09 March 2018

by Sharon Harper, Brookdale Communications

(SUN CITY CENTER, Fla.) - Good food is not only fuel for the body - it’s entertainment and enjoyment, and when Dining Director Theresa Lehman is directing a Brookdale community’s kitchen, it’s enticing potential residents and enriching lives at Freedom Plaza Sun City Center.

Associates and residents at the Independent Living community are treated to upscale Signature dishes that they helped create following taste tests Theresa launched in 2017. The tests evolved after residents complained that the prime rib was unusually tough. “If something isn’t right, we fix it together,” Theresa said, adding that cooking procedures had not changed so she acted promptly to find a solution. “We got a second vendor and then polled a dozen residents after they sampled prime rib ‘A’ and prime rib ‘B’. Unanimously, they all picked the same prime rib we liked, which was not previously served.” 

The initial resident taste test in 2017 was the concept of Dining Associate Director pro tem DeAndre Jackson who developed the concept. It was a hit and created a lot of buzz internally during the town halls and food forums. Like a hot potato, more taste tests were tossed onto the schedule, including a shrimp tasting (fried, battered in-house and pre-battered commercially – and the Brookdale batter won). Others included tasting panels for Signature Burgers, Salads and Sandwiches now on the menu. Next up, Signature Pizza.  

In April, 10 residents and four associates will join a tasting panel to help select flat bread, deep dish, self-rising New York style or Chicago style pies. Their feedback will determine a six-week rotation with six different pizzas on a future menu.   

Theresa’s background as a catering manager for SeaWorld Ohio, general manager for a popular chain restaurant and her training in hospitality management led her to apply for a dining role with Brookdale nearly 11 years ago after she and her husband relocated to Florida.

Whatever’s hot and trendy, she wants on the menu. “Food is about passion,” Theresa states emphatically, and with creative Chef Christopher Wynn cooking up crowd pleasers, they both are in it to win the hearts of their residents – through their tummies. “Chef is so innovative and humble and he has an ability to make everyone happy.”