As an executive chef, he has all of the best ingredients: literally and figuratively. The regional executive chef of HHS Culinary and Nutrition, Joe Grana, is leading the fine dining program at Lexington Square Senior Living Communities in Elmhurst and Lombard. He brings to the table a passion for all things culinary while boasting an extensive background in various types of dining venues.
Grana has been working professionally in dining for almost 30 years, including in hotels, educational, medical, commercial, and fine dining establishments. He started as a line cook, moving up to supervisor, sous chef, executive chef, and regional chef. This all gives him the ability to artfully blend his experience and talents for residents in senior living communities. “I can combine characteristics such as attractive presentation, the ability to accommodate various palates and preferences, and mindfulness to healthy eating and dietary restrictions,” he said. His goal is to create a tempting dining program for residents of Lexington Squares.
Grana said that he enjoys working in senior living, an industry in which dining services have evolved over recent years. “Residents now want and, in fact, deserve, fine dining. They want excellent options and choices,” he said. Menus at Lexington Squares restaurant-style dining rooms, he said, feature fine delectable fare including roasted prime rib, chicken cordon bleu, and pan-seared salmon, as well as comfort foods such as burgers, pizza, and mac and cheese. The variety ensures that there is truly something for everyone.
“One of the reasons I took on this role is that through our dining program, I’m able to help make senior living more exciting and fun,” said Grana. “I want not only to feed the residents but also to engage them.” He has introduced the communities to culinary demonstrations and plans on including educational programs as well. With strong ties to his own Sicilian roots, Grana is hoping to learn about residents’ favorite family recipes so that he can recreate the dishes.
Grana was excited to preparation stations at Lexington Squares. “Once or twice a week, we’ll have specialties such as an omelet or waffle station or a pasta bar. They have fun choices to make to individualize the items. We let the residents know which action stations we’ll host ahead of time, and they look forward to it.” The communities have also started hosting sundae bars, a favorite of the residents.
Grana said he makes sure to do a lot of table touches to remain aware of what the residents like or don’t like and continue to make things better.
Grana said that what makes working in senior living most notable is that he is providing dining within the residents’ home. “In hotels and restaurants, you have guests come and go, but here, I am in their home, and get to see the residents every day. So that makes us more accountable. And I get to know their names and learn about their families. It’s really a privilege to serve them day after day.”