DENVER, Jan. 25, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Chosen from more than 119 eligible regional chefs within 115 Brookdale Senior Living communities locally, Chef Ben Donovan of Heritage Club Denver, a Brookdale Senior Living retirement community in Colo., has earned the regional culinary honor of 2010 for participating in Ultimate Chef America.
Throughout 2010, the culinary professionals of Brookdale Senior Living, leading owner and operator of senior living communities throughout the United States, put on a year-long series of first-class cooking competitions nationwide from Phoenix to Jacksonville, Fla. with stops along the way in Dallas, Denver, Detroit and Atlanta. At each event, two teams of senior living chefs had two hours to produce four courses with the theme of healthy cooking, using only a grill.
Dishes prepared by the chefs were judged on-site by a panel of five celebrity judges headed by Leeza Gibbons and a Brookdale resident with a culinary background. The teams won awards for taste, creativity and presentation. In addition, each individual chef was awarded points on his or her dish.
Each event showcased the talents of Brookdale's professional chefs, who created dishes that were not only flavorful and unique, but were made especially for less sensitive senior palates. Donovan's winning entree was the Umeboshi grilled salmon.
Donovan grew up in New England, and began working in restaurants when he was 13 years old. At 15, he was a line cook and worked at the Boiler Room Cafe, a French restaurant renowned for its adventurous menu and use of local product. There, Donovan worked his way through every position. Since then, he has been involved with three restaurants where he was part owner or had complete executive control, featuring everything from BBQ to Mediterranean and world fusion cuisine.
"Cooking for seniors requires special training and expertise because the sensitivity of taste buds and palates change with age, so the flavors have to be bolder and richer and the textures of foods need to be more 'senior friendly' as well," said Joska Hajdu, Brookdale's senior vice president of Dining Services and an executive chef by trade. "That's one reason why the participating chefs and their creations are special; they are created with passion and an intensity that surpasses food served in other venues."
Ultimate Chef America, however, was much more than a professional cooking competition. Each event was a celebration of great food and life fulfillment. In each of the six locations, residents and guests were in the audience for live talk shows with celebrity judges and senior health and culinary experts that were streamed over the Internet and broadcast to other Brookdale communities. The competition also featured seminars on food, wine and seasonings, presented by experts on each topic. There were also guided tours of the host community; a silent auction benefiting the Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation and its signature program Leeza's Place, "A Place for Caregivers," a community gathering place and resource center for family caregivers impacted by chronic or progressive illness; and a business expo highlighting the event's sponsors, including Nestle Vitality, Nestle Professional, Advanced Foods, Walgreens, Tyson Foods, Royal Cup, Fidelity Print, Ecolab, SCA and Entegra.
The six events have welcomed, entertained and served almost 5,000 guests. The silent auctions conducted at the events have raised more than $100,000 to support the work of the Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation and $16,000 to help the victims of the earthquake in Haiti.
"Ultimate Chef America also gave our residents and those considering a move to a Brookdale community a first-hand experience with our concept for living, Optimum Life," said Sara Terry, vice president of Optimum Life for Brookdale Senior Living.
A way of life offered exclusively by Brookdale Senior Living at its communities, Optimum Life®, focuses on six key dimensions - emotional, intellectual, physical, social, spiritual and purposeful.
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SOURCE Brookdale Senior Living