Baked brie with apple compote, lobster tail, and green tea matcha cookies with spearmint and chocolate are just a few tantalizing treats residents at StoryPoint Chesterton were able to enjoy at two special holiday dinners in December. Behind the scenes, Executive Chef Brian Dougherty coordinated the cooking staff to make all these delicious recipes available to StoryPoint residents.
Dougherty has been the Executive Chef at StoryPoint Chesterton since July 2020 and said his favorite part of being there is the residents. He has been fascinated to hear about the vast array of backgrounds StoryPoint Chesterton residents come from.
“We have a resident who was originally from Poland,” he said. “Her family had to leave Poland when the Nazis rolled in, and she ended up in South Africa for eight years before she came to Hammond. Hearing stories of picking through garbage to find enough food to survive and ending up in America to start over again as a young adult and other stories is absolutely fascinating."
Before beginning at StoryPoint Chesterton in July, Dougherty was not sure what to expect in his professional life with COVID-19 influencing the restaurant business. When he made the move to StoryPoint Chesterton from his previous job, he said it changed his outlook on life.
“I’ve worked in fine dining restaurants for the last 20 years, and I didn’t really know what I was getting into moving into a senior care setting,” Dougherty said. “I get the chance to walk around the dining room every day and talk to people. I’ve really enjoyed the chance to get to know them and to hear about their stories, their food, and their families, as well as where they’ve been and what they’ve done.”
In wanting to get to know ‘their food,’ Dougherty started something called the Chef’s Chat every Friday afternoon to discuss the menu of the past week. Residents are welcomed to share what they enjoyed, what they may not have liked, and what they would like to have prepared for them in the future.
“I always try to steer that conversation toward, ‘What did you use to make for your families? What have you had in the past that you would like to share? What old family recipes would you like to share with the rest of our family here?’” Dougherty said. “I really enjoy digging into the past of some of these folks and see what they are willing to share and how varying families prepare the same recipe differently.”
Through his weekly Chef’s Chats, Dougherty has been able to assemble a collection of diverse dishes and recipes he can then offer to better suit the palettes of residents. He also strives to find the answers to some of these questions concerning incoming residents so that he can make them feel instantly at home when they arrive at StoryPoint Chesterton.
“We had a new resident who just moved in, and during her conversation with our sales team, it came up that she used to make a tomato soup cake for her kids when they were younger,” Dougherty said. “That was one I had never heard of, so we dug up that recipe and had a tomato soup cake for her on the day of her move-in. She was in tears - she was so happy to see it.”
While Dougherty always enjoys his weekly Chef’s Chats, his favorite memory so far was the carnival that StoryPoint Chesterton had for its residents a few months ago.
“We had booths set up around the dining room and a show of oddities in the back where we had the bearded lady, the strong man, and that kind of thing where folks came through and took pictures with some of the staff that had dressed up for the occasion,” he said. “We made elephant ears, candy apples, Indiana pork tenderloins, and every kind of fair food you could imagine to try and bring those smells and experiences you’d get at a carnival. It’s been a lot of fun trying to get people involved and really try to bring about a sense of excitement and wonder again.”
When he is not coming up with creative, culinary ways to keep residents feeling engaged and at home, Dougherty enjoys spending time with his wife and seven kids. He says they are big nerds who enjoy reading, watching sci-fi movies, and playing board and role-playing games. Last year aside, he and his family enjoy taking a yearly vacation to Indianapolis for Gen Con, which is the biggest tabletop gaming convention in North America.
To learn more about the passionate staff at StoryPoint Chesterton, visit https://www.storypoint.com/community/chesterton-in/