Executive Chef Vanessa Awarded 2021 Outstanding Food Service Director

Vanessa Schiola, Executive Chef for Residences at Deer Creek was awarded Outstanding Food Service Director of the Year 2021 by the Indiana Assisted Living Association (INALA) announced at their annual meeting in Indianapolis on October 5, 2021. 

Criteria for the award must be met by the Food Service Director who shows innovation and high quality while remaining in budget along with the following: 

  • Nurtures the spirit of each resident 
  • Treats each resident with dignity and respect 
  • Shows leadership in how they manage staff 
  • Provides exemplary guidance in directing a cost-effective, efficient operation while maintaining high quality services 
  • Demonstrates innovation in formulating new ideas for menu planning, preparation or service 
  • Helps make the assisted living residence a valuable community asset. 

Shelley Cohs, Director of Human Resources for Residences at Deer Creek, said she knew Vanessa was a match for every item and submitted the nomination.  Cohs recalls that especially during the pandemic Vanessa quickly became very creative—not only in meal preparation but also in delivery of meals. During a time when residents were restricted to their apartments, Vanessa made sure to continue to offer residents choice for meals.  She continued to offer hot meals and made sure they were delivered hot. And she always made sure there were plenty of snacks provided in-between meals. 

Vanessa plays a key role as Residences at Deer Creek supports the local community through various events and fundraisers.  Chef Vanessa enjoys going to local senior centers, preparing breakfast or lunch so that seniors can sample her delicious meals. Many seniors look forward to visiting with her as well. She creates special meals for PrimeTimers at the Schererville Senior Center frequently during the year as a donation on behalf of Residents at Deer Creek. 

Vanessa has been chef at Residences at Deer Creek since opening some nine years ago. Through her expertise, the senior living community has won awards through the Taste of Care food competition for three consecutive years. “ Vanessa feels strongly that the community receives these awards because the team cares so much,” explains Cohs, who notes that Vanessa is a leader and mentor to the staff. 

“Passionate about bringing joy to our residents through food, Chef Vanessa enjoys creating a menu that appeals to everyone. Her menus typically reflect a fusion of familiar classics with a surprising twist. Before the pandemic , she loved seeing families and their loved ones in the restaurant for meals, laughing and chatting as they enjoyed Vanessa’s ‘food for the soul,’” Cohs went on to explain.  

Chef Vanessa is committed to creating gourmet meals that strongly adhere to the dietary needs and restrictions of each resident, emphasizes Cohs, including heart-healthy, sugar-free, gluten-free, lactose-free and vegetarian meals. She meets with each resident to get to know them individually and to ensure that meals meet their individual needs. She solicits feedback from the residents on the menu and listens as they make suggestions, making quick changes. “The residents are so appreciative that she strives to keep them happy and feeling at home,” says Cohs. 

Chef Vanessa has more than 20 years of experience with fine dining, catering, and menu planning and development, as well as in senior living. As Executive Chef she creates and provides beautiful, delicious, and healthy meals for residents, guests, and employees.  Her culinary philosophy is that food and shared dining experiences bring people together, creating an opportunity for community, laughter, and joy.  

“Residences at deer Creek is so very proud of Chef Vanessa—most deserving of the INALA award and all the praise we have for her skills and caring,” emphasizes Karen Ayersman, Executive Director, who was also present for the ceremony.   

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