Seniors’ heart caught through the stomach by youth

New young cooks in Riverside Place are bringing joy to seniors’ stomachs, as well as to the heart.

Left to right: Erica Byers

Left to right: Erica Byers

New young cooks in Riverside Place are bringing joy to seniors’ stomachs, as well as to the heart.

Five culinary students from Northside Christian School were brought into Riverside Place’s kitchen staff by the facility’s new caterer, Christy Goultry, in June, said Riverside Place resident Dene Cutts.

Having lived in the facility for the last two years, Cutts said the new staff brought not only great food, but also great company.

“They come and set up the table, they serve us, and then clean up,” Cutts said. “And the nice part of it is, at the end of the day, they come out of the kitchen and give us a big smile and a big hug.”

She added, “To a 90-year-old lady at the end of the day, that’s nice.”

When serving dinner, one of the cooks, Erica Byers, seemed to have memorized each resident’s preferences, as she ladled out portions customized for each dish — extra apple sauce for one senior or mashed potatoes for another, for example.

“I haven’t been working here that long, but it comes naturally,” Byers said.

While most of her food skills came from cooking at home, her favourite part at work is the people, she said.

“When I’m working, they’ll ask about what you are doing,” Byers said. “They just care about you.”

She added, “Sometimes I stay and play the piano, they love that I stay.”

For another student cook Stephanie Ludwig, who also helped to serve meals, the conversations with seniors are a highlight at work.

“They always make me laugh when I come to work,” Ludwig said.

In addition to new staff, Jordan Martens from Northside started work at Riverside Place two years ago.

“It’s been really fun,” Martens said. “I made lots of interesting connections with people I would never have thought of.”

The students were referred from Northside’s food course when Goultry approached the school for potential kitchen staff, upon her new role in managing the kitchen in June, she said.

Her catering company, Shannon’s Kitchen, features homemade desserts as well as bread in the facility, and was named after her mother who had published a cook book in Vanderhoof years ago, she said.

“She gave me the passion for cooking.”

Goultry said she keeps the kitchen window open throughout food preparation time, allowing the seniors to visit while they cook.

“Everyone has the same passion for the seniors,” she said. “The people make working here so great.”

She added, “It’s like my second family.”