At Tapestry, we encourage and support our employees to develop their skills and take on new challenges. We know that a motivated and fulfilled group of employees is better positioned to provide a warm and welcoming environment and top-notch service to our residents.
Our culinary teams are good examples of our focus on professional development and service excellence. Recently, six cooks at Tapestry at Arbutus Walk competed in a “Black Box” competition – an idea borne out of Executive Chef Valentino Pereira’s 2016 win in the Food Network’s “Chopped Canada” competition.
“The idea for the competition was about pushing the chefs to be more creative in the kitchen and to think ‘outside of the box’,” says Chef Valentino, who says he’s always happy to see his food and beverage colleagues advance in their culinary careers.
The parameters for the competition included two separate heats of three cooks at a time. The winners of those two heats then progressed to the final cook off.
Each cook was given a “black box” with four mystery ingredients and were required to use all of those ingredients in their dishes. They also had access to the full Tapestry kitchen pantry but were not allowed to use any pre-made ingredients such as sauces or dressings. The cooks also had only 30 minutes to complete and serve their dishes and could choose to make an appetizer, a main course or a dessert.
Blind judging was based equally on use of ingredients, taste and creativity/presentation. Sous Chef Chuck So judged the first round. Judging for the final round was done by Tapestry at Arbutus Walk General Manager Danielle McQueen and Eduarda Hodgins, Tapestry’s Director, Brand Experience and Tapestry employees were able to watch and cheer on the competitors.
“To be a judge and experience each dish was an absolute privilege and honour,” says Danielle. “The creativity and execution that went into each dish over such a short period of time was mind blowing. The courage of each employee to put themselves out there was as equally impressive as the food they created,” she adds.
Eduarda agrees: “To be asked to be a judge in the final round of the Black Box competition was an extra treat. I had the opportunity to sample incredible food whipped up in record time with creative ingredients that you would never think could complement one another. In my role as judge, I didn’t just taste the competing dishes, I finished every bit of food because it was all simply superb.”
After two days of competition, Rigel Ibarra emerged as the winner. Rigel, who has worked at Tapestry since March 2019, did his culinary training at Vancouver Community College and previously worked in a Vancouver restaurant and before that in a prep kitchen.
“I feel that I have become more creative working at Tapestry,” says Rigel. “We are given a lot of freedom here.”
In the first round of competition, Rigel made a pan-fried trout with a side of couscous, presented on puree of asparagus with a side salad.
For round two, Rigel admits that he heard the instructions wrong and instead of making two plates of the same dish, he made two different dishes, a main course and a dessert. For the main, he dipped into his Filipino culture and made an elevated version of the popular street food Sisig using chicken, vegetables and rice, presented on banana leaves and topped with a fried egg.
He also had time to make a chocolate souffle with blackberries for dessert, which Rigel says has simple ingredients but can be tricky due to the timing for baking—especially while working on another dish, and all in 30 minutes! “Since last year, I took some shifts where I could do more baking, and I’ve learned a lot by doing that. Chef Valentino really encourages people to go out of their comfort zone,” says Rigel.
When asked how challenging it was to create a beautiful and tasty dish in just 30 minutes from ingredients he had just seen, Rigel says he actually didn’t find it that difficult. “Chef Valentino has created the environment of wanting us to improve every day by being creative and bouncing ideas off of each other. For example, for each day’s lunch special, we come in in the morning and look in the fridge and create that day’s special based on one main ingredient,” he says.
“I am so pleased that our employees have the opportunity to do what they love and are encouraged by their Executive Chef to expand their knowledge and skills by participating in developmental programs like the ‘Black Box’ competition,” adds Eduarda. “It was wonderful to see our employees support each other and celebrate their —even if they didn’t win.”
As the winner of the Black Box competition, Rigel received a $150 gift certificate to the popular Vancouver restaurant Savio Volpe and a bottle of wine. The runner up also received a prize.
“Without our General Manager Danielle’s support we would not have been able to put on the competition as she was so encouraging and she sponsored the prizes, which made the cooks want to push even harder to win,” adds Chef Valentino.
Tapestry’s culinary experience definitely sets us apart from other senior living communities. The food and beverage teams in all our communities are truly invested in creating options that not only satisfy, but also delight our residents and guests. We continuously update our menus to incorporate seasonal produce and flavours, keeping choices fresh and interesting.
If you are considering a move to independent retirement living, please contact us. We would be pleased to offer you a taste of Tapestry by hosting you for lunch, along with a tour.