ESCONDIDO — Jon Samus has the seemingly impossible task of trying to make 170 people happy at the same time. But he wouldn’t have it any other way. Samus is the dining services director at Cypress Court, a one-of-a-kind senior living community in Escondido. When asked how he aims to please so many people at each meal, he is quick to answer. “I just listen to them,” he said.
Samus is uniquely qualified for his position at Cypress Court. He grew up around family-owned retirement communities and has a background in the restaurant industry. “My family wanted me to go into nursing or the medical field, but that wasn’t for me,” he said. “I was working as a server and eventually ended up in the kitchen. So being in the culinary field in a senior community is the perfect place for me. I love it.”
Admittedly, trying to please so many people while meeting their dietary needs isn’t easy, but it’s something Samus enjoys. “It’s more than just work for me,” he said. “I’ve never been to any senior community where the company treats you like more than staff. We are part of the Kisco family here and valued as such. They want to know what our thoughts are and our input is really valued here.”
To that end, unlike other senior communities, Cypress Court doesn’t follow a corporate mandated menu for its residents. “The food we serve, the menus I create, it’s driven by what the residents want,” Samus said. “While I enjoy the creativity of cooking for enjoyment, here I’m cooking for the residents. I do it for them.”
Samus spends time with the residents and his menus reflect that. “I don’t confine myself to the kitchen,” he said. “I sit down and talk with the residents, and even join them for meals as often as I can. I ask them about their lives prior to when they stopped cooking. I find out what they like as well as what they need. I use all of their wonderful ideas to come up with my menus.”
“Jon is such a pleasure to work with, it warms my heart to see the relationship between him and our residents — the hugs and smiles are endless!” said Sales Director Catt Babinski. “He truly cares about their health as well. Jon maintains that delicate balance of keeping them happy while providing healthy options that taste good and still follow any special diets.
Cypress Court has two kinds of menus, a daily specials menu and an all-day dining menu. “We offer three daily specials for lunch and three for dinner,” Samus said. “We have an option of poultry, fish, or red meat which changes daily. Our all-day menu features 30 items that range from sandwiches and paninis, to flat iron prime steak and fried chicken. We also offer vegetarian, gluten-free, and texture modified options when necessary.”
What’s the most popular menu item at Cypress Court? “Hands down it’s the prime rib,” Samus said. “The residents love their prime rib. Another favorite is the chicken dumplings. I like to provide home-style cooking.”
When it comes to the holidays, Samus said he finds it’s really important to the residents that their families and friends come to feast and enjoy it. “We want to make sure our residents take pride in where they live, and food is a big part of that,” Samus said. “We offer extensive holiday menus and Thanksgiving and Mother’s Day are two of our most popular days. We really up the ante with carving stations, live cooking displays, salmon, and nearly any side dish you can think of. We collect suggestions from our residents and really try to work all of their desires into those menus.”
The Dining Services Program is just one area of life at Cypress Court in which the residents’ wants and needs are addressed. “We follow what our residents want to eat,” Samus said. “By doing that, we create a home-like community. We have happier residents and create the best experience possible for our seniors.”
Cypress Court is located at 1255 North Broadway in Escondido. For more information, visit http://www.lifeatcypresscourt.com or call (760) 747-1940.
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