A chef’s secret ingredient
Originally from Ontario, many of Chef Craig’s childhood memories take place in a kitchen. “My sister and I would make meals—we weren’t very good,” he laughs, remembering the turning point that inspired a long and rewarding career. “One day we opened a cookbook and it worked really well—it was fun—and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
His parents saw the passion and encouraged him to see the future from the inside of a working kitchen. “When I was 14, I started as a dishwasher and worked my way up to working all across the country in different restaurants and large-scale hotels.”
Though his first love will always be cooking, his second was born in the Maritimes. Together, after spending time working in Alberta, he and his fiancé decided to move East. With more than 20 years of culinary experience, Craig was in search of a role with more regular hours so he could do more of what he loved with family and friends.
As an Executive Chef at Parkland, Craig discovered the secret ingredient for any star-rated kitchen: fun and flexibility. His favourite part about the job is connecting with residents and hearing feedback on a daily basis. “When I’m finished for the day and heading home, residents will thank me for the wonderful dinner or dessert,” he says. “Getting told every day about how much they enjoy the food makes it easy to come back.”
Even when Craig’s recipes are different from residents’, it always leads to a great conversation about how they used to make it. “I have a nice little binder kept away with all the recipes I’ve been given from residents,” he says, with a smile. “Working here is like cooking for 250 food critics—it helps us become better chefs every day.”
A big part of the dining experience at Parkland is tailoring the menu to reflect residents and their culture, favourite meals, and dietary preferences. And when it comes to dessert, residents aren’t shy about their preferences. “They love my carrot cake,” he says. “We can’t go too long without it—it’s a highlight of any dinner service.”
“Working here has given me the opportunity to learn about new dishes and culture-inspired foods like Acadian dishes,” says Craig, noting he’s learned about the seasonality of local produce and ingredients. “I’m always learning – 100% I’ve become a better chef.”
To those considering a move, Chef Craig encourages hospitality industry staff to take a serious look at serving seniors in a retirement community like Parkland. “The constant feedback makes you learn and feel good every single day,” he says. “We know how many people are coming, we know their tastes and expectations, and we plan as a team which helps everyone have a more balanced life—this job has given me time for family, which has helped me become a happier person overall.”
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