Senior Dining Association Executive Chef of the Year Steven McCracken on His Resident-Focused Philosophy & Getting Creative with Culinary Amidst COVID-19

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“What separates Chef Steven is his commitment to the residents... Not only does he make sure he is out in the dining room on a daily basis, but he spends time with the residents in assisted and skilled dining rooms to ensure the culinary department is delivering exactly what our residents expect.” nominator, Jonathan Pinsker told the Senior Dining Association when describing his colleague Steven McCracken, Executive Chef at Edgewater at Boca Pointe, Acts Retirement-Life Communities.

Alongside his team, Steven serves 700 meals each day to the independent and assisted living residents in the Florida-based retirement community – with a clear dedication to his work that reflects Acts Retirement-Life Communities’ motto: “Where Loving-Kindness Lives”.

Because of this (and more!), Chef Steven was deservedly honored as the SDA’s Executive Chef of the year for 2020.

Recently, we were fortunate enough to have a conversation with Steven about his philosophies as a senior living chef, as well as his creative approach to help keep his residents smiling and satisfied amidst a pandemic:

Award winning chef Steven McCracken -SDA’s Executive Chef of the year for 2020
Photo source: the Senior Dining Association

Keeping spirits high amidst COVID-19.

With the developments of the coronavirus, the team at Edgewater at Boca Pointe made the decision to turn one of their three dining venues into a grocery store featuring a variety of foods for residents to choose from, and ultimately have delivered to their individual apartment homes.

“Right now, we do groceries every week. We send out a shopping list and we deliver on Wednesdays,” explained Steven.

Not only are Steven and his team delivering quality meals and ingredients to the residents – he’s been very focused on finding creative ways to help keep the community engaged, and spirits high:

“We would do different trivia questions – a lot of people really enjoyed it – and then the next week the answers came out. And then we would put different things in their bags... like little hand-written notes saying we care.”

Femail senior citizen opening cardboard box

Steven also developed a Gourmet Dinner Raffle to help incentivize residents to get their orders in, while creating opportunity to treat them to something extra special.

“We did some different incentives... we were sending out their meal tickets and whichever building got all of their meal tickets in first we did a raffle for a special dinner,” he recalled.

Residents in the winning apartments were served a four-course dinner prepared by Chef Steven himself, with each course was delivered one at a time, so residents were able to experience dining as close as possible to eating in one of the community’s venues!

Dedication to his team and residents.

It is so apparent how committed Steven is to ensuring everyone on his team – and in his community – is set up for success. “I make sure everything is going how it has to go... (I do) whatever I have to do to keep it running,” he explained.

And part of his dedication to delivering consistently satisfying meals to his residents is keeping an open line of communication, listening to their feedback, and truly making them a part of his menu planning process.

“I started a menu committee many years ago,” he explained, adding that his residents favorite foods tend to be anything with Italian or Asian flavors – so he’s been sure to beef up his menu with more of their favorites!

Here at MealSuite®, we’re proud to provide Steven with foodservice management software that helps him deliver on a common mission: to put smiles on the faces of as many residents as possible through delicious food and personalized experience.

We hope you can join us in congratulating Steven for his Executive Chef of the Year recognition as well as all of the incredible work he’s done for his community the past several years. We can’t wait to see what he accomplishes next!

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