Carl Dudley - National Director, Culinary Services

I have been working in senior housing since 1982, before the term Assisted Living had even come into use. I started my culinary career in 1976 as a dishwasher. I enjoyed watching the creations that the chefs I worked with were able to produce. I had the good fortune of working in a restaurant where the two owner-chefs were graduates of the CIA. They ran their restaurant like a school, if you attended enough training sessions you could earn a position in a station. My first station was line cook and by the time I left I was their pastry chef. When I started in senior housing, it was fairly unusual to have someone working in the kitchen with a restaurant background. Most cooks were coming from skilled nursing and some from other healthcare. Due to the higher quality of food and my restaurant background, I became the lead cook fairly quickly at my first senior housing job. The department was run by a dietary manager, but the day to day production in the kitchen was pretty much my responsibility. I left after 9 years to run my first kitchen as the food services director and within 18 months I was the corporate chef, based embarrassingly on my computer skills, not cooking (however, the food coming out of my kitchen was quite good). I have spent the time since in a corporate chef position, opening over 150 assisted living communities, writing menus, producing training material, developing purchasing specifications, working with group purchasing organizations and occasionally getting to cook at major events in the communities I work with. It has been quite a career path and one that would have been difficult to plan for since I more or less had to create my position as the industry was invented. The favorite part of my job is working with the committed culinary teams at Milestone and serving the residents that trust us with their dining experience.