Steve Grabkowski cooks for 'family' at Ingersoll Place

For desert he tries to work around dietary restrictions by using fresh or frozen fruit, and other sugar substitutes.

"Instead of using butter I'll use a low-fat margarine and then of course the presentation of it [is important]," said Grabkowski.

"If it's going to be for a diabetic, the presentation has to look identical to [someone with a] regular diet," said Grabkowski, which is why he uses as many fresh ingredients - including herbs and spices " in his deserts, side dishes and entrees.

"Whatever you throw to me I can try and take something out of it," said Grabkowski.

"I improvise a lot and most of my recipes are in my head but in this facility I'm working on having it all documented so that it will be consistent when I'm not here," said Grabkowski, who used to work seven days a week but has cut back to five.

Those who work at Ingersoll Place also have the option of paying for a meal plan, where they will eat the same foods that residents are served.

"I've put on ten pounds " he can do quite a bit," said Rosalyn Larrabee, marketing director for Ingersoll Place.

Residents always have two choices of entrEe at every meal, and if those choices don't fit in with what they want for dinner or lunch, Grabkowski will come up with something else " breakfast is made to order every morning, from eggs to pancakes to made-to-order omelets.

"Monday through Friday I'm cooking breakfast right in front of them," said Grabkowski who cooks in a special kitchen in Ingersoll Place's memory unit.

"They can see me making pancakes, French toast, fresh omelets made to order - it incorporates nutrition and freshness and gives a variety for the Lower West residents so you can smell the French toast, the cinnamon, the vanilla - it creates a happy aura for them because it reminds them of being home with their loved ones cooking," said Grabkowski.

He said that cooking in front of his memory-impaired residents allows him to build better relationships with them.

Ingersoll Place also offers a private dining area for residents if they want to eat there with their families or other visitors as well.

"He gives a special touch in his own way," said Larrabee.

"It's all about customer service," said Larrabee.


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