In addition to overseeing all food production and service for 200 to 300 meals a day, Scott educates his staff about food safety and conducts resident surveys to prepare menus that are resident directed.
He also supervises the facility’s in-house catering events and much more.
“I am very fortunate that I get to work for a company that allows me the opportunity to be creative with both the appearance and taste of the menus we serve,” Scott said. “We have our budget, but I do have the opportunity to run my department the way I see fit.”
Creativity, for Scott, took an interesting turn one day when the facility’s director presented him with an edible fruit arrangement advertisement and said, “You should do this.”
Scott immediately took up the challenge and has been a “cut-up” in the kitchen ever since.
“That afternoon, I just went to the walk-in refrigerator, got some fruit and a flowerpot and put it all together,” he said. “We just so happened to have a board meeting the next day, and I put the arrangements in the center of the table as a centerpiece. Everyone loved it.
“Lately, I have been working on themes. Like one day, I took a carrier that the nurses use for their items. I put fruit on one side and a stethoscope and bottle and milk of magnesia on the other side, for humor. The nurses loved it.”
Scott is the first one to admit he came to the food industry through the back door, so to speak. Although he can’t imagine doing anything else now, it was a field that was thrust onto him by his mother.
“When I was 16, she was a cook at a local nursing home,” Scott said. “She came home one day and said it was time for me to go to work. That’s how I became a dietary aide at the nursing home. I did that during high school.
“I made beef noodle soup and I could overhear the residents talking about how bad it was. About that point, I realized I should go out there and ask them how I could make it better.”
That methodology has been Scott’s key to success. It is also the reason he continues to ask his staff and residents for input and opinions on how his department’s food is received.
He encourages his staff to bring in their own recipes and tweak others, as long as they follow certain guidelines.
The residents he serves are happy with his offerings, he says. Adapting to their needs, however, was a learning curve for him.
“We are a very Mennonite community—German Mennonites,” Scott said. “The food they eat is very different.
“I mean, a year ago I didn’t know what some of the foods were. For example, they eat this dumpling/ravioli thing called verenika. It is filled with dry curd cottage cheese that is served with ham gravy.
“We buy it from a local restaurant. It sounds odd, but it’s really good. They really like it served with sausage. I look forward to the days we have that on the menu.
“Then there’s zwieback, which is another Mennonite food we serve a lot. It’s a dinner roll. It means two buns. Basically, it is one bun on top of the other. Everyone has his or her own way of making it I’m told.”
Just about the time Scott thought he’d figured out the ethnic cuisine they liked the most, some of the residents threw him a curveball.
“They also like Chinese and Mexican food, which surprised me,” he said. “But they just laugh and tell me they can tell I’m not German. Basically, German Mennonites like food in general.Good homemade food. And most of our food here is homemade.”
In his free time, Scott like to get together with friends and go to the movies. Living in a small, rural community, there is not a lot more to do. But when he is home watching television, he likes to imagine he is a bit like his celebrity chef hero, Gordon Ramsay. Cooking with Ramsay is way up on Scott’s bucket list.
“I am a huge Gordon Ramsay fan. When Master Chef first came out, there were tryouts near here but I chickened out,” he said, laughing.
“I love all of his shows. The cussing and the yelling is probably my least favorite part. But he is so honest in what he tells people. Of course, he doesn’t always say it in the most appropriate way, but I really find him fascinating.
“I would love it if he came here to our facility. I do think of myself as a Gordon Ramsay type, but with a filter.”
Nutrition & Foodservice Edge magazine, the official publication of Association of Nutrition & Foodservice Professionals, is read by more than 15,000 nutrition and foodservice professionals nationwide, plus thousands of others allied with the foodservice industry. The article, which appeared in the November-December 2012 issue of the Edge, is reprinted with permission of the editor.