Updated: Nov 15, 2021
From Left Dietary Director Anthony Thompson and Executive Chef Brandon Kalaskey
Photo: Courtesy of Care One at King James
MIDDLETOWN - Maybe it’s because they’re young and handsome. Or perhaps it’s because they always are smiling and reaching out with a friendly word to a resident. Or maybe it’s because they love their work.
Actually, it is probably the fact that both Dietary Director Anthony Thompson and executive Chef Brandon Kalaskey believe that color, presentation and eye appeal are all as vital to ensure a resident enjoys a perfect meal as the proper nutrients and attention to special diets which is their primary goal at Care One Care Center on Route 36 .
Thompson, of Middletown, has been at the Care Center for nearly three years while Kalaskey of Matawan began there four months ago. While they come from diverse backgrounds in the culinary field, and have different goals in their lives, the two leaders overseeing the menus, preparation, shopping, planning and everything else to do with food for residents at Care One share the same idea: Residents deserve to have quality, attractive, nutritious and delicious meals every day.
Thompson has worked in the food service industry for a long time, serving as a cook in highly recognized eateries in Princeton and other communities, and left higher paying jobs to work more closely with senior citizens and play a role in making them happy, His grandmother worked in a long term care facility, he said, and he feels he might be following in her footsteps by following her example and providing the same kind of service she taught him was so important.
Kalaskey said he enjoys being creative and colorful with meal presentation and loves working in the kitchen. However, at the same time, he is furthering his studies to achieve his goal of one day being a nursing home administrator. “As the head of a nursing home, I will better understand and realize the special problems of each area that makes up the whole picture if I work in other areas first,” he said.
Both agree dinners, in particular, should be especially attractive, with color a vital part of every dish. Different colored vegetables, or unusual and small but attractive touches such as sliced fruit, or fresh greens set off a resident’s plate, and leave the resident with a comfortable and eager feeling when beginning to eat a meal. “Since nutrition is so vital for resident care, we have an obligation to make every meal as attractive and inviting as possible.” With some thought, creativity and a few personal touches, presentation is easy even when diets are strict, restricted, or cannot be varied. “It just takes a little time and thought, but it’s worth it,” both the head of the department and the chef agree.
Even when “minced and moist” meals are required for some residents, Kalaskey said there is no problem. He explains how he can make colorful sauces or purees that are eye appealing and encourage a resident to eat, even if they are reluctant. He often prepares gels and purees in unusual shaped molds for more eye appeal, and blending different types of greens and other colors even in gels or purees make them more attractive. Both agree that a resident is more apt to enojy a meal, or try something new, if it looks different and appealing when it’s first set in front of them.
Both professionals agree they love the many special occasions and events the activities department plans because it gives them both more opportunity to be creative and try new things. Residents agree they are as good on desserts as they are on entrees and always look forward to the unusual displays they have come to expect at special events.