Chef Courtney at Pacifica Senior Living Victoria Court has been working with Pacifica since March of 2020. Her love for food and cooking started at an early age, and she quickly began learning and growing in her skills. At Pacifica Senior Living Victoria Court she has been sharing her love for the community through food, creating delicious meals and delicious creations for everything from meal times to special events. The community knows any time a special event is planned, Chef Courtney will have something wonderful to pair with it.
We sat down with her to discuss her culinary journey and what makes working at Pacifica Senior Living so special to her:
When did your culinary career begin and what brought you to Pacifica?
When I was 5 years old I was always in the kitchen with my grandmother learning how to cook and it fascinated me. Then, growing up in Federal Hill with all the different restaurants and knowing everyone, I would go back there and learn different types of food and I wanted to know more.
At 16 I got my first culinary job at a bakery. At 18 I started at a pizzeria. From there I worked and expanded my knowledge about the culinary world and different techniques and foods I can make.
I went to high school with Rhoda Smith (Executive Director of Pacifica Senior Living Victoria Court), and we kept in touch. I ended up working for her as an independent vendor, at a time when she needed help in the kitchen. Since she knew I was a chef, she asked if I knew anyone who might be good for the position. I initially shared her indeed post but then I thought, 'hey I should apply!'
I did, and the rest is history.
What made you want to work in senior living? What do you enjoy most about working with seniors?
I love when people are enjoying my meals, especially when they tell me a smell or the taste reminds them of a happy memory. Making a difference with my food at that moment, where the seniors remember a memory from their childhood or how their mother made a dish is exciting, especially for my community because all our residents have dementia or other memory loss conditions. Making a difference in that moment brings me joy.
What inspires your dishes?
My childhood inspires my dishes. Growing up I had a lot of different cultures around me, and my kids are a different ethnicity than I am. I want them to eat and learn their culture as well. Working with different people taught me a little bit of everything. I also learn on my own because you can always experiment. Rhode Island is so diverse it’s hard not to learn or see different foods around you.
What is your favorite part about being a chef?
My favorite part is creating something out of nothing. The challenge to think on the spot or do something different than someone else keeps me going. Having someone enjoy what I make, makes me feel like I accomplished making them happy in that moment. That is what matters. Eating food is almost everyone’s favorite part of the day and to think I made someone happy at that moment is the reason why I keep being a chef. Food is love.
What is your favorite memory or moment from your time at Pacifica Victoria Court?
My favorite memory is hard to pick because there have been many moments where I go home and I think 'today was an amazing day,' just because of something I did.
For example, Grandparents Day is a huge event at Victoria Court and I made a delicious meal and dessert and all our guest were raving about it. We did a similar thing for our longest day of the year event. Families still ask me how I made those chicken kabobs to this day.
But my most favorite was when a past resident tasted the beef goulash I made. The sound he made as he closed his eyes and said "Wow, this is just like how my mom made it," was amazing. His smile was huge and he ate the whole thing and asked for seconds.
That is why I am in senior living because seniors need that love and care. They raised us and it’s a full circle when they need us for their last years here. My love and my care is showed through the meals and desserts I make for my residents.
Roast Pork Loin Stuffed with Sweet Hawaiian Stuffing
1 Pork loin (7-8lbs)
1/2 cup of Dijon mustard
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Trim, fat, and butterfly the pork loin, then pound with meat mallet to make even. Spread half of the mustard on the inside of the loin. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Spread the stuffing on the seasoned side of the pork and roll up jelly roll style.
Tie pork at 1 inch intervals to secure. Spread remaining mustard all over the top and sides of the rolled loin and seasoned with salt and pepper.
Place on a roasting rack in a pan and pour about 2 cups of water in the bottom of the pan. Bake at 350° until internal temperature is 145°, about 60 minutes. Remove pan from oven and tent pork with foil.
Sweet Hawaiian Stuffing Recipe
2 12 pack packages of Hawaiian rolls
1 1/2 cup each of finally diced celery, onion, and carrot.
6-7 cloves garlic finely minced
4 tablespoons of finally chopped fresh rosemary and sage leaves
2 1/2-3 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons of dried Italian seasoning
1 1/2 cups of golden raisins
1/2 cup of olive oil, divided
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cube bread into 1 inch cubes and toss in a bowl with 1/4 cup of the olive oil and the Italian seasoning. Spread onto a baking sheet and bake at 350° until crisp. Remove from oven and let cool.
Put remaining olive oil in a sauté pan and add the carrots, onion and celery. Sauté till tender. Add garlic and cook for one minute. Add rosemary and sage and cook for one more minute. Season with salt and pepper.
Toast bread, vegetables and raisins in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk chicken or vegetable broth with the one egg and add to bread mixture. Toss to coat bread pieces evenly (until moist)
4 cups of fresh or frozen cranberries
2 cups of orange juice
2 cups of a red wine of your preference. I used a sweet Red.
1 1/4 cup, dark brown sugar
Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Turn down flame and let simmer until the berries start to burst and thicken. Once thick, pour the mixture into a food processor and pulse until desired consistency. Serve with pork.
Planning to give this recipe a try? Let us know how it goes in the comments below!