Iron Chef competition yields laughter and smiles at Windy Hill Village

Chad Evans carefully cuts mushrooms during the “Iron Chef Cooking Competition” at Windy Hill Village on Tuesday, April 5, 2016. Evans, Windy Hill Village’s executive director, teamed up with one of the center’s chefs to make a pork dish.
Chad Evans carefully cuts mushrooms during the “Iron Chef Cooking Competition” at Windy Hill Village on Tuesday, April 5, 2016. Evans, Windy Hill Village’s executive director, teamed up with one of the center’s chefs to make a pork dish.

Residents at Windy Hill Village in Philipsburg joined together Tuesday for an afternoon of laughter, smiles and companionship.

For the first time, Windy Hill staff hosted their own “Iron Chef” competition. More than half of the community’s residents attended the event.

Four chefs from Cura Hospitality participated in the competition, including Keven Shedlock, who prepared a tender, pink in the center, roast tenderloin with a demi-glace sauce. Shedlock paired the tenderloin with creamy red-skinned mashed potatoes.

Shedlock was up against fierce competition.

Chefs Chad Evans and Mike Russell worked together to prepare three plates of pork Marsala, siding them next to a bed of snow peas and rice.

Finally, chef Jeff Kline made his very own tomato sauce, which he used on top of a crispy, yet juicy piece of chicken Parmesan. While the entire audience witnessed Kline make his sauce, the other chefs repeatedly made claims that they saw a bottle of Ragu in the kitchen, feet away from the community room.

The inference that Kline might have cheated on his sauce drew laughter and smiles from the audience, most sitting only inches away from one another, comfortably in their wheelchairs.

While the chefs worked away, smells of tomato, sauteed mushrooms, onions and tenderloin permeated the community room, while guests were entertained by the center’s chaplain, Mary Jo Bruinooge.

Bruinooge’s jokes drew eruptions of laughter from the audience.

“It’s just good to see the smiles on their faces and that they’re enjoying it,” Bruinooge said.

“One of the things we believe here is just because someone is living in a continuing care retirement community does not mean that life stops. No matter what the age, there is still much more to do,” Bruinooge said. “There are new things to try. For a lot of the residents we serve, many of them don’t remember well so this is an opportunity for them to be in the here and now.”

Bruinooge said, “Learning never stops, so there is always new things to try. Here we don’t say no we can’t, we say how can we?”

Guests also participated in a question and answer session with the center’s dietician, Anita Borge.

Borge asked residents nutrition-based questions regarding mineral content and caloric intake.

“If you eat 100 additional calories every day for a year, which is close to half a candy bar, do you think it’s true or false that you’ll gain 10 pounds by the end of the year?” asked Borge.

While many shouted out true and others shouted out false, the engagement was reminiscent of an exchange between a professor and students in a college classroom.

“True,” said Borge as she attempted to stress the importance of good nutrition, diet and exercise.

“We are a masterpiece living community, focusing on the spiritual, social, intellectual and physical, because that’s who we are. We try to focus on those four components of well-being. We find a way to engage and make things happen,” said Bruinooge.

Forty-five minutes of cooking ended with a 10-second countdown.

Two of the judges, Bob Mattern and Cliff Kennedy, both residents of the center, said they struggled with making their selections because everything tasted good.

They were given a set of criteria for judging the food — most importantly, taste.

“I really liked the chicken Parmesan,” said Mattern. “And now my wife, Ruth, doesn’t have to cook when we go home.”

Everyone at the competition had the opportunity to sample a plate of food Tuesday.

Paul Reed, who’s been living at the center for seven years and is in charge of planting flowers and growing herbs in the community garden, said he enjoyed the tenderloin the best.

“I take care of all the flowers and plants when they are in season, I’m going to grow some chives, oregano, parsley, onions and also sage and quite a few other herbs as it gets warmer,” said Reed.

Reed, who’s wheelchair bound and undergoes dialysis weekly, said the competition was wonderful. “It brought smiles to many faces and I got to see a lot of people smiling here. It was just a fun time.”

As residents poured out of the community center and down the hallways back to their rooms many smiled at one another, while others stayed in the hallways, laughing about the competition.

“It was good to see the residents having a good time. It’s something different, not as serious as the number of other more serious things they face,” said Stephanie Adams, an administrator in training at the center.

Jalelah Ahmed: 814-231-4631, @jalelahahmed