Let’s face it…when you think about food in senior care communities, you don’t picture it as anything to get excited about.
Chef Jonathan Kobylewski is focused on changing that for Generations Healthcare Network’s 12 communities, to the point where family members and friends of residents will look forward to joining regularly for meals.
Hired in July, Jonathan is the first corporate chef for Generations.
“This is not what people thought of skilled nursing 30, 40 years ago,” he explained. “We’re going to be doing stuff that’s completely out of the norm.”
Generations had already been customizing menus at their communities to reflect local flavors and residents’ preferences. However, Jonathan wants each and every meal to be a culinary experience.
“I want to bring restaurant-inspired food to our residents,” he shared. “I want family members to visit the communities more often because of the food. I am excited about this position because I have the opportunity to share my knowledge and experience with more people.”
His experience began more than 15 years ago, when he earned a Culinary Arts Certificate from Harper College. After becoming a certified chef and baker, he earned a Certified Dietary Manager credential from the Association of Nutrition and Foodservice Professionals. He honed his craft for several years at hotels and restaurants, getting up at 2 a.m. to prepare breakfasts, but he wanted more out of his career.
“I have a passion for helping people,” Jonathan said. “As Baby Boomers, our residents are used to dining in restaurants with a variety of options. I do believe that food is therapeutic.”
The challenge of creating menus for a skilled nursing community is being able to offer flavorful meals while also considering residents’ personal tastes and their unique nutritional needs. For example, a resident with diabetes loves cherry pie…another does not want to give up having ham and cheese sandwiches as a midnight snack. What to do?
The key is personalization.
“As long as we individualize, it works out,” Jonathan said.
Going forward, Jonathan plans to spend time at each community, examining the kitchens from top to bottom, and see what upgrades are needed and how the design and layouts can be improved.
“It’s so easy to make people happy with food,” he said. “It puts smiles on everyone’s face.”