s new construction—the project was completed a couple of years ago. It’s beautiful and can accommodate up to 350 guests. We also have a small bistro that overlooks the back of the campus. The large windows offer a great view of the lake, and it features an open-concept kitchen, so diners can watch the chef prepare their meal.
Tell me about the menu creation process.
The bistro and Chesterfield have unique menus. While there are some items we do keep, we switch up five of the entrees every three days for both. We want to ensure our residents do not get bored. This is their home, so we can’t treat dining like a traditional restaurant. Our executive chef Brian Menzel is really good at menu cultivation. We offer dishes from a variety of cultures, such as Italian, Asian, Middle Eastern and Mexican. We also feature a lot of homestyle American classics.
Are there any special challenges with creating a menu for older adults?
We do offer low-sodium entree options every day. The challenge really comes with finding ways to appeal to 350 residents and their guests. Plus, people of all ages have dietary restrictions. We always offer the option to customize. Things can be made specially to accommodate allergies, Celiac disease or diabetes. If anyone has a request, the answer is always yes.
How are residents involved in dining services?
The primary way is through feedback. We have comment cards where they can tell us what they enjoyed and what they’d like to see more of. We also have a food and beverage committee that meets once a month. It’s a group of residents that I meet with to discuss the past month, what went well and where we can improve. I always take a lot of notes—it’s very constructive. We really do have a special group of residents. The pandemic presented a lot of challenges for senior living communities, especially when it came to dining, and they were so understanding and caring as we had to adapt. It makes it so much easier to do our jobs well and inspires us to want to go above and beyond. We really are like a family here. The name Friendship Village is very fitting.
How do you prepare for special events like the holidays?
A lot of planning goes into special occasions like the winter holidays. We’re getting ready for our Winter Ball. We’ll decorate the dining room with trees and have live performances. The residents always dress up, and it’s just a magical night. We have a special menu planned with items like filet mignon and crab-stuffed jumbo shrimp. Dessert is always over-the-top. At the end of the month, we’ll discuss the event at the food and beverage committee meeting, and that feedback will help with the planning for next year.
Are there any items you could never take off the menu?
There are a few. Our fried grouper sandwich is a classic that residents love. Filet mignon also is one of their favorites. I’ve been told that it’s better than Ruth’s Chris. Our pasta di gregorio is a mainstay, and we have great pizzas. We bought a special oven just to prepare them.
Rigatoni Di Gregorio
Yield: 4 Servings
1 lb. rigatoni pasta
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz. button mushrooms, sliced
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 lb. Italian sausage, pre cooked
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 c. chicken stock
½ c. Marsala wine
1 ½ tsp. cornstarch
1 c. heavy cream
2 tsp. fresh parsley, chopped and divided
¼ c. grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
- Cook rigatoni in a large stock pot filled with salted water. Drain well in a colander and set aside.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic and mushrooms. Cook for three to four minutes, stirring frequently, until mushrooms are golden brown. Remove from heat and transfer to a medium bowl.
- Add chicken and sausage to pan and sauté until browned on all sides and cooked through, about five minutes.
- Stir in chicken stock and Marsala wine. Return sauteed vegetables to the pan. Bring to a light boil over medium-high heat and continue cooking until liquid is reduced by one third.
- In a small bowl, stir together cornstarch and water until combined. Add to the pan and stir to combine. Continue to cook until the liquid is thickened.
- Stir in heavy cream. Bring to boil, then reduce to simmer for five minutes.
- Add rigatoni to the pan and stir well to coat pasta with the sauce. Stir in one teaspoon of chopped parsley, Parmesan cheese and butter until combined and butter is melted.
- Scoop onto serving plates. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and parsley as desired. Serve immediately.
Pictured at top: Emmanuel Teferi
Photo courtesy of Friendship Village Chesterfield