A Valentine Story:

Meet Vanessa and Steven–

Our Dynamic Dining Duo Love Making Menu Magic in Our Residences at Deer Creek Senior Living Kitchen!

Two are better than one in our kitchen, despite the idea that there can be too many cooks!  Executive Chef Vanessa began as Sous Chef over ten years ago. As she was promoted, the Sous Chef position was available and filled ever after by Steven, who is also her husband, soon celebrating his ten years with Residences at Deer Creek.  Both consider themselves “Foodies”—they like to enjoy as well as prepare a good meal.  Residents and families tell us how much they enjoy the daily fare and especially the special brunches and lunches prepared for holidays and events. They are in love—with food, with what they do to serve seniors wonderful meals three times a day, seven days a week, and of course, in love with each other!

Vanessa says they complement each other perfectly, on the job as well as in their lives together.

As Executive Chef she is responsible for the administrative aspects of food services, paperwork and schedules.  As Sous Chef, Steven is in charge of daily operations, ensuring recipes are followed, including the special diets of residents.  Both work together on menu planning—often at home, after a full day in the kitchen here.  Vanessa and Steven enjoy what they’re doing—making people happy with the food they create and prepare. “Sharing a good meal is a great way to share a bond,” they agree.

Executive Chef Vanessa and her famous chicken salad sandwich

Steven takes the spotlight for an extra special super-duper 16 layer chocolate cake he crafted, and beat the record on layers. 

Sous Chef Steven

Steven, before becoming Sous Chef for Residences at Deer Creek, was a pastry chef. It’s obviously another way the couple’s culinary talents serve to complement the two chefs.  But Vanessa says she depends on Steven as “The Meat Man” and for sauces, too. “You don’t have to use a knife here,” brags Vanessa about Steven’s attention to the needs of the seniors. Braising is a technique he uses to ensure the tender, succulence of the entrees he prepares.  Vanessa admires Steven for being creative and multi-talented as a woodworker as well as chef.

Steven’s 16-layer chocolate cake

Vanessa recalls the first meal she made for herself at the age of 10—crepes. She describes her culinary journey as “self-taught” and yet she spent 14 years at a local prestigious country club where she developed an appreciation and aptitude for gourmet presentations.  She has entered many local chef competitions and has won many awards. The couple introduced “The Chefs’ Table” to residents at Deer Creek who enjoyed the fare immensely, especially when lobster was served and fancy desserts were a feature.  They used different themes to enhance the popularity of The Chefs’ Table—until March 2020 when the pandemic changed everything, including meal preparation in senior living.

Suddenly, new challenges emerged. 

“We wanted our residents to have more than cereal, sandwiches, cold plates, so we figured out how to create and deliver hot meals to their apartments until the next phase of the pandemic eased restrictions and enabled them to return to the dining room,” explains Vanessa. “It took our entire Deer Creek team to accomplish our goal,” she adds with pride.  Meeting that goal not only brought joy to residents and consolation to their families, but also garnered Vanessa the award in 2021 as Indiana Senior Living Food Services Director of the Year.

Valentines day dessert. Valentines dessert. Heart shaped cheesecake brownie with cherry. Mothers Day dessert. Fathers day dessert. Womens day cake. Heart cheesecake. Heart cake

Nutritional value and taste of food are paramount to the health and well-being of seniors. Good food is good for the soul and for socialization. 

Enjoying meals together leads to conversations and making new friends.  Food is especially important when residents are new to senior living. And when meals must be adjusted due to health needs, the chefs make the changes necessary.  “During Covid I knew what everyone ordered, pretty much on a daily basis before the pandemic, so we could continue to make the meals that made residents happy,” recalls Vanessa.  Making others happy with delicious meals is what our chefs value!

Menu favorites at Residences at Deer Creek are as varied as the days in the year;

from omelettes made your way served with hashed browns, rye or other toast, and a good cup of coffee to luncheon chicken salad with grapes and golden raisins piled high on bakery style bread.  How about special Bourbon Glazed Boneless Pork Chops for dinner, served with potatoes au gratin and Brussel sprouts?! There are well-stocked snacks in the Bistro all day. When there’s a party for Valentine’s Day or any other special occasion, the chefs make it fun and fancy.

What is the favorite fare for Vanessa and Steven?

Look for them enjoying Mexican food at local restaurants—“We’ve tried them all, we have a few we frequent.  We could probably eat Mexican food every day!”

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