Fine Dining Venue or Senior Living Café? Increasingly, It’s Hard to Tell the Difference

You could say senior dining has come of age. Baby boomers who cherish their fresh herbs, free-range chicken and organically grown carrots will not have to surrender their contemporary tastes when they arrive at senior living facilities in full force over the next decade. They’ll find chefs with roots deep in the hospitality world taking over the kitchens and stirring up senior appetites with today’s highest profile trends—organic, locally sourced, healthier, fresher.

Heavy meats, boxed macaroni and cheese, canned green beans and a square of Jello are increasingly being replaced by soup made of handcrafted vegetable stock, empanadas with salsa verde, grilled salmon, cauliflower and roasted garlic, and a scoop of sorbet. That’s an important distinction to long-term care residents and their families right now, 90 percent of whom ranked foodservice as very or somewhat important when choosing a facility, according to a recent Nutrition and Foodservice Education Foundation survey.

To CIA (The Culinary Institute of America)-trained Chef Joel Ingegno, who reigns supreme in the luxurious environs of The Mather, a senior community of upscale condominiums on Chicago’s North Shore, it’s nothing less than our what elders deserve. He believes seniors represent a uniquely underserved market in the foodservice world. “They are a captive audience you see every day, and that makes it crucial to keep it fresh and exciting, with menus that live and breathe and reflect what’s seasonal.”

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