Chef Shane Bowyer, Dining Director, brings his culinary and hospitality expertise to life at The Lakeside at Amelia Island. Professionally trained at the Ritz Carlton in Germany, Chef Shane talks to us about his passion for resort-worthy meals and what it takes to pursue a career in senior dining.

Video Transcript

 - Well, hey everybody. Welcome to Senior Living Live. My name is Chris and I'm joined here today with Shane who is the Dining Director at the Lakeside at Amelia Island. How you doing today, Shane?

- Doing great, thank you.

- Yeah, thanks for joining us. So why don't we just get right into it. Your role as a dining director here. What led you to working here at the Lakeside?

- Oh, wow. I didn't know I was gonna be in senior living, actually, let's say. Well I started cooking when I was 18 years old and just kind of making my way through the restaurants and ended up in Germany. Did culinary school in Germany.

- Oh, wow.

- At the Ritz Carlton there. And then I transferred from Germany to here, the Ritz Carlton on Amelia Island And just moving my way up and right before Covid hit I was, you know, I had this mindset of what I want to do. I was there for 15 years and what's my next step? And so I had an opportunity to run a restaurant locally here and Covid hit. So I opened my expansions of what's my next step? And that was going to the hospital down in Jacksonville and applied there at the St. Vincent's. And that got me, I think that's what got me into senior living.

- Kind of opened your eyes a little bit.

- Opened my eyes up to the different hospitality. And after a year being in St. Vincent's Hospital, having that background of healthcare gave me the opportunity to move here when there was an open position as the executive chef. So I came here and then a year and a half later had the opportunity to become the dining director.

- Okay. So, yeah. So that is interesting to me because you've got the background in the hospitality side the Ritz Carlton, and then restaurants and then hospitals and how are those three areas different from a dining perspective?

- Wow. It all kind of collaborates as the same as like, this just depends on what you're doing is like if it's a banqueting or a restaurant type of dining. Here is you both worlds. It's kind of like actually like you're on a cruise ship with serving the same people, right? And you get to know the person a little bit more than when you would in a restaurant that just come and go. So here we're doing like, kind of like a banqueting style set as well but with a restaurant service. So we will still do like the bread and butter service, your beverage. And then they put the order into our Lavu system just like a restaurant would. But then we're creating like a more of a banquet style as we deliver the food. So it's, yeah, a little bit of both worlds.

- So you have to banquet style in the sense that you have to be ready to serve hot food to a bunch of people. Kind of the same time.

- Yeah, it's kind of a set when we have our à la carte they can choose the à la carte anytime but then we also have our specials of the day which are very popular. And that's more of that banquet style setting is, yeah.

- So here at the Lakeside we've got independent living and then assisted living and memory care. What does that look like for you from a culinary standpoint and in the kitchen?

- Yes, it's a little bit different than restaurants because you're dealing with different preferences as in senior living than you would at a resort. You know, we have our dining with dignity where there's residents that need to more mobility with their hands rather than using a fork and a knife. That you don't find anywhere else. We have purees for dietary needs that people that are difficult swallowing. We have the mechanical, which is that kind of falls into the same aspect. We deal with other preferences rather than just allergies, you know, the allergies we have all over, we kind of make sure that the resident is taken care of either if it is an IL or AL or memory care. If they need their food chopped then we're gonna make sure that they have that done for them. So it kind of gives them a more warm feeling that they're being taken care of rather than they're not able to do something. It's kind of already done.

- And then people at this, maybe even at the same table who may have different needs or diets or whatever, they can still enjoy the same type of dining.

- Same dining experience.

- Experience. Okay. So, you know, people move into a senior living community and they've enjoyed the same food at home over the years. Everybody's got preferences, we've got people here from you know, the northeast of the country. We've got people from the south, you know, all over. How do you deal and your team deal with all these different preferences and styles and desires.

- It's definitely a communication thing and sometimes it's hard to get it out of 'em, but once start, you know, communicate more with the resident and see what their preferences are, and like you're saying the ones that from up north, they're like why can't we get some, we do a fresh fish program. So it's the locals are very familiar with Mahi or Snapper, Grouper but the from up north, they want where's the cod, where's the haddock? You know, so, but we don't know that unless we communicate with them. So I'm always grabbing their preferences and trying to incorporate it into the menus.

- Sounds like that's a big part of your job is listening to...

- Listening. Definitely.

- What the residents need. Okay. Okay. What would you say is the best part of your job working here?

- Well, no, I love every aspect of being, like coming from the kitchen executive chef and more as the dining director, I get a lot more feedback from the residents because I'm more open. I'm moving around a lot more. A lot more in the dining room more outside and passing by through in the hallways seeing how their dinner was as the executive chef I was always out there, but it was sometimes they just felt like they didn't want to complain to me they didn't want to complain to the chef. So as the dining director, I think they feel more open to share their concerns or things or their feedback from the dinner.

- Because as the dining director you're sort of responsible for everything.

- Yes.

- Not just the, the food side of it.

- Right.

- Okay. And then, you know, health is certainly a concern for people, seniors maybe who have high blood pressure. They're dealing with, you know, they can't have too much salt and sugars for diabetics, things like that. How do you balance those needs with keeping flavors and people's desires intact?

- Well, for one, we try to refrain from adding any like any extra salt or, you know, sodium to any of the dishes, low sodium soy sauce, low sodium bases. But you know, we're just using fresh ingredients, fresh herbs and that brings a lot of flavor to the dish initially. But then they have the option on the tables to season more if they like to their preference, right? So there's always that option for them to add a little bit more salt or pepper or anything like that to the dish if they'd like.

- So they can still enjoy...

- They still, yeah.

- Dinner as they want.

- Yeah. And a lot are very, they're sensitive to some. They taste bacon, right? But anything other than that, it's like they don't really get any of that sodium 'cause it's bacon's such high sodium. So we try to make sure that we don't do any extra additives to that because their pallets a lot different than ours.

- 'Cause as you age, there's changes there.

- Yeah. Yeah.

- Okay. Okay. All right. Well I guess my final question for you is that we have a lot of people who would be watching this who may be considering a career in senior living maybe in dining or what have you. What advice would you have for them as someone who's worked for several years outside of senior living and now here you are for a few. What would you tell people?

- Well, I think this career choice was, it was a long one, but now I'm in a place where I've realized that hospitality is hospitality. If you're in this career and you love taking care of people and making people happy through nutrition, just being one-on-one with them, this gave me an opportunity to have a balanced life and still work in something that I love to do. So I recommend it to anyone. We have on the job training where if you, I recommend that we have a Ruby program to where if you haven't had an opportunity to get certified and hands-on job training that we can put you through a culinary program and actually have you certified as a cook and then can kind of bring you up from there and see if that's the path you'd like to take. Yeah. I'd totally recommend it.

- Yeah that training. And so that's great. So someone could, who maybe is interested in culinary arts or what have you, could come in with very little experience or no experience and then learn on the job and...

- Absolutely.

- Really move up in that way. That's great. Well thank you so much for joining us today, Shane. And thank you all for joining us at home. So if you wanna see more interviews like this with Shane we've got plenty of others at You can learn more about senior living. Learn more about careers in senior living and we just answer a lot of questions there. So be sure to check that out and subscribe so you can see whenever we have new videos posted. But for Shane and I'm Chris, have a great day.

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