Meadowood’s dining team has gone above and beyond to provide an excellent culinary experience to residents during these challenging times. To celebrate the team’s efforts and learn how it’s adapting to the current situation, we’re talking to Meadowood’s Senior Director of Dining Services, Christine Pacitti.
Meadowood has always been known for its gourmet dining experiences. How are you adapting to these unusual times?
It’s a new way to think about dining. For instance, we’ll do outdoor specialty meals, serving courtyard to courtyard simultaneously. We put on an Oktoberfest cocktail party for 17 neighborhoods, where everything was cooked and then packaged to go, using high-end meats and cheese and top-shelf in-house desserts. The team is able to use their creativity in a different way.
Are you delivering any special treats to the residents during these times?
Every month, we do a special pairing. Recently, we paired apple cider sangria with a bag of chocolates through a partnership with the local chocolatier, Asher’s Chocolates.
Another pairing we created was shrimp cocktails and Bloody Marys. To maintain contactless serving, we sent out pictures of shrimp cocktails, which residents placed on their door if they wanted to participate. We also created a five-bean dip with margaritas, which was a big hit, and we’ve delivered ice cream sundaes. The residents look forward to something different each time. It’s just kind of a fun thing. It takes 12 teams to make sure we hit every neighborhood.
How many residents are you serving at home?
Over 270. Recently, we added some grilled items from our café. People were really excited to get comfort food like made-to-order grilled sandwiches and personal pan pizzas, and they’ve also been craving omelets made to order.
What changes are you making to the dining program?
The dining venues have all been closed until recently, when we reopened our main dining room at 25% capacity. The residents were used to table linens, fine china and flatware; now we are still delivering that high-end guest experience, but in a different way. Residents love to come in and socialize with one another.
To comply with CDC regulations, the tables don’t have salt and pepper shakers and sugar caddies. In the café, it’s all self-service. Sandwiches are made to order, packaged and handed off to the residents.
How is your culinary team adjusting to the situation?
The talent level of my chefs is much higher than at most senior living communities, because Meadowood really invests in its employees. For instance, my executive chef and sous chef came to us from the highly regarded William Penn Inn. They shine at sautéing, made-to-order dishes and menu creation. They’re ready to return to displaying their talents to their full extent and giving back to the residents.
What is your background?
I grew up working in the restaurant business. I loved to cook and bake growing up. I went to the shore to raise my children and then started in the casino business in finance. There were always opportunities to assist with high-end functions and catering. I was with the opening team of Planet Hollywood in Atlantic City as the GM’s assistant and worked my way into director of sales and catering. I’ve worked as the general manager of culinary at Cura Hospitality and the director of culinary services at Morrison Senior Living. I came to Meadowood in 2015.
What do you like most about working in senior living?
Senior living is a very special, very rewarding environment. I love developing dining venues and programming. Creating three different venues under one roof and keeping it fresh is a full-time job for my team.
What do you like best about your position at Meadowood?
The people I work with every day and the residents. You spend most of your hours at work, so surrounding yourself with good people is important. I love bringing a smile to the residents’ faces when you surprise them with a special treat or one of their favorite foods.
Can you share a favorite recipe you’ve delivered to residents?
Here is the recipe for apple cider sangria that we paired with gourmet chocolates. Enjoy!
Apple Cider Sangria
½ cup caramel vodka
1 750 ml bottle of pinot grigio
3 cups apple cider
In a large pitcher, add 1 bottle of pinot grigio.
Add caramel vodka and apple cider. Then stir.
Serve the sangria chilled or over ice.