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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