Dishing Up Health

The chef’s approach yields valuable clues.

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Group Of Smiling Senior Friends Meeting For Meal In Restaurant

Checking out retirement communities? Talk to the chef. “Make sure the residents have a voice in what they’re being served,” says Michael Kullback, executive chef at The Virginian in Fairfax. “You want to know they’re being heard.”

Kullback is happy to listen. “I talk with the residents to get their feedback,” he says, noting that taste buds change with age, so he keeps an eye on picky eaters. “If they haven’t touched anything on their plate, I’ll ask them what they like. I know all of their dietary needs and I want to meet them.”

To control sodium, Kullback makes his own stock and takes a sly approach to boosting nutrition in meals, sneaking in extra vegetables where residents won’t notice. And because food conjures memories, he’ll ask about their favorites: “When they tell us about a special restaurant dish or a meal they remember from a trip 30 years ago, we’ll recreate it, putting our own spin on the ingredients to make it innovative as well as nutritious.” 

Above all, says Kullback, dining in an assisted living facility should be pleasurable. For the memory care unit, he recently threw a luau-themed happy hour, complete with tropical drinks, fruit platters, and a Hawaiian dancer. “Dining is one of the biggest social events of the day. They look forward to getting together.” 


This article originally appeared in the December 2022 issue.

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