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Live cooking demos by chefs at Prairie Gate draw ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’

Prairie Gate chefs Guy Jones and Daryl Alfafara
Prairie Gate chefs Guy Jones and Daryl Alfafara
During this National Nutrition Month, we share a story of excellence served up by chefs at Prairie Gate.

Just one year ago, in early March, Prairie Gate opened in Council Bluffs, IA. For the newly assembled team of chefs — with a brand-new kitchen and tools at their fingertips — it was showtime!

After all, they had been selected for their fit with the PHS value of service excellence – creating exceptional experiences for those we serve.

Then in a matter of days, because of a global pandemic, safety restrictions went into effect. Even the walls in the community took on strategic importance – as natural barriers to help protect against transmission of the virus.

Chef Daryl prepares marinated, steamed cod at Prairie GateNow one year later, it’s time to “wow!” residents with what happens behind those kitchen walls, says Lin Leahy, Nutrition & Culinary Director. How? With live monthly cooking demonstrations! Chefs step outside the kitchen to demo their most sought-after dishes, enticing gatherings of curious residents.

As it turns out, the new monthly cooking demos by Prairie Gate cooks have been “a huge success for the residents and for Lin with her talented culinary team,” according to Laura Fox, Life Enrichment Director. “The oohs and ahhs during the demos say it all! Many have commented that they love this activity and are always wondering what the next demonstration will be? This activity is a KEEPER!”

Seafood takes the spotlight during Lent. Chef Daryl Alfafara, who’s from The Philippines and brings his experience in hotel restaurant management, demonstrated one of his specialties: marinated, steamed cod filet. Daryl explains, “The residents had tasted it and wanted to know how I made it.” Lin clarifies: “They demanded it. They all want Daryl’s fish.”

At another demo, Chef Guy Jones, who’s worked with top chefs in Omaha, prepared Cajun shrimp cocktail with honey mustard, malt vinegar-based and hot chili sauces. He recalls with a smile, “Miss Shirley really liked the hot chili sauce.”

Beyond watching the cooks and tasting the delicious food, residents enjoy learning, getting to know the chefs and socializing together — even if they aren’t necessarily looking to try their hand at the recipes. Lin adds to the sounds of team laughter, “The more they see us cook, the more they keep telling us, ‘We’re just gonna come.’”

The demos also boost the spirits of the culinary team. “Getting on the ground floor and really getting to know the residents and interact,” Lin says, “has been fun for us, plus all the growing and learning in a new place.”


Guy took pride in introducing featherbones — riblette appetizers — to the Prairie Gate “Mancave” group. “I like to grill out a lot,” he says, “and I was talking with the guys when the activity was first posted. None had ever heard of featherbones — they really didn’t know anything about it. I was like, ‘Oh, you’re missin’ out!’ So, I did up a nice big batch, and I don’t think we had too much left over,” he says with a smile.

“One gentleman said they were awfully tasty,” Guy continues. “A couple of other guys asked if they could take some home with them. I was like, ‘Absolutely!’”

“We Will” is a series that spotlights inspiring examples of teamwork at PHS. With God’s blessing, We Will work together to build a better, brighter future for the older adults we serve.

Do you know someone looking for more purpose in their work? Share the good news and the many opportunities to join our team at Rated #1 employer in Minnesota by Forbes!

Further reading:
Skip the seasonal job and grow with the Culinary Team at PHS!
Coffee and conversation fuel acts of kindness by the "Busy Bodies" at Prairie Gate
Make Your Mark: ‘Ken’s Big Kitchen’
Doing things right from the start – a winning recipe for Towner Crest

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