Scallop mousse wrapped with a ribbon of bacon flavored zucchini, served on a bed of orange scented farro, with sautéed garlic tomatoes and saffron braised fennel. It might not be the first thing that you think of when you imagine the cuisine at a senior living community, but this upscale and creative dish is exactly what residents have the opportunity to enjoy at Heartwood Senior Living located in Crosby, MN.
The culinary masterpiece (shown right) is a dish dreamed up and prepared by Culinary Director Alan Hudalla and Chef Sarah Martz at Heartwood. This particular dish was submitted to the Association for Healthcare Foodservice (AHF) culinary competition. Out of hundreds of dishes entered into the competition from around the country, theirs was one of only five chosen for this Food Network-esque competition.
In order to qualify, the entrée must not exceed $8.00 in raw food costs, cannot exceed 700 calories, and must meet other nutritional requirements. And, much like all Food Network competitions, there is a mystery ingredient announced the day of the competition that participants must creatively incorporate into their dish. The entrées are reviewed by a panel of experts and judged on texture, color, originality, and plate presentation. Dishes are scored using a 100 point scale awarding points for organization, culinary skills, taste, presentation and mystery ingredient usage. Hudalla and Martz will be representing Heartwood at the competition to be held on August 22 in Minneapolis.
As the culinary director of Heartwood, Hudalla strives to inspire his team to be creative and to be focused on the people they serve. He says that working together to craft delicious recipes for the residents and competing in fun events builds teamwork and allows creative juices to flow. Each month he holds a fun and interactive meeting for the residents to share feedback on their culinary experience, and even to taste test dishes for future menus. It was through these meetings that Hudalla learned residents enjoyed fish. This craving makes sense, when living in close proximity to several Minnesota lakes. So, the team began a weekly “catch of the day” feature to wow residents with a variety of fresh fish dishes. They’ve also incorporated an “ethnic traditions” feature to give the residents a taste of foods from all over the world.
Whatever the menu, Hudalla’s focus is always on excellent service, quality food, upscale presentation and culinary creativity. His staff’s motto is “if we can, we will,” and employees strive to satisfy their customers’ special tastes whenever possible. Some residents even share family recipes. The Heartwood culinary team accepts the challenge of preparing the dishes “just right” and residents reminisce with each bite of nostalgia.
Hudalla knows that customer expectations are changing and that people are looking for dining experiences and high quality meals. He and his team participate in several culinary competitions every year in order to feature the fruits of the creativity and upscale dining offered at Heartwood. Recently, the team took home first place awards from Taste of Cuyuna Lakes for their seafood curry and most recently won the “People’s Choice” award for their Torta Rustica at the Sip & Savor Cuyuna Lakes Chamber of Commerce event. In the upcoming AHF competition, they will face competitors from all across the country for an exciting challenge.
“We have such a strong team with a passion for culinary arts at Heartwood. As a leader, my job is to provide the vision and resources for the staff, but it is their natural passions that come together to create exceptional dining experiences” said Hudalla.
We’re cheering for the Heartwood team as they take on the challenge of shattering expectations of culinary in senior living and hopefully bring home first place! If you’re in the Brainerd area and want to get a taste of culinary creations like this one, stop by the Heartwood dining room open 8 AM to 6:30 PM daily, it is open to the public!
Explore a career in culinary at Heartwood Senior Living or search openings at a Presbyterian Homes & Services community near you.