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Oak Crest Executive Chef Embraces Maryland Roots

March 5, 2019

Parkville, Maryland—For most teenagers, a trip to Ocean City is not the launch of a career.  But for Joe Bollinger, part-time jobs at Maryland's iconic summer destination inspired his life's profession.

"Starting at age 14, I prep cooked for six years at various restaurants there," recalled Chef Joe, the Executive Chef at Oak Crest, a retirement community developed and managed by Erickson Living.  "I worked for some very talented people in those kitchens."

As the youngest of six children, he was also influenced by watching his father.  "My Dad was a hunter, and I remember him preparing many wild game dinners," noted Chef Joe.

With the encouragement of his wife, Daria, he received his culinary training at Baltimore International College (now Stratford University).  He would then work at well-known local restaurants and caterers such as La Fontaine Bleue, Pacifica, Baron's 200, Harvey's and Charles Levine Caterers.

In 2008, Chef Joe began his career at Oak Crest and appreciates the daily opportunity to provide healthy, cook-to-order meals for residents, employees and guests.

The Power of Team

"Our menu has 25 entrees and changes quarterly based on the season.  We also offer daily specials using fresh ingredients," said Chef Joe.  "This means that our culinary professionals need to be up-to-speed and engaged as we prepare every day."

Training and mentorship are key components for providing a high-quality restaurant experience.  "I really love watching the cooks develop their talent in the kitchen," said Chef Joe.  "Through the years, I've learned as much from them as I hope they have from me because we encourage innovation."

For example, Chef Joe leads training sessions with the line cooks on specialized topics such as technique, preparation, nutrition and kitchen standards.  "These are not only informative, but also fun, especially as we explore different cooking methods," he said.  

Culinary Events

Residents of Oak Crest delight in entrees cooked-to-order in seven distinctive dining venues from formal to casual and even outdoors.  Additionally, there are themed-events and holiday-inspired celebrations to be enjoyed.

"The special occasions truly ramp the creative juices of our team.  Whether it's a Valentine's dinner menu, a stir fry station or planning the theme for the annual gala, we have a passion for making our residents happy at mealtime," stated Chef Joe.

Resident Partnerships

Carol Ann Ruth, a resident of Oak Crest for nearly six years, is a retired educator from Baltimore County.  She serves as a member of the Dining Services Committee for the Fireside Restaurant, an advisory group that provides consistent feedback to the dining team leadership.

"Teamwork is the essence of accomplishing wonderful things, and we find Chef Joe to be available and open to suggestions," described Ms. Ruth.  "He is also so very talented in creating menus that accentuate variety."

Along with her friend and fellow resident, John Gregory, she is taking advantage of all the venues at Oak Crest, particularly the new 1812 that features small-plate appetizers in a pub-like setting.  "We share several appetizers and always leave full," noted Ms. Ruth.  "In fact, we go out to eat less because of the diversity and value we like at Oak Crest."

Work-Life Balance 

The restaurant business can be grueling for cooks and managers alike with long hours and job burnout a common trend.  In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that the annual employee turnover rate in the industry was 73 percent as recently as 2016.

Chef Joe is enjoying a different perspective at Oak Crest.  "During my first month here, I had a weekend off, and my family asked 'what are you doing at home?'  With two children, working at Oak Crest allowed to be a good husband and dad.  I was able to attend sporting events with the kids, attend school functions and enjoy cooking a meal with my wife.  This would be hard to do with an unpredictable restaurant schedule," he noted.

For more information about career opportunities at Oak Crest, please visit  Visitors can register for email alerts about job postings by field of expertise and location.

About Oak Crest: Oak Crest, situated on a scenic 87-acre campus in Parkville, Maryland, is one of 20 continuing care retirement communities developed and managed by Erickson Living®.  The community is home to 2,100 residents who are supported by a team of more than 1,250 employees.  Additional information about Oak Crest can be found at