Pacifica Senior Living Blog

First Annual Culinary Competition: Meet the Winning Chefs

Dec 27, 2022 12:19:15 PM / by Carly Dodd, Pacifica Senior Living

This year, our Food Services and Culinary Operations team ran our First Annual Culinary Competition! The competition required chefs, dining service directors, or food service directors from across our communities to create a unique dish - either entree or dessert - that would be submitted for judging. These delicious and inspiring dishes showcased the incredible creativity, talent, and presentation skills of our culinary teams. From juicy steaks to colorful roulades, decadent desserts and dishes packed full of flavor, our chefs blew us away with their amazing plates.

Across our Senior Living communities, we know the importance good food can make. Our chefs are always striving to offer something new and exciting to our residents alongside favorites, classics, and tasty treats. Each of our nearly 100 communities has a unique team composed of Food service directors, dining directors, head chefs, sous chefs, kitchen staff and servers that work together to make our residents' meals delicious, nutritious, and memorable moments each and every day. Meal times are a great opportunity for residents to visit with family and loved ones, and to connect with neighbors, making new bonds and friendships. This is why our teams work hard to make each meal a special one.

We received so many amazing dishes for the culinary competition, and it was truly a difficult decision to narrow it down to just three winners out of our group of finalists.

Congratulations to our top three dishes!

1st Place Winner: Ryan McPherson, FSD at the Meridian at Stone Creek
Maple Glazed Chicken
winning dish maple glazed chicken from meridian at stone creek
2nd Place Winner: Michael Brown, FSD at The Meridian at Lantana
Thai Chili Pan Seared Salmon
thai chili pan seared salmon from meridian at lantana

3rd Place Winner: Renee Jann, DSD at Pacifica Paradise Valley
Pan Seared Chile Rubbed Filet
Chile rubbed filet from pacifica senior living paradise valley

We spoke to each of our winners to learn a little bit more about them, their culinary careers, and what inspired their winning dishes.

Name: Ryan McPherson

Community: The Meridian at Stone Creek

Years of experience: I have worked in the culinary field for  37 Years, and most recently joined Stone Creek, where I have been for the past six months.

What inspired your dish?  

I was imagining a seasonal dish with lots of vibrant colors, with a combination of subtle, sweet and savory flavors. Originally, I was going to prepare this dish with a Porterhouse bone-in Pork Chop with more emphasis on roasted apple components.  On my first test run with the pecans, maple glaze and cranberries, I decided to focus on a chicken breast that had been marinated overnight, quick seared and oven roasted. The pairing of sweet potato and parsnip seemed to go well with the sauce profile.

When did your culinary career begin and what brought you to the Meridian at Stone Creek?

 I got my first job at the age of 13, which was in an Italian restaurant called Luna’s, in Juneau, Alaska. The owner took me under her wing and I was eager to learn how to cook all of the delicious items on their menu, especially the clam sauce for their linguine and a particular Cannoli that I loved.

I moved to Seattle in 1989, and had the honor of working with some brilliant chefs at Lakeside School in North Seattle. Most of my other adventures included waterfront fine dining establishments, private catering and casinos. I started my first Healthcare FSD position with the Retirement Housing Foundation in 2011, and eventually found my way to the Meridian at Stone Creek.

What do you enjoy most about working with seniors?

 I enjoy working with seniors, hearing their stories, and getting to know their favorite foods and suggestions. The Meridian at Stone Creek has a very welcoming environment and it is an honor to be part of such a caring and professional community. 

What is your favorite part about being a chef?

Cooking is always something that can be improved upon, and to me, has limitless potential to always be exciting with new ideas, products and creative presentations. I am grateful to be able to do what I love. The most rewarding part is working with other food service professionals that share my same ambitions.

Name:   Michael Brown

Community: The Meridian at Lantana

Years of experience: I have 25 years of experience in the food services industry, and have spent one and a half years at the Meridian at Lantana

What inspired your dish? The taste. Ninety-Nine percent of people that tried this dish, really enjoyed the flavor. The combination of the Thai chili with the salmon really enhances the dish.

When did your culinary career begin and what brought you to the Meridian at Lantana?

I started cooking after my tour with the Marines, then I made a career out of it.

What do you enjoy about working with seniors?

I enjoy establishing relationships with the residents. Understanding and listening to their likes and suggestions makes it enjoyable to work for them.

What is your favorite part about being a chef? I think it’s like being an artist. You can always learn and grow, and I still haven’t figured it all out.

Name: Renee Jann

Community: Pacifica Senior Living Paradise Valley

Years of experience: I have worked for over 30 years in the culinary industry, and have recently started at Pacifica Senior Living Paradise Valley, where I have been for roughly four months now.

What inspired your dish? During the holidays I really enjoy using seasonal ingredients like root vegetables and pomegranate. Also…who doesn’t love a filet? 

When did your culinary career begin and what brought you to Pacifica Senior Living? I graduated culinary school in 1995 and began my passion with Mrs. Fields (yes, the cookies), as she came to my middle school and was a true inspiration. I came to Pacifica from a recommendation of a previous Pacifica employee.

What do you enjoy about working with seniors? I love talking with our residents and getting to know them. It brings me joy when they compliment the food, knowing that a good meal has enhanced their day.

What is your favorite part about being a chef? I love being able to make people happy through my food. I love working with compassionate staff who also share the same goals of delivering a delicious culinary experience.  

Congratulations to our winners, and thank you to all those who participated in this awesome competition. We look forward to continuing this new tradition for years to come. Great food and good company are at the heart of each of our communities, and we love seeing the inspiration, joy, and passion from all of our chefs and our culinary teams.

If you want to check out some of the recipes from our community, you can browse the dining and recipe section of our blog. Stay tuned for some of our winning recipes! You can also come and try these or other amazing dishes from Chef Michael, Chef Renee, Chef Ryan, or the chef team in your local community by visiting us. You can enjoy a complimentary meal and meet our team when you come in for a tour of any of our communities.

Come visit us!

Tags: Dining, Recipes & Nutrition