Beacon Hill at Eastgate Expert Series
Blessings from COVID? Well, for Beacon Hill there are certainly some and one of them is our Executive Chef – Luke Theaker. If not for the pandemic and its devastating effect on area restaurants, we may not have even met Luke, let alone hired him. Luke recounted it this way: “I had spent the previous 17 years crafting my trade as a chef but restaurants were shutting down. Everything, including my career, was up in the air.”
A close friend of Luke suggested he look at a health care setting or retirement community. Voila! Then he met Jeff Huegli, CEO and April Schaab, Administrator and Director of Operations and was “blown away” by their two-fold dedication to food and to Beacon Hill residents. “They have a very clear vision of food and dining at Beacon Hill and the vital role both play in the living experience here. We are cooking for people in their homes. My fervent hope is that the food we serve is a punctuation on a day filled with blessings.”
When asked what he enjoys most about working at Beacon Hill, Luke said there were two things. “It’s a daunting job that requires a creative process which is fun and challenging. I need that and I have it constantly.” The second thing Luke counted, was the staff. “The culinary staff here are fantastic. They make it fun and gratifying; they want to be here and work hard.”
The leadership at Beacon Hill also inspired Luke to push boundaries with regard to the meals served. They encouraged him to try more options and not be afraid of mistakes. “We regularly feed about 180 residents daily – residents with different experiences, lifestyles and food preferences.” Some are world travelers, Luke explained, who are eager to recall past adventures through the daily ethnic offerings while others enjoy progressive fine dining and yet another segment who want meals that remind them of their own home cooking or the food they grew up with.
Luke and the culinary staff are committed to providing this kind of variety every day. The Beacon Hill menus change twice a week which ensures a great array of different dishes. There are nine thoughtful dishes every night in the main dining rooms. These menus offer entrees that are both “chef-driven” and “traditional,” featuring sides that change daily. And that does not even include what’s offered in the Garden Cafe or pizza nights in the Bistro.
As the cornerstone of Beacon Hill’s signature hospitality model, the food that is provided is a critical, essential element to the kind of life residents enjoy here. Since its opening, Beacon Hill is committed to serving the freshest, highest-quality, and sustainably sourced dishes. Luke elaborated: “All our seafood comes in fresh, daily, to be served to residents that night! Even our cheeseburger patty is hand-selected and custom-blended specifically for Beacon Hill. Our vegetables are in season, farm-sourced when available and prepared freshly and simply every day. All this to provide a premier dining experience every day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year.”
Luke began working at Beacon Hill during COVID, so he doesn’t know, yet, how life will be when everything goes back to life before and, hopefully, without the disease. “While we cannot have guests and have limited capacity, we can operate almost normally; we just have to spread out more. No large parties, banquets or big family celebrations and we pivoted when it was needed to ‘to-go’ menus but in many respects, thankfully, we were able to do what we’re supposed to — provide a robust dining experience for our residents.”
That said, Luke is still cheerfully anticipating life without COVID. He is very interested to see what happens when Beacon Hill is totally open without restrictions and the effect it has on residents. “All of it wears on people,” he said. “I want to see the dynamics of the residents during normal times. I am eager to meet their families and have the opportunity to display our meals and culinary talent. I’m just so proud and happy to be here and to be part of our residents’ daily lives.”
So, does Luke feel it was a good decision to take the job? “I love it here at Beacon Hill and feel so very fortunate. Not only am I able to spend more time with my family and no longer be in the restaurant rat race, but the culture here is one I’ve never experienced before.” Luke pointed to how Jeff and the leadership team invest in their employees and move beyond a “bottom-line” perspective. “Staff want to stay, they’re devoted. We feel, valued and are proud of what we do. We are a small group and we push each other to be the best.”