My long-time friend, Judy Dean, from Rolla invited me to come out to McKnight Place, where she stays now. They were having a Christmas dinner party and she wanted me to join them. Judy and I go way back. We went to clown school together and each of us still has a photo on our wall of the two of us in costume. We took clog dancing lessons together and taught in Vacation Bible School each year. Lots of memories.
Judy turned 90 last month. What she lacks in body strength today, she makes up for with a sharp mind and an indomitable spirit. As it turns out, I live less than five minutes from McKnight Place, so I drop by from time to time for the inspiration I gain.
Judy has bragged on the executive chef at McKnight for sometime, so I was eager to see what he cooked for such a variety of diets and tastes. When I attended the Christmas party, I had a chance to meet Chef Anthony Lyons as he was carving a perfectly prepared beef tenderloin for residents and their guests.
Meet Chef Anthony Lyons
Chef Lyons came on staff in 2014 with the idea of improving the menu and putting more fresh ingredients into food preparation, particularly more fresh fish and vegetables. Since then, he’s tried to stay attuned to residents’ requests. When he cooked a favorite chili recipe of one of the women, it was so popular that it’s now included on the menu weekly.
For the Christmas dinner, Chef Lyons turned up the kitchen burners to create a lavish meal. The food and setting was not too unlike what you’d have aboard a cruise ship or at a country club. The decorations were festive and the four-piece band and singers added a note of nostalgia with their rendition of the golden oldies.
The room was laid out in stations with a DYI salad bar of fresh greens, trimming, and dressings. At one end of the room was an attractively iced shrimp bar. Another area featured baked fish and chicken, a green bean and beet combo, and a melange of various colored potatoes. The dessert bar ranged from decorated Christmas cookies to individual cups of crème brûlée topped with fresh fruit.
It was a delightful evening and a reminder that meals for seniors can be tasty and appealing as well as nutritious. And music can be exhilarating. One woman with a walker swayed to the beat alongside several more energetic staffers. When I left, Judy was in her wheel chair, but still partying.