The Expositor
Brantford, Ontario


MONDAY, MAY 10, 1999

OUR 147th YEAR


At RiverView Terrace

Seniors are savouring ...

Gourmet Cuisine

Kit McDermott
Kit McDermott is a local freelance writer whose columns appear every Monday in The Expositor. Readers wishing to get in touch with Kit may leave a message at 756-2020, Ext 224, or write to her in care of The Expositor, 53 Dalhousie St., Brantford, Ontario, N3T 5S8.

The hum of voices in relaxed conversation, glasses filled from a shimmering punchbowl, along with music and song, combined to introduce a special evening at RiverView Terrace.

By invitation, I was attending one of the regular gourmet dinners hosted by the residents and staff of the elegant retirement home located on Brant Avenue.

"Itís a chance for a family and friends gathering, an evening of exceptional dining and entertainment, without the difficulties involved for some older people in going out to a restaurant," Debra Wilts, life enrichment coordinator at RiverView, told me.

Monthly gourmet dinners are featured at all four Gold River CareHomes residences in Waterloo, Kitchener, Brantford and Cambridge.

Winston Lewis, who is a master chef for RiverView Terrace and three other care homes, puts the finishing touches on a bowl of wild mushroom and smoked chicken chowder for a recent gourmet meal in Brantford.

With the reception in full swing in the spacious Heritage Hall of the renovated Victorian mansion, there was just time for greetings from Jan Gosse, new general manager at the Cambridge Home, and Margaret McClelland who was health services manager and has replaced Jan as manager in Brantford. Others welcoming guests were Greg Neid and his wife Lesleigh. They are co-owners of the group of retirement homes, along with the Hallman family of Kitchener.

There wasnít time to linger at the reception, because I was anxious for a peek in the kitchen before dinner was served. To my amazement, the scene there was one of organized chaos.

"The gourmet dinners are always a team effort." RiverView staff chef Sonya Smigelsky announced. "There are the dietary staff, volunteer helpers and our corporation chef Winston Lewis, who works out recipes and supervises preparation."

Sonya, who hails from Britain, has been a licensed chef for the past 16 years. She loves her job, and agrees with Winston that seniors should enjoy tasty, as well as healthy, meals.

She praised the numerous volunteers, who were scurrying around, setting out cooking implements, chopping and dicing ingredients, and generally making themselves useful. Winston appeared, uncorking bottles of wine, joking with the others, and promised to pose for some pictures.

"The menu for tonight starts with smoked chicken and wild mushroom chowder, followed by filet of salmon, Vera Cruz, oven roasted root vegetables and Parisienne roasted potatoes. For dessert, there will be individual strawberry meringue Pavlovas."

It sounded so promising that I hastened out of the Kitchen to allow chefs and helpers to add the final touches to the delectable food.

Residents and guests were assembling to be seated at their designated, numbered tables in the large dining rooms.

I was pleased to find myself placed beside Val Gajda, a marketing and sales executive, for Gold River CareHomes. She is enthusiastic about the idea of a gourmet dining experience with invited guests every fourth Thursday of the month.

"For just $13 per guest, residents can entertain without all the hassle of going out, getting transportation, making sure the restaurant is easily accessible, the music isnít too loud, and the food is truly appetizing

This way everything is arranged to satisfy and please, in comfortable surroundings, familiar Ė but dressed up for a celebration. "The dining room seats about 90," Val continued, and "preparations actually start on the Tuesday before the Thursday dinner."

She added, "we are so lucky to have excellent licensed chefs at all our homes, and master chef Winston Lewis travels to each one. Here he is now if you want to find out what inspires his menus."

I was savouring dessert and asked Winston what made it so light and frothy. He stressed that he doesnít incorporate cream or whole milk in his recipes, because they are difficult to digest, especially by older persons.

"I whip one or two percent milk, adding a sprinkling of cornstarch to help it bind. Iím always experimenting to come up with substitutes for foods that are too rich and I like to use fresh herbs and tropical fruits in my recipes. The Vera Cruz sauce on your salmon, for instance, was originally designed to be very spicy. I kept the tomato base, but took out the oomph, by substituting rosemary and thyme for flavour.

I recalled that sprigs of those herbs had been placed like miniature trees on the salmon fillets, in a colourful presentation of the entrťe. "I believe seniors should be able to enjoy the foods theyíve always loved, without having ill effects. I just modify my recipes for the more sensitive digestive systems." I discovered that Winston was born near Kingston, Jamaica, and came to Kitchener with his family when he was still a child. I always trailed my mother around the kitchen, asking questions and I learned to be a bachelor, before I became a married man, he told me.

Trained at George Brown and Humber colleges, Winston served his first apprenticeship at the Toronto King Street Holiday Inn. He has also worked at a number of four-star restaurants, and continued to develop his own Caribbean-style cooking.

"Itís the food thatís taking over from the Mediterranean dishes featured during the past 10 years because, as you know, food preferences come and go in cycles.

"I learned classical French cuisine, with all its rich sauces," he explained. "But mix a little 18 percent cream, boiled, add a little cornstarch, and cook down until thickened, and thatís what I use for the creamy soup."

"Theyíre still talking about that soup you served at our first gourmet dinner," Val interjected, "I think it had fruit in it.

Winston smiled, explaining that it was a peach-pear and curry soup, something he had learned from a Scottish chef he trained under at the Holiday Inn.

He belongs to the Regional Waterloo Chefs Association, and was recently honoured with an appointment to the Chefs Society of the World.

In his home, Winston has a six-drawer filing cabinet, stashed with recipes. On the subject of his skills, Winston says, this business is not rocket science. Itís food and I look on myself as being something of an artist. I like to see good food Ė it makes my day."