Garden Terrace cook has scored a winner with unique take on Salisbury steak

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Residents are loving Isioma Okolie’s new version of an old classic

Friday, July 4, 2014 — Deron Hamel

When most people think of Salisbury steak, a plain ground-beef patty topped with gravy likely comes to mind. But if you think you’ll find something like this on Garden Terrace’s dinner menu, think again.

Isioma Okolie, the Kanata long-term care home’s head cook, has used his culinary ingenuity to create a version of this old-time favourite that resembles a dish found in a high-end restaurant. His version of Salisbury steak is a serving of quality ground beef topped with a few roasted potatoes and steamed cauliflower resting in au jus.

His idea behind the dish is simple: present residents with the type of food they enjoy and present it in a way that maximizes appearance. Most long-term care home residents, he notes, have a different palate than younger generations. Chinese food or curries are not what they’re used to; meat-and-potatoes fare is usually their preference.

But a meat-and-potatoes dish doesn’t have to mean boring, as Okolie is proving. The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care provides homes with dietary criteria for residents. Nutritional care managers will create menus, but those working in the kitchens are encouraged to use their creativity to try to make the food taste its best, Okolie notes.

He says presentation is of utmost importance when serving food to long-term care residents. Not only does it need to look appetizing, the portion size needs to be right.

“One thing the residents tell me is that they get very intimidated by seeing large portions of food, but if you make it a more reasonably sized portion people know they can finish it and enjoy it,” he says. “I try to make it the best of both worlds; I follow the guidelines but also make the food so they can enjoy it.”

Okolie’s version of Salisbury steak has been a favourite with residents; a bit of a surprise, he says, because many residents aren’t fans of ground beef. What’s made a difference is the way the food is presented, he adds.

“You eat with your eyes first.”

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Patient-centred care key at OMNI Health Care

Inspired Leaders at 17 Omni Health Care centers. Photo Courtesy of OmniWay.

Inspired Leaders at 17 Omni Health Care centers. Photo Courtesy of OmniWay.

Inspired Leaders identify keys to success

July 21, 2013 — Jeanne Pengelly

It doesn’t matter which of OMNI Health Care’s 17 homes you go to, or which of the Inspired Leaders you speak with, the message is the same: Being recognized for outstanding contributions to patient care is certainly a key to employee satisfaction.

This year, OMNI’s senior management team chose to let each home choose its own “inspired leader.” The choices were made by peers and colleagues, and the winners were celebrated at the managers’ retreat at FERN Resort in Orillia this spring.

Without exception, each of the winners has divulged what they consider the secret to their success, and to their satisfaction with their position at their own home.

April Faux, for example, at Burnbrae Gardens in Campbellford, starts her day saying hello to colleagues and stopping to chat with them. She does the same thing when the afternoon shift starts.

Faux is always ready to assist her peers when necessary, another quality that seems to rise to the surface in OMNI Health Care homes.

“Anywhere that I can help, I will jump in if I can, and they really appreciate that,” she says.

A theme clearly evident in the stories Inspired Leaders tell is that the culture of OMNI Health Care encourages individuality, innovation and respect.

“People need to know that their opinion is valid,” Faux says, “and getting people’s opinions and suggestions is (important.)”

Brian Lafantaisie, for example, is a cook at Forest Hill in Kanata. His job tends to be a lot of the same thing, repeated again and again — exactly the thing that leads him to seek solutions to minor and major inconveniences in the process of preparing residents’ food. Not only are his solutions appreciated, tested, and embedded in procedure, but his colleagues and his boss encourage him to find those answers that make things easier and more efficient for everyone.

Kentwood Park nutritional services manager Catherine Reid was first drawn to the home by the mission and values that put communication and patients first. Now she says Kentwood Park is a workplace unlike any other she’s experienced.

“When you come in here you feel like you’re at home,” says Reid, pointing to the culture of respect that clearly puts residents first.

Even at the small 66-bed home in Selby, Ont., the atmosphere is one of respect and love. Environmental services and office manager Jane Hughes speaks of the “family atmosphere,” something OMNI Health Care managers try to put front and centre.

If there is a way to bottle the formula these employees utilize on a daily basis, it would encompass a system of care that incorporates outgoing personalities seeking to create a safe, comfortable home for each resident. It’s a method of care that includes respecting colleagues and residents, encouraging opinion and suggestion and embracing change with a smile.