By Team Trilogy

Our 9th Annual Culinary Olympics began with 10 knives, 10 teams of finalists, 10 ‘mystery boxes’, and one goal: to create a show stopping meal worthy of the coveted gold medal. Gathered in the Duke Energy Convention Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, each team leader slowly pulled one of the 10 knives from its sheath to determine the order in which they would prepare their meals. There was one catch – no one knew their ingredients.

This is where the ‘mystery boxes’ came in. Filled with unknown ingredients, these boxes would determine the dish, and the fate, of the contestants. The first team drew out the contents of the box: a pork tenderloin, a container of lump crab meat, a bag of pork rinds, two Little Kings beers, maple syrup, a watermelon radish, olive tapenade, a mango, and artichoke hearts. They wouldn’t have to use all of the ingredients, but for each they didn’t use, points would be deducted from their final score.

The 40 minute timer was already running, and the chefs would have to think on their feet. Thankfully, this was something they are used to. At every Trilogy campus, it’s the job of our Dining Services team to exceed the expectations of our customers. This is a tall order, considering who it is they’re serving. Our residents are real pros; they’ve cooked for entire families on shoestring budgets, they’ve created countless holiday dinners, they’ve made meals for picky kids and even pickier spouses. They can tell when something is overdone, under-seasoned, or made without heart. When our campuses are their home, they dine with us for at least three meals, every day. These three meals need to speak to their souls as much as they speak to their taste buds. This is the goal of every Trilogy chef, and they take what they do seriously. Needless to say, they were ready for this competition.

Each team of two raced against time to prepare a meal that would be sampled and scored by a panel of guest judges, which included John Kinsella, CMC, PhD, President of Smart Chefs LLC and past President of the American Culinary Federation, as well as Jeff White, CMC (Corporate Chef, Alto-Shaam), Deanna Day (Corporate Chef, Rich’s) and Bryan Vaughn (National Account Manager, Gordon Food Services).

Our President and CEO, Randy Bufford was also present to watch it all play out, and to cheer on each team. “We’re awfully glad to be celebrating culinary excellence,” he commented. “There are 10 division winners present here. There will be one winner, but no losers. In fact, the real winners are our residents, who have great meals because of these ladies and gentlemen.”

At the end of the day, it was Mike Jarnecke, Director of Dining Services, (assisted by April Durbin) from Springhurst Health Campus who took home the gold with their dishes, which included an Island Pork Shank with Roasted Island Vegetables, followed by a Floating Island Cake with Chocolate Cream Sauce. The winners were announced that evening at our Awards Dinner in front of a group of over 400 attendees. We’d like to congratulate Mike and April on their win, as well as Director of Dining Services Paul Burckle (assisted by Christy Niese) from Park Terrace Health Campus for winning the Silver, and Director of Dining Services Tim Courtney (assisted by Robert Burns) from Springview Manor for taking home the Bronze.

Thank you to all of the other participants who also fixed Instagram-worthy meals. Your dedication to your craft, and to our residents, inspires us every day!

We’re not the only senior living provider to have chef-prepared meals and restaurant-style dining, but we believe we’re one of the best, and the proof is on each plate. In fact, when people ask us what we’re all about, we invite them to dine with us. Contact a campus near you today, and schedule a time to join us for a meal that’s prepared with skill and served with heart.

To see the entire Culinary Olympics competition, view a recording of our live stream on Periscope.