There are a variety of items important to residents and their families on the campus of Rim Country Health & Rehabilitation. These factors include care, comfort, compassion and, of course… the food.
Residents are now more of a mix — those of a variety of ages in long-term care and middle-age adults (50 to 65 years of age) coming in for short-term stays after hip, knee or shoulder surgery, doing rehab therapy at RCH, before returning home.
Likewise, the “kitchen” and its “cooks” are also changing. Today, residents experience family dining rooms with meals created by professional chefs. Yes, that’s right — professional chefs.
RCH wants you to meet Chef Randy Ortega who joined the RCH team in April 2019. Chef Randy has a very well-rounded background including his training, passion for cooking and inspiration from family.
A graduate of a hospitality and culinary arts institute in Chicago, Chef Randy has been working for 30 years nationally and internationally. He is recognized nationally in publications; and his signature dishes are also recognized by America’s Premier Golf Clubs. Ortega has been the executive chef at The Rim Golf Club twice, for a total of five years.
When asked who his inspiration was, Chef Randy replied, “It all began at an early age and I credit my Filipino grandfather.” Other chef inspirations include working under Chef Andreas Sellner (Emeril Lagasse’s chef of six years), Master Chef Frederic Castan and television Food Network’s top chef master Thierry Rautureau of Rovers Restaurant in Seattle.
“My connection to senior care stems from caregiving for my mother; and, close family friends that we’d visit during their last years.”
Chef Randy also worked for a private senior community with independent and assisted living options, serving 350 residents, in the Valley.
On a campus such as RCH, challenges in a dietary department, while maintaining guidelines and regulations, are mainly creating what residents like on the menu while also being able to accommodate specific individual meal plans. Making dishes from scratch is a priority for the taste and enjoyment for the residents, as well as the staff.
Inside the kitchen, the goal is training the team to step into a “hospitality” role no matter what job they do in the kitchen/dining room(s). It is a culture change, but the result is a more enjoyable dining experience for residents and staff members.
Coming soon will be additions to the current comfort food menu that may include flavors from the Southwest, Asia, local gardens and farms and other selections. Taste testing for new cooking techniques and alternatives to coffee and sodas are also being considered. Healthy and tasty is the goal.
Chef Randy is very approachable and has made daily interactions with the residents and their families a big priority. You often will see him talking and laughing with residents and team members.
One of the first new tastes at RCH was during Nursing Home Week this past May. On the day the chicken & waffles was on the menu, I chose to skip the waffles and went for the chicken. Right off, with the first bite, I enjoyed the light crispy batter and very moist, flavorful chicken (ever served on our campus). When the taste testing begins, I’ll certainly be signing up!