Slicing and dicing at The Meadows

First Posted: 5/19/2014

As Meadows resident Irene Mike, 87, sliced and diced into an onion during the Chef Challenge at The Meadows on May 14, emcee and Cura Hospitality Executive Chef Steve DePaolis was so impressed with Mike’s flawless knife skills, he offered her a job on the spot.

“Well, I’ve been cooking for 75 years,” she said. “I’m retired.”

The competition got spicy between residents and chefs during the event, modeled after Food Network’s “Iron Chef,” at the Meadows Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Dallas.

The cook-off, hosted by Cura Hospitality, featured two teams comprised of residents and chefs at the Meadows. Teams had to whip up an appetizer and an entree using the secret ingredient, which was announced right before the competition began.

The secret ingredient was dark chocolate, and teams created dishes such as chocolate linguine, chocolate chili, chocolate quesadillas and chocolate barbeque sauce.

Each team also got to select an ingredient and a kitchen tool to use during the event, in the hopes their choices would give them an advantage. The chefs only had one-and-a-half hours to cook their dishes.

The event was held during National Nursing Home Week, and Nursing Home Administrator Cristina Tarbox said the Chef Challenge was a way to promote team-building among residents while also involving the surrounding community.

“Events like these bring life to the center,” she said. “If you walk into any one of our residents’ rooms, chances are someone is watching a cooking show. We all enjoy food.”

Arnie Black, dietary services manager at The Meadows, knows the important role food plays in the residents’ lives. He said the center features made-to-order food for the breakfast and dinner meals, which provides residents with more food choices in a more comfortable atmosphere.

“At breakfast we have pancakes, made-to-order omelets and other foods made with fresh ingredients,” said Black.

Dietician Becky Sims said for most residents, breakfast is the favorite meal of the day.

“They feel like they’re being waited on in a restaurant, and it’s in a home-like atmosphere,” said Sims.

Resident chef Marge O’Bell, 66, has lived at The Meadows for about a year and has tried a lot of new things since moving to Dallas. She named her team the Armadillos after becoming enamored with the hard-shelled mammals when she was in Florida.

“They’re so cool-looking,” she said.

Cura Hospitality chef Leon Anton, of Harleysville, agreed.

“Marge said they’re tough but cute. I guess that describes our team,” he said.

That tough skin helped give the Armadillos more steam during the competition, winning “The Golden Whisk.” Team Chris-Squared didn’t go home empty-handed – it won “The Silver Whisk.”

“We wanted to make sure no one went home empty handed,” said Tarbox.

Plates were judged based on three categories: taste, originality and presentation. Judges included Brittany Sweeney, WBRE-TV/WYOU-TV news anchor; Dr. Paul Reinhert, principal of Wycallis Elementary School; David Pembleton, culinary professor at Luzerne County Community College; and Phyllis Blockus, a Meadows resident.

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