When most people think of nursing home food they think of jello, and pudding, and other sometimes less than appetizing dishes, but Saint Anne Culinary Director Mary Mlynczak has changed that. She has focused her talents on making dining at Saint Anne a restaurant-worthy experience.
Mary Mlynczak and Cindy Boland pose with dishes submitted for competition in the fourth annual Benedictine Taste of Hospitality
Mlynczak has always worked in the food service industry. Her culinary skills were recognized this year when she was awarded the Culinary Director of Excellence at the fourth annual Benedictine Taste of Hospitality. For the past 10 years Mlynczak has worked at Saint Anne, cooking for a large number of residents. Mlynczak creates menus, caters parties held on-site, and runs happy hours for the residents.
“We have so many things that we do, it’s never just serving food; it’s never just breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” Mlynczak said.
Mlynczak’s goal is to create a restaurant-style dinning experience, while enabling residents to continue to be involved in their choice of meals. Mlynczak and staff create one meal a month with a theme, often drawing upon different cultures. The residents are also involved with choosing their holiday meals, and are able to submit favorite recipes to the staff.
“The more involved they are, the more we know they are happy,” Mlynczak added.
Mlynczak explained that she wants to provide menus that are different from the preconceived ideas of nursing home food. The staff integrates new items, such as fried green beans, into the menu for the residents to try.
“They might not understand it, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to try it, or learn about it,” Mlynczak said.
The Benedictine Taste of Hospitality was another chance for Mlynczak to get the residents involved. The residents were served five entrees, five appetizers, and five desserts and asked to pick their favorites. Ultimately, the residents picked the two selections to be entered into the contest against 17 other competitors in the Benedictine Taste of Hospitality competition. Oriental glazed meatball rice and merlot tarragon truffles were the two options that were entered in the contest.
“The award just gives a little confirmation that we’re heading in the right direction,” Mlynczak said.
Mlynczak doesn’t see the award as hers alone; she gives a lot of credit to her team as well. The team brings in the best recipes each one has sampled, starting in January, to prepare for the contest each year.
“None of this would have happened without the team here at Saint Anne,” Mlynczak said. “It’s every one of us here, starting with every hand in that kitchen; I couldn’t do anything without them.”