When one thinks of food options within an assisted living facility, it’s unlikely one would conjure images of eclectic, artisanal, or modern fare. However, at Southfield Village, Culinary Manager Jack Renbarger is incorporating fun, fresh, and meatless options into his menus every day. Renbarger's passion for food began at a young age. Watching PBS cooking shows as a child, he started cooking for his parents around the age of 13. Later, he worked during the summer as a busboy and eventually made his way to the back of the house. From there, his culinary journey was only beginning.
As the Culinary Manager, Renbarger hopes to never stop growing and improving our residents’ dining experience. Currently, dining offers two daily specials as well as ala carte options. He believes having more line cooks and more extensive menus will provide residents with more choices.
"Our job is to keep providing great customer service while meeting new and expanding tastes," says Renbarger.
Southfield Village menus still contain all of the favorites you might expect to see - every day, at least one of the options includes beef, and Sundays you’ll find classics like fried chicken and ham. Fridays offer baked or fried fish. Comfort foods like meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and macaroni & cheese all make regular appearances. But Renbarger is always on the hunt for new ways to make small changes to the menu that bring variety to the residents.
"When you are eating at the same restaurant 365 days a year, it gets to be monotonous," says Renbarger.
Creating offerings such as Renbarger’s Chickpea Tuna Salad or a Bacon & Dill Pickle Cheese Ball allows residents with more adventurous palates fresh new choices. Some residents love it; others, not so much. Renbarger always offers new dishes at least twice before deciding if it's a dish to offer to the residents regularly.
Renbarger believes that his strategy of offering small but frequent changes to his menus is all part of having Greencroft values.
"It's about creating those ‘wow’ experiences. Little things out of the ordinary can feel really good, especially when you surprise someone and make someone's day," says Renbarger.
He believes these “wow experiences” can be anything from making a dish from scratch that tastes just like how residents eat back at home, to getting cooks to share their interesting recipes with residents.
"I like getting the cooks involved because it's a chance for them to be creative and be included," says Renbarger.
Recently, Renbarger noticed a new cook seemed quiet and reserved. After approaching the new cook, Renbarger learned that he was passionate about making tamales, so Renbarger encouraged him to practice his passion and prepare his tamales for the residents.
"Seeing the well of joy on his face as he shared something he loved was amazing," says Renbarger. The best part? The residents loved his tamales, too. "The biggest joy of this job is when you can make someone's day and create those memorable experiences."