For most chefs, especially those working at independent restaurants, the idea of maintaining a work-life balance is laughable. It's just not common in the industry. But when Chris Jerred discovered Erickson Senior Living, a Baltimore-based company that develops and manages senior living communities across the country, he discovered a company that holds work-life balance at a high priority.
Jerred, like some other chefs, started his culinary career as a teenage dishwasher who worked his way up as prep cook and line cook at barbecue joints and steakhouses throughout Kansas City, Mo. His schedule consisted of late nights and long days.
"Before I worked for Erickson, I was a chef at independent restaurants. In that environment there is zero work-life balance. Cedar Crest so far has been the best as far as letting their employees achieve a work-life balance," says Jerred, executive chef at Cedar Crest, an Erickson Senior Living community in Pequannock Township, New Jersey.
"We want to create an extraordinary experience for each of our team members, which, in turn, translates to extraordinary experiences for our residents," says Dining Director Paul Cimins.
Jerred started at Cedar Crest nearly four years ago as a sous chef at The Fireside, one of five restaurants on campus—a buffet. Last year, when The Overlook, the community's fine dining restaurant, reopened after renovations, Cimins asked Jerred to apply for the executive chef position. He did, and now a year later he's thriving at the helm.
One reason Jerred is so beloved on campus is his reciprocal love for the people he serves.
Aside from work-like balance, Jerred says the second best benefit of working at Cedar Crest is his interactions with residents. "I love talking to our residents. They really appreciate what we do for them," he says.
Another reason people appreciate him: the quality of food he and his team prepares.
In addition to menu variety, residents can always find staples like the roast chicken, salmon, flat iron steak, burgers, hot dogs, soups, salads, and a pasta station which offers gluten-free pasta and whole-wheat pasta for those who request substitutes.
And when they just want a quick turkey sandwich or cup of yogurt and granola for breakfast, most people enjoy those meals in their apartment homes, which are all equipped with full kitchens.
"It's great that we offer the service where they don't have to cook and clean up, but it's also very valuable that they can cook in their own apartment homes. It helps with variety," says Jerred.
Jerred and his dining services team also take the time to get to know specific dietary needs of certain residents, and they make sure the meal is prepared as needed.
"I love who I work for and who I work with," says Jerred. "This is my career. I've been doing this for 20 years, and these guys make it a joy to come into work every day."
For more information about career opportunities in senior living, please visit https://www.ericksonseniorliving.com/careers