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Chopping Up Perceptions: The Reality of Culinary Arts in Senior Housing

New York, NY – Last month, RLC was represented at a career fair at a prestigious culinary school in New York to meet and recruit students for our future culinary opportunities. We have attended before and have been impressed with the quality of the students, but it was obvious that until they talked with us they hadn’t necessarily considered a culinary career in the senior housing industry.

With the pervasiveness of celebrity chefs coupled with the booming cupcake and food truck trend, many of the students have different expectations for their culinary careers upon graduation. We heard plans to open a bakery or brewery. We heard plans to revolutionize the food for the U.S. military. We heard plans to travel the world and pick up culinary experiences along the way. While there is no reason why any of these students can’t and won’t reach their dreams, most often the reality of the industry involves aspiring Chefs to prove themselves as they work their way up the ranks.

We were curious to capture the student’s perceptions of the senior living industry and the kind of food that is served. What we learned was eye-opening. We asked the students what words or images come to mind when they think about food at a retirement community. While there were a few positive remarks, most answers centered on various descriptions of “tasteless,” “mushy,” and “disgusting” food (all direct quotes from students). The words “T.V. dinner” was even used by one student!

While some validity may exist to these perceptions across the senior housing industry as a whole, this is not the reality of the culinary and dining program at Resort Lifestyle Communities. The food selections at a Resort Lifestyle Community is often described by residents and guests as fresh, imaginative, and high quality. However, if the general perception of the industry is contrary, it is no wonder why these students do not have senior housing at the top of their list for career opportunities.

Upon gleaning these insights, we knew we had work to do in order to modify the perceptions of these students if we wish to have them consider a career at Resort Lifestyle Communities after they graduate.

We focused our conversations with career fair attendees on a few particular points – career acceleration, personal development, and creative culinary exploration. In comparison to a typical restaurant or hospitality setting, Executive Chefs with Resort Lifestyle Communities have the opportunity to accelerate their career more quickly than most anywhere else (assuming they have top-notch performance). We take pride in providing a teaching environment where mentorship and career development of the team is an expectation of our Executive Chefs. 

Opportunities for growth within the company are ample. Our goal is to promote from within and have an abundant supply of stories of people who have advanced their culinary careers because of the opportunities we provide. In addition, Chefs at Resort Lifestyle Communities love their kitchens. We don’t serve food that comes out of a box! Our culinary teams operate scratch kitchens and create menus that excite our residents while allowing the culinary team members to gain the same skills as they would in any other fine dining establishment.

Perceptions are not often changed overnight, but we endeavor daily to pioneer the Food Revolution in the senior housing industry – showing our future culinary team members what a fulfilling and successful career they can have with us!

Interested in learning more?  Visit careers.rlcommunities.com or contact our Talent Acquisition team today talentacquisition@rlcommunities.com.

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