When you have done as much cooking as Food Services Director Ron Smith, it’s hard not to bring interesting flavors home with you. His experience in the culinary world has allowed him to develop an impressive variety of recipes that have been feeding Woodlands residents for years. When asked how he creates such diverse menus, he replied: “I’ve always enjoyed working with many different cultures and styles of food because there is nothing better than experiencing something new.”
About Food Services Director Ron
Ron has been with Woodlands for over eight years. He previously owned and operated Chili Willi’s, a Tex-Mex staple in the Huntington area for almost 30 years. He is responsible for curating the Woodlands’ rotating menus for our dining rooms as well as the newly opened on-campus bistro. Ron’s team enjoys cooking new dishes and ensuring that all of our guests can find something familiar on each day’s menu.
Ron is well-known around Huntington for his skills in both cooking and creating new culinary delights. In addition to his work with Woodlands, Ron hosts the annual Huntington ChiliFest, which initially began to promote his restaurant and has evolved into a larger festival that draws over twenty thousand cooks and attendees from a 5-state area to Huntington. The event is known for bringing a chili competition downtown and raising money for the local Ronald McDonald House charity. Ron is also a longtime parishioner at St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Huntington. He volunteers his cooking skills every summer at the Greek Festival. He loves to share his passion for Greek cuisine with others while raising some money for the church.
Bringing Flavor to Woodlands
The menus are based on many influencing factors: the seasons, important holidays, resident suggestions and personal recipes, as well as special dietary needs. Fall recipes include hearty soups, whereas summer recipes can include barbecue classics. Each menu runs on a five-week cycle and transitions as the seasons change. Meals for independent living and assisted living can vary based on resident needs. Ron’s team creates a wide range of delicious dishes, even for those with dietary restrictions. The team accommodates many different dietary restrictions, including vegetarian and diabetic diets.
“It’s important to me that we have a good variety of food items available at all times,” Ron shared. “While some people may prefer certain dishes over others (or even dislike certain dishes), it is crucial that we keep our menu as diverse as possible so everyone can enjoy their dining experience here.”
Ron and his team put a great deal of care into ensuring that everything is up-to-par with what residents like. It’s not about the dining staff’s cooking style, but rather what the residents want.
Their main priority is building good memories for residents based on the meals they love. Every month, the community hosts a birthday dinner where they treat residents to a special meal to celebrate everyone observing a birthday; and of course, there’s birthday cake for everyone.
Additionally, they host educational culinary classes for new Woodlands chefs looking to expand their cooking skills. It includes a year of study and hands-on, graded cooking. At completion, it guarantees that anyone cooking for Woodlands’ residents has been properly trained to create high-quality meals, specially designed for the residents’ tastes.
Woodlands offers a wide variety of dining options. From the casual vibe of the bistro to the “sit-down and fellowship” ambiance of the main dining rooms and everything in between, there is something for everyone’s palate. The bistro is a new addition that features more casual dishes like flatbreads and specialty sandwiches. It’s a casual spot where residents enjoy gathering for fun group lunches.
The Woodlands culinary team is committed to providing you with an exceptional experience throughout your retirement with us. Food Services Director Ron has created an abundance of variety so that there will be something for everyone’s taste buds! We’re so happy to have Ron on our team. The residents love his team’s cooking, and we know that you will too. To get a more in-depth look at our dining experience, contact us to schedule a tour today.