John Madison, Chef
Dellwood Gardens Assisted Living & Memory Care, Saint Paul
From Delta to Dellwood
In 2012 after 20 years (one heckuva run in foodservice) overseeing several corporate dining facilities for Delta (Northwest) Airlines’ employees, consolidation found its way in – and John found he was “out”. Though big foodservice is always looking for experienced talent, John saw the little cook position at the under-new-management Dellwood in a different light. Given his contact with senior care at the time through his in-laws’ experience he recognized an opportunity to make an impact on lives.
Love Scratch Cooking, Love People
“When I came in, the kitchen was stocked with little more than frozen heat and serve products. But three months later the Dietary Director quit. I accepted the position and switched it over to all scratch cooking.” John began. “Tim and Rich, the owners, supported the move and that is the way it has remained.”
Dellwood only had 12 residents when John began running the kitchen. It was just him, one cook and a couple of servers. Today it’s 90 residents, 4 cooks and 8 servers all with between two and seven years of service under John. He leads by allowing fun so long as the work gets done well.
Serving People as Much as Serving Food
“Dellwood residents are a special breed. They are straight forward, so we keep it real.” John explained. Mentoring his staff to relate to residents genuinely and with dignity is key to John. He and his crew are all in on contributing to the culture of respect at Dellwood.
Every second Wednesday of the month John holds Coffee with the Chef. He involves his staff in the listening. He mentors them to conduct themselves with open minds and open ears saying “Don’t get defensive. Just go back and work it out.”
“I want to make residents smile!”
The heat-and-serve has never returned under John’s 10-year watch. “The availability challenges of the pandemic have made maintaining quality a challenge but our owners have supported my budget in keeping the bar high!” John smiled.
It is breakfast to order every morning. For everyone! Home-made soup is served daily at lunch and there are always two desserts to choose from at dinner. They grow, harvest, and cook their own vegetables as much as possible in the season. And the menu rotation is 6 weeks long to avoid the broken record effect.
Personal attention is paramount for John. He lets residents choose the special to be served to the community on their birthday. He also explained “We learn what each resident likes and deliver that individual attention whenever possible. John recalled “Once this woman, who I knew had a good sense of humor, asked for “small” pancakes and ham & mushroom omelet. So, when she received my two quarter-sized pancakes and half-dollar sized omelet we could hear her laughing all the way back in the kitchen!”
“John brings our focus of quality care through customer service to the forefront in everything he does. His passion for food, residents and staff always shines through!”
~Lindsay Schmidt, LALD | Director of Marketing & Hospitality