Three senior living community executives discuss how to
serve residents in the dining room and beyond.
By Bryan Ochalla
“If you talk to the residents, or even just spend some time watching them, it’s pretty clear that at least 80 percent of their day is based around food. It’s
their life!” says christopher Atkinson, executive chef at
Brookdale Senior Living’s Park Place Senior Living community in Spokane, Washington, while sitting with two
contemporaries, David Ariz and vicki Peery, in the private
dining room at Brookdale’s Foundation House in nearby
“There’s activities and the library and many other forms
of entertainment, but they seem to look forward to their
dining experiences even more,” he adds, as Ariz, director
of dining services at Foundation House, and Peery, dining
services director of the courtyard at Emeritus in Puyallup,
Washington, nod in agreement. “That’s where their life is,
around the [dining room] table.”
Mind you, he doesn’t say this in a dining-services-is-
better-than-any-other-area-of-senior-living kind of way.
Rather, he says it in a way that’s meant to explain why he
takes his position in his community so seriously. Ariz and
Peery clearly take their positions in their communities seri-
ously, too—for similar reasons.
“This is their home,” Peery says of the residents she and
her colleagues serve three times a day, seven days a week.
“It’s not a restaurant; it’s where they live.” As such, she
Before DAvID ARIZ became the director of dining services at
Brookdale Senior Living’s Foundation House in Federal Way,
Washington, he worked in the restaurant world. Shortly after he
graduated from the University of Hawaii in 1974, Ariz moved to
Minneapolis and opened a restaurant. Over the next 18 years, he
owned and operated two additional restaurants in the Twin Cities
area. In 2002, Ariz relocated to Seattle and held positions at a
number of the city’s eateries before entering the senior living field.
MEMBERS OF THIS EXECUTIVE FOCUS GROUP
cHRIStOPHER AtKINSON, like many of his dining-services col-
leagues, worked in the restaurant industry in the 11 years before
he was hired as the executive chef of Brookdale’s Park Place com-munity in Spokane, Washington. Eight of those years were spent
at Beverly’s, a fine-dining restaurant that’s part of The Coeur d’
Alene Resort in Idaho. “I worked all stations, from breakfast cook
to night sauté,” Atkinson says. His last three years in the restaurant
industry were spent at Dockside—also a part of The Coeur d’ Alene
Resort—where Atkinson served as kitchen manager.
vIcKI PEERY has been working with food since she was 19, when
she began as a waitress at a Marie Callender’s restaurant in Cali-fornia. A number of subsequent food-service positions, as well as
a stint as a stay-at-home mom for her three children, led to Peery
joining The Courtyard at Emeritus eight years ago as a dietary aide.
She later transitioned into the kitchen and worked as a cook for
the Puyallup, Washington-based community. Today, she serves The
Courtyard’s residents as dining services director.
ABOut tHIS SERIES: Senior Living Executive’s
Executive Focus Groups assemble leading senior living executives in various disciplines to exchange ideas and solutions for the tough-est challenges in the business. Let us know what you think and add to the conversation by chiming in on ALFA Exchange at community.ALFA.org.