Our Head Chef Makes That Abundantly Clear!
Good food can do so much more than add joy to your life. Choosing good food that’s also good for you can give your body the nutrients it needs to function at its best. That can mean more energy, better sleep and even a greater ability to fend off illness. That’s why eating healthy is easy and delicious at Heron’s Key.
That might make eating well more important than ever these days, in light of potential pandemic-related stress, you could be experiencing. A healthy diet, along with plenty of sleep and exercise, can bolster your immune system. These are worthwhile goals anytime, and even more so now.
Yes, Nutritious Food Can Be Delicious, Too
Heron’s Key goes to great lengths to ensure that everyone who lives here can benefit from good nutrition, even if dietary restrictions are a factor. Each of our three kitchens (one for the Syren’s Grille and Spinnaker’s restaurants, for independent living residents, and two in the Health Center — one for assisted living and the other for skilled nursing) offers a menu featuring fresh, locally grown produce and top-quality meat and seafood. The menus change every three months to reflect the seasonal availability of fresh ingredients. Residents also provide input about their preferences.
Unlike most other senior living communities that offer standardized meal plans, Heron’s Key offers our Your Choice Dining program. This is an à la carte dining option that lets you “pay as you go.” You’re not locked into purchasing a certain number of meals per week or month, and you don’t end up paying for something you haven’t used. And as our head chef, Jason Voce, notes, our menu prices are very reasonable. As he puts it, you wouldn’t be able to go shopping and buy the necessary ingredients for less than what you’d pay for a delicious, expertly prepared entrée from Syren’s Grille.
We also have a full-time dietitian on our staff, Amber Hall, who works with residents to help them with any personal requests they may have. She also collaborates with Chef Jason and his staff to make certain there are plenty of healthy menu items that meet or exceed nutritional guidelines.
Whenever we can get back to safely having in-person group celebrations at Heron’s Key again, we’ll resume the catering services we provide for residents’ birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions — and even for family picnics.
How We’re Keeping up With the Changing Times
Although we had to close Syren’s Grille and Spinnaker’s for seated dining shortly after the pandemic hit last year, Chef Jason and his staff have probably been busier this past year than they would have been under normal circumstances. Residents can place an order for carryout or have it delivered to their door, and many have remarked how thankful they are to have this option available to them. During the busiest times, a group of volunteer residents pitches in to help with the deliveries.
Chef Jason worked with his vendors to find to-go containers made from vented, compostable fiberboard that would keep the quality of the food closer to what it would be if it were served at the restaurant. These eco-friendly containers also cut down on the amount of single-use plastic that must be disposed of.
For those who prefer to do their own cooking at home, our staff members have been grocery shopping and delivering orders directly to their front doors to maximize the health and safety of our residents. This month, our staff will be assisting residents placing online grocery orders. Then, we’ll pick up the orders curbside and deliver them right to our residents’ doors.
Now that the vaccines are being distributed more widely and more people are getting inoculated, we’re planning to soon reopen our restaurants, initially at 25% capacity. We’ll continue to closely monitor advisories at the county, state and federal levels, with an eye toward potentially opening back up for seated dining at the reduced capacity by mid-March.
Treat Yourself to a Little Taste of Heron’s Key at Home
If reading about food is making you hungry, we have good news! Chef Jason has selected several recipes for entrées from the Syren’s Grille menu, and we’ve posted them online for you to try in your own kitchen.
Some of the recipes are residents’ favorites, and others are ones that Chef Jason is particularly fond of, like the Ora King salmon croquettes. If you’re not familiar with Ora King salmon, you might want to check it out. According to Chef Jason, he’s “never eaten a better piece of salmon.”
The food that comes out of his kitchens isn’t all that Chef Jason is proud of. He speaks very highly of his staff, which includes 12 cooks — four of which have been with him the entire four years he’s worked here. (And when he started at Heron’s Key, he had to wear a hard hat in the kitchen because the building wasn’t finished yet.)
“I’m happy to come to work every day, knowing that our residents are being taken care of by people who aren’t only there to do a job but who legitimately love food and take pride when they put it on a plate,” he said.
The Freedom to Create
Something else that makes him happy about working at Heron’s Key is that he’s not hemmed in by corporate constraints like he would be in some other retirement communities, especially when preparing food for residents in the skilled nursing area or in hospice. He’s always careful to abide by state nutritional guidelines, he said, but beyond that, he has the freedom to “improve upon the recipe to make it taste good.”
When it comes to cooking for those in independent living, he has no restrictions. “The world is my oyster,” he said with a laugh. “And I get the best oysters on Earth!”
Speaking of oysters, one of the recipes he shared online is lemon linguini with smoked Minterbrook oysters. And by the way, Chef Jason has included a suggested wine pairing with each recipe to take the guesswork out of your total home dining experience.
If you want to try one of his recipes but you’re feeling a little hesitant about doing so on your own, then maybe you’d like to attend an upcoming webinar of a virtual cooking or baking event in which Chef Jason will walk you through the steps online. You can also access his previous sessions and watch them at your convenience. We received a lot of positive feedback from people who participated in those. So, you can expect us to continue having them as long as they remain popular.
Other Ways to Learn More About Heron’s Key
We’ve posted other webinars online besides the virtual cooking and baking events with Chef Jason. They cover a range of topics and are a great way to discover many aspects of our community.
Whenever you’re ready to start a conversation with us, we’ll be happy to answer any questions you have and set up a time to show you around, whether you want to take a tour in person (following the protocols for social distancing and face coverings, of course) or online.