The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) team and Rudi's Gluten-Free Bakery are helping you prep your pantry for the holidays - before the rush hits. It got us thinking - how do the foodservice professionals who have achieved GREAT Kitchens status prepare for gluten-free meal requests during the busy season?
To find out, we talked to Terry Wallace, Director of Dining Services and Life Enrichment at Sun Health Senior Living Grandview Terrace in Sun City West, Arizona, one of NFCA's GREAT Kitchens.
Q. How do you typically celebrate the holidays at Grandview Terrace? Do you host any special dinners or dining events?
A: We have a very full calendar of events for the holiday season; we have a special Christmas sit-down dinner with a special menu for gluten-free as well as for regular diets. Any special dinners we do always have a gluten-free selection.
Q. In past years, what steps have you taken to accommodate special dietary needs? Have you prepared any special meals? If so, can you give us some examples of those meals?
A: When it comes to special dietary needs we do our best to accommodate all of our residents’ needs. If a resident has a special dietary need, due to celiac disease, diabetes, etc., the chef will sit down with them and go over our menu to help them with making good choices. Our menus are designed so you can find something for just about any diet you are on.
Q. You recently earned recognition as one of NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens, meaning that your staff has been trained in gluten-free safety and you have implemented gluten-free protocols. What are your plans for offering holiday meals to gluten-free residents?
A: We make a menu for our gluten-free residents for holiday meals just as we do day-to-day.
Q. What do you think will be the most requested holiday food from your gluten-free residents? Is there a way to make that food gluten-free?
A: I’m not really sure what will be the most requested item but when we have something requested, whether it’s a holiday or not, we can usually accommodate the request. If we cannot make it in house, we can usually find a supplier who can. It seems that bread is a very popular item for the holidays.
Q. What do you consider your “must-have” ingredients for preparing gluten-free food, especially around the holidays?
A: I think more than ingredients, it’s about how the food is prepared. We can serve a lot of the same menu items to our gluten-free residents as long as they are prepared differently. Because we do not have many gluten-free residents, we will be ordering special gluten-free items already prepared, such as desserts and bread. We do make most of our dishes from scratch and have a large selection of gluten-free bases. We also have a large selection on seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables.
Q. Do you invite families to join the residents for holiday meals? If so, do you get a lot of families who participate? What do the family members think of your ability to offer meals for special dietary needs?
A: Families are always welcome at Grandview Terrace, at any time. We are an independent living community. We serve around 200 guests a month, normally, and between 400-500 guests during the holidays. Our guests have been very impressed with our gluten-free menu and our ability to help our residents with their dietary needs. We have even had some of our guests order from our gluten-free menu.
Q. The holidays can be frustrating for gluten-free individuals because so much revolves around food. Are you planning any activities that don’t involve food, or will there be gluten-free options at some of these non-dining activities?
A: We have several events that are food-free. We have a minimum of seven events during December that have no food. For example, we have musical entertainers as well as Christmas performances. The events that we have with food are usually buffet-style, and our gluten-free residents really need to worry about cross-contamination, so they opt not to eat off the buffet even if gluten-free desserts options exist. We need to be extremely careful because other foods could have come in contact with it. We also do coffee and tea socials that have no food with them. We do create specialty drinks for the holidays.
Q. Is there anything else you would like readers to know about how Grand View Terrace is preparing to meet gluten-free needs at the holidays?
A: We have a Christmas party planned for the local celiac disease support group for 50 people, and of course all food served will be gluten-free.
About Grandview Terrace
At Sun Health Senior Living’s Grandview Terrace, it’s important to us that all residents have access to a wide selection of meals, regardless of their dietary needs. In response to a growing number of residents with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity ('gluten sensitivity), Grandview Terrace offers a comprehensive, gluten-free menu that changes every week on a six-week rotation. Our menu consists of daily specials as well as a variety of items throughout the week. We are the first continuing care retirement community in Arizona that is trained by the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA).
Regarded as one of the most superb retirement destinations in the Phoenix area, Grandview Terrace in Sun City West, offers a carefree lifestyle with all the comforts, camaraderie and conveniences one could hope to find in retirement living. Residents of Grandview Terrace enjoy six distinct themed dining rooms, exercise rooms, an indoor pool and fitness center, game rooms, salon services, medical facilities and other spectacular home and entertainment amenities. In addition, they benefit from life care plans that ensure top quality health care along the way.