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Era Living: Culinary & Dining Operations

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Justin Rutledge, director of Culinary and Dining Operations at Era Living, joins Suzanne to talk about the culinary benefits of senior living communities. He talks about how he puts together the programs, designed more like a hotel or country club with fresh ingredients. He provides an overview of the dining/culinary program, food and dietary choices in retirement communities, and talks about how their chefs design their menus with resident input.

Justin says, “We have what we call a food service advisory meeting, and that's where all residents are welcome. We talk food. We're changing our menus out seasonally, and we are building our menus around our resident feedback. Those meetings in particular are a good way of getting a good idea of what the community is looking for on their seasonal menus. And then the chefs take their expertise in tailoring those menus to meet those needs.

“Another way we do that is what we call table touching. So being present in the dining room and meeting and talking with our residents. This is not our restaurant, this is your home, and it's just words if we're not out there communicating, showing that that statement is true.”

He adds, “Our communities have their own little flair, their own uniqueness. At the Lakeshore, we have a high Japanese population. What you'll see at the Lakeshore you will not see in our other communities necessarily. They have a lot of a la carte items: chicken katsu, ramen, and things like that. Sitting with the residents and seeing what they're looking for, and designing  menus around that community, it really provides that extra touch as opposed from menus coming from the top down. They really truly are resident inspired.”

There's more about Era Living at Answers for Elders and at

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