Chef's Corner: John Delaney Cooks Daily for 225 at Buena Vida Estates
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Chef's Corner: John Delaney Cooks Daily for 225 at Buena Vida Estates

Chefs Corner: John Delaney Cooks Daily for 225 at Buena Vida Estates

Imagine having to cook for a big family, one totaling 225, in fact — the number of residents at Buena Vida Estates. That’s where John Delaney, director of dining services, orchestrates breakfast, lunch and dinner 365 days a year.

Senior communities such as Buena Vida require a more complex approach than restaurants or resort dining facilities. Not only does everyone have their own likes and dislikes, but residents also often have health issues, and government regulations must be followed. 

“Restaurants are not held to any particular dietary guidelines, but these senior facilities are,” said nutritionist Diane Hall, owner of Balanced Senior Nutrition, or BSN Solutions. 

Chef Delaney submits all Buena Vida menus for Hall’s approval, which is based on following the USDA dietary guidelines and the call for a balanced, healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, dairy products and meats.

Delaney, who grew up in Melbourne, has the chops necessary for the demanding task. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., he has been part of the industry for 38 years.

“I started at age 16 at the Burger King on U.S. 1,” Delaney said.

He worked his way up the food chain to establishments such as the Ritz Carlton in Atlanta and Suntree Country Club before joining Buena Vida in West Melbourne 13 years ago. He has been part of the significant expansion at Buena Vida, which provides a continuum of care community that allows residents to transition seamlessly from independent to assisted living. As the facility evolved, so did the dining.

“It has expanded tremendously,” Delaney said.

Senior care facilities such as Buena Vida have also embraced evidence-based research that contests the validity of highly restrictive diets.

“Instead of providing bland, restrictive diets with little choices, Buna Vida insists on serving meals that have multiple healthy choices,” Hall said. “Just last month, Chef John was asking me about the use of nutritional yeast, or ‘nooch.’ He is so forward-minded.”

Delaney’s staff creates most courses and components from scratch. The menu aims to be plant-forward and sustainable, and residents are offered daily choices of beef, chicken or fish for protein, plus two veggies and starches and an assortment of fresh fruits. 

Plant-based protein like black bean burgers adds alternatives. Desserts are fresh-baked and include no-sugar-added options.

In addition to planning for three meals a day, Delaney also organizes the food for special events like Buena Vida’s Kentucky Derby and Valentine’s Day celebrations.

Thanks to creative culinary pros like Delaney and the guidance of nutritionists like Hall, senior facilities are meeting the demands of a new generation of residents — baby boomers with a fondness for healthy, tasty and locally sourced dining. 

“There is a lot more opportunity for creative, customer-driven menus and for more liberal and less-restrictive diets,” Hall added.

Learn More

BSN Solutions: BSNSolutions.net

Buena Vida Estates: buenavidaestates.org, 321-351-3730

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