The inaugural Culinary Cook-Off at the 2019 Argentum Senior Living Executive Conference featured cuisine from some of the best senior living communities across the country, including HarborChase of the Park Cities, a community of luxury senior residences. Ke’o Velasquez, director of hospitality, and Anthony Polito, a chef from a sister community, received the highest total points against their competitors during the Texas-themed competition in San Antonio. The duo received perfect scores in three out of four categories, including taste, creativity, and plating. For their winning dish, they prepared Guajillo Chili-Rubbed Wagyu Beef Brisket with a Mole Verde, with Fire-Roasted Poblano Pepper, Texas Pecan-Horseradish Cheddar Cheese Tamale, and Pickled Calabacita Slaw.
“This was a live-demonstration competition, so as we were cooking, we had to explain each step to the judges and audience,” said Velasquez. “As this was a Texas-themed competition, we wanted to incorporate as many local ingredients as we could. We brainstormed and visited different ranches and stores in search of ingredients we could include. From the vegetables to the hatch chilis and the beef, it was all authentic, and that played a part in our success. The competition wasn’t solely about showing off our cooking skills, it also focused on our explanation of the nutritional value and how the food benefits seniors. We are thrilled the judges were impressed with our meal. This was the first demonstration competition the conference has hosted, and the bar has been raised for the dining experience in senior living.”
HarborChase of the Park Cities prides itself for having a scratch kitchen and offering fresh foods for residents and their families to enjoy. The community offers formal, private and casual dining with nutritious and seasonal chef-prepared meals served daily. Velasquez changes the menu weekly, adding new foods and flavors to elevate residents’ taste buds. For the competition, the team wanted to showcase the type of food that is being made in their senior living community and change the old-school mindset people have. After the team’s success, Velasquez feels the culinary arts at senior living communities is moving in a positive direction.
“It was inspiring knowing that the judges and audience wanted to increase their knowledge of senior living cuisine,” said Velasquez. “It brought smiles to our faces to see perfect scores for creativity, taste, and plating. We worked hard on delivering a fantastic Texas dish, and it paid off. The residents at HarborChase of the Park Cities also enjoyed our winning dish. They have a desire for high-quality food, and we are honored to provide that. This was a true team effort, and we are excited to come back next year with a new creative dish that will knock the socks off the judges.”
“We are proud of Ke’o and the culinary team for what they were able to achieve at the first Culinary Cook-Off during the Argentum Conference,” said Heather Corton, executive director at HarborChase of the Park Cities. “We see their hard work and dedication each day in the kitchen, and we are happy to see the positive reactions from the judges and audience members. To receive a perfect score in three tough categories is amazing. We are lucky to have such a talented culinary team that is redefining cuisine in senior living.”
Photos: Courtesy of Argentum