Crews News | January 2024

January 1, 2024 | Russell Crews, President & CEO

Russell Crews

by Russell Crews, President and Chief Executive Officer

Two years ago, we selected Thomas Cuisine as our new food service vendor.  Even though their corporate office is based in Meridian, Idaho, their presence is nationwide.  They serve large organizations like ours in senior living, plus independent schools, healthcare, and corporate dining venues.  They believe that food is the first and most important medicine on any health journey.  One reason they were appealing to us is their unique approach to food service in our industry.  Their philosophy and approach is cooking from scratch with local, “REAL” foods and ingredients.  They developed their R.E.A.L. food program with the goal of helping individuals adopt healthier food choices centered on seasonably fresh produce, whole grains, lean proteins, and foods prepared with minimal amounts of healthy fats.  R.E.A.L. food, according to their definition, is Robust in flavor, using Exceptional ingredients, Avoiding additives, and Loaded with nutrients.  The result is that Thomas Cuisine delivers cleaner, minimally-processed foods that are delicious, fresh and wholesome.  Since food service is integral to our daily operation, this approach resonated with all of us! 

After the initial transition and “getting to know you” period, our experience with Thomas Cuisine has been excellent.  The management team, the responsiveness, the food quality, the catering are all above expectations.  And our residents agree!  The food committee meetings with both Independent Living and Assisted Living have been very positive as well as the surveys from residents in Skilled Nursing. 

As you may suspect, dining and nursing are the two largest departments on our campus.  Consider this:  Every month, our chefs prepare a staggering 31,000+ meals across all levels of care on our campus each year.   The monthly meals annualized converts to 372,000 meals prepared on our campus.  That is quite a logistical operation!  The team that coordinates everything consists of 9 Thomas Cuisine managers plus these CC Young employees:  33 cooks, 1 baker, 1 receiver (to inventory incoming orders), 18 porters, 21 servers, 42 diet aides, and 6 supervisors.  That’s 131 individuals who are charged with bringing meals to 10 different dining venues on campus.  Impressive!

Someone who’s been instrumental in shaping culinary delights in Independent Living at CC Young is Rafael Hurtado, the Sous Chef at The Asbury.  Rafa isn’t just a chef; he’s a charming artist who paints flavors onto our plates, making every meal a masterpiece.  His journey from mastering traditional culinary techniques to incorporating innovative and diverse recipes into our menu is truly inspiring. It is clear that he enjoys his job. His commitment to using fresh, locally sourced ingredients not only elevates the taste but also reflects a deeper dedication to our residents’ well-being.  Personally, two words say a lot about one of my first experiences with Rafa:  Pot Pie.  (If you’ve tasted this delicacy of his, you know what I mean!)

Thomas Cuisine’s unwavering commitment to every individual’s needs is not just in IL and AL. They also focus on offering flavorful meal options in Skilled Nursing for those with dietary restrictions and unusual personal preferences.  Whether the issue is salt or sugar intake, or perhaps swallowing challenges or something completely different, they go above and beyond to ensure each meal specifically suits the resident’s needs. 

The individual responsible for dining in this clinical setting is Lorna Towers Sanders. Lorna is a Registered Dietitian with both Bachelor and Master degrees in nutrition from UT Southwestern.  Most of her career has been working with older adults – which is likely why she excels in our environment.  Her attention to detail and her listening skills are key to success in this clinical environment.

With Thomas Cuisine, it’s not just about the food.  It’s about the quality of food and the dining experience.  It appears to me that preparing and serving for our campus is not not just a job, it’s a labor of love.

Bon appétit, everyone!

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