Meet Our Culinary Team!
Caitlin Becker, our new Executive Chef, and her colleague and culinary partner Maggie Thiel, newly promoted Manager of the Garden Café, were pretty much destined to be immersed in growing, thinking about, and preparing food. Caitlin grew up on what she calls “a mini farm,” with hay, alfalfa, pigs and ducks…and she loves to be in the dirt—garden soil to be precise.
Maggie Thiel hails from three generations of female chefs and grew up in the restaurant/catering/ bakery world from the time she was three. Her “family loved food and cooking.” She flirted with art history for a while but then came back to the world of food. “Twenty-four out of my thirty-six years have been in food,” Maggie says.
With their culinary skills and history of increasingly responsible positions in food service, each of them could command a leadership spot in any of the fine restaurants or private clubs in the greater Grand Rapids area, yet they have found their home here at Beacon Hill; and they actually even speak of it in those terms…“home.” Take the ¾ acre Beacon Hill garden, for example. It’s a shared “family” garden, with a third of it reserved for residents, staff and the Eastgate neighbors.
An early fascination with food, plus an enthusiasm for preparing it, are qualities Caitlin and Maggie share with the entire culinary team at Beacon Hill. Recently, each member of the food staff was asked what inspired them to begin a culinary career. There was a similarity of responses, as you can see:
Joey Becker-Baratta says that he has “always liked food but didn’t know how to cook before working in the Beacon Hill kitchen. I was hooked the first time I assembled a salad.” Mike DeVries “always wanted to know how to cook the correct, technical way. My wife and I grew up eating a lot of processed food and I wanted to provide my family with healthy options.” Nate Frink “fell in love with cooking when it became necessary for me to prepare meals for my family growing up.”
Others on the team were inspired by their families. Jerry Goodyke “started cooking with my mom when I was five years old and have been cooking ever since.” Jake Kurtz says his mom “inspired me to be a cook. She would have endless baked goods fresh from the oven nearly every day.” Kyle Slyter says, “cooking with my grandma was how I got started. She’s 94 now and doesn’t cook as much but she taught me a lot about cooking, including an amazing rhubarb cake.” Johnathon Craft shared, “my grandmama taught me to cook food they grew themselves. I still have the cast iron skillet she gave me—it’s over 120 years old!”
Others just love to cook, like Annie Paul: “I have always had a sweet tooth. Making sweets and sharing them with people delights me.” Lexis Van Dyke says she has enjoyed cooking “ever since I was eight years old. I attended a tech school and there really found my passion for it.”
Clearly, Beacon Hill has a dedicated team of individuals led by Caitlin and Maggie, who enjoy preparing the food that is served throughout the campus. Their dedication to their craft and to the Beacon Hill residents is evident every day…at every meal.
Caitlin and Maggie are not planning major changes to Beacon Hill’s excellent food services. “We’ve found our niche,” they both say. “Beacon Hill will continue to grow, but that targeted growth will go more smoothly with our targeted responsibilities.”
As Executive Chef, Caitlin is responsible for menu planning for the independent living, assisted living, and skilled nursing residents, as well as the Bistro. Of her new duties, Caitlin says: “My perspective has changed slightly with these new responsibilities in that the quality service and great food we provide is all about what our residents need, want and deserve. Some of our residents have stricter menus and that can be challenging, but I have fallen in love with the residents. Beacon Hill and everyone in it has become ‘family’ to me.”
Maggie is not planning any major changes to the Garden Café as she wants to continue the “farm-to-fork” philosophy. She does plan to introduce a new catering menu, plus custom menus for small, themed events…and she plans to bring out the smoker soon.
Maggie also speaks of her love for Beacon Hill. She loves the closeness with the residents, as well as visitors. “It’s such a warm, personal and appreciative environment. The gratitude comes from all levels here. We get thanks and feedback from everyone—starting with Jeff, our CEO, to the directors, managers and staff.”
Both Caitlin and Maggie are grateful for the opportunities here at Beacon Hill that allow them to keep growing personally and professionally. “We’re excited about our new roles as it provides a nice balance,” says Caitlin. Maggie adds: “The overlap we have with each other is great and the shared work volume makes it all manageable.”
We too are grateful that Caitlin and Maggie are both here at Beacon Hill, and we congratulate them on their new roles!