Menu Creativity at Arbour Trails

On a clear September morning, George Madalena steps out from the kitchen at The Village of Arbour Trails where he spends the bulk of his time. As the Director of Food and Hospitality in the Village, George is one of the key people residents want to know, for he oversees what for many consider to be one of the most important aspects of life in a retirement setting – the menu.

Special event meals at Arbour Trails help the chefs determine
what residents enjoy most, and may inform future menu plans.

On this morning, however, George is discussing an additional role he’s taken on with Schlegel Villages as the Chef’s Lead, helping to revitalize menus not only at Arbour Trails but in every village serving residents in retirement neighbourhoods. Efforts being made at Arbour Trails and the lessons learned by his team will help other villages in their ongoing quests for quality improvement.

Since joining the team at Arbour Trails in August 2015, George has fed his creative passion for food by experimenting with special menus and by catering special events in the village and for neighbours in the adult community next door, the Village by the Arboretum. With every new twist and offering, George relies on the feedback of residents to decide where his new menu designs could venture, and that attention to detail is what prompted the creation of his new role with the Support Office, along with that of his counterpart, Menu Development lead Nancy Ma.

“Residents are growing to expect a different sort of cuisine,” George says. “My clientele here at Arbour Trails is very worldly, their palates are very worldly. Most of them come from a life where they’ve travelled, they’ve been to those fine dining hotels and restaurants and when they come here, the visual appearance fits that bill quite well so their expectation is within that same sort of parameter.”

Communication is one of the most important considerations for the food and hospitality teams, and George says much of his role focuses on asking residents what they want to see on their plates and finding balance among diverse preferences. Collaboration among his fellow chefs from various villages also inspires improvements, for when chefs are able to get creative, good things happen.

“We want to make it fun for everyone because the more personal involvement and input the chefs have, the more excitement there is behind it,” George says, “and you can see it in the plates.”

Special fall buffets meals at Arbour Trails have honoured the harvest of the season and the creativity of the chefs, while other events throughout the year have done the same. George and the team take all the feedback from the discerning people who make up the diverse base of residents in The Village to heart, and the knowledge they pass along to their peers in other villages will surely benefit others into the future.