After lunch wraps up at The Chelsea at Greenburgh, Ann Marie Kiggins ventures outside the kitchen – her workspace – to talk to some of the residents she’s come to know as family.
She runs into Phil, who lives in Country Cottage, sitting and staring entranced at double doors that lead to the lobby.
“What are you doing, Phil?,” she asked.
“I’m the new security here,” Phil quipped, knowing all along he was waiting for a staff member to bring him to his destination.
Realizing the joke, Kiggins chuckled and waved goodbye to Phil.
“I talk to them all day long,” she said smiling, expressing the joy she finds in this part of her job.
Kiggins has worked in the culinary industry for more than 40 years, cooking in five-star restaurants, the home of a celebrity, and even for entire professional sports teams. Now the Food Services Director (FSD) at The Chelsea at Greenburgh, an Assisted Living community, Kiggins is delighted to be in an environment where she can spend personal time with the people she serves.
“I like that one-on-one where somebody comes to me, ‘oh, that was really good’ or ‘I didn’t really care for this,’” said Kiggins, adding that it makes her a better chef.
Kiggins graduated from The Culinary Institute of America and landed her first job at the Harvard Club of New York City, where she met her husband, working together in the kitchen. Six years later, she was the private chef for Eddie Murphy at his home in New Jersey. From there, she worked in a couple of restaurants, eventually starting a cake business working as a pastry chef for eight years in Mount Kisko, NY. She left to take a job at the Madison Square Garden Training Center, cooking and creating different food programs and meals for the Knicks, Rangers, and Liberty.
“Eddie was more fun making brownies with the kids and MSG there was a reason to feed them. We were fueling them, not feeding them,” she recalled.
She feels she gets the same vigor she had working for professional athletes as she does at The Chelsea, if not more. She enjoys the creative freedom, the feedback from the residents, and the passion of her staff.
“My cooks will come out from behind the line and bring out a plate of food to somebody and go out and check to see how everybody liked it,” she said. “The wait staff is amazing. They’re more entertaining to the residents than watching TV or something.”
Attention to detail is of utmost importance because of each resident’s unique diet.
“We handle all of their diet cards,” she said. “It tells us what we can and cannot give them. We don’t cook with any salt in the kitchen. Nobody has salt, and if they want a little bit they can put it on at the table. We’re trying to stick with what the doctors tell them they can have and then giving them that in a bigger and healthier version. Fresh vegetables and fresh meats. Everything’s cooked from scratch.”
Everything. From energy bars and trail mix bars, to the granola, to the cornbread. She says she’d rather make it then buy it.
“It’s like being in a restaurant here,” she beamed.
Except she gets to see the same faces on a daily basis, including watching as they fulfill living their best life.
“Their souls are filled. So, they’re happier,” said Kiggins, acknowledging that food plays a big part in the The Chelsea experience.
There’s a Food Council, held monthly between the FSD and the residents at every Chelsea community, to meet about the various needs, desires, and requirements of The Chelsea residents, as well as a discussion about continued evolution and development of the menu.
The goal, as Kiggins mentioned, is to make the residents feel like they’re home. She knows the dining room is one place that puts comfort at the forefront.
“They live for the next meal, and that’s when they gather, and that’s when it’s more social,” she said while looking out at the dining room. “You can feel the energy coming out of here.”
If you’d like to meet Chef Kiggins, taste the food in any of our communities, or have any questions about our dining services, give us a call or fill out a form and we’ll be happy to assist with any of your needs.