Scott Meldahl takes his cooking very seriously. He is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Minneapolis. He’s been master of the kitchen in some of Minnesota’s most popular restaurants. And he has his sights set on becoming a contestant on Chopped, the hit reality competition show on the Food Network.

But most importantly, Meldahl is the chef at Pioneer Care in Fergus Falls, serving up meals that are made mostly from scratch, using fresh local ingredients. This might come as surprise to people who have misconceptions about the food at a senior living community. Boring and bland? Absolutely not.

Scott was kind enough to share more about how he is leading the charge for high quality dining experience for the older adults he serves:

Scott Meldahl, chef at PioneerCare

What made you decide to learn to be a chef?
When I was 15, I had my first job and it was in a restaurant washing dishes. Eventually as I was able to learn the cooking side, I grew to take great pride in being able to make a customer’s day, even if it was for only a half-hour, by giving them a delicious meal.

It was that feeling of providing a bright spot in someone’s day, that creating of a memory that drove me to grow my skills and push forward in this career choice.

How did you end up at PioneerCare?
Two years ago, my wife had finished her Master’s degree and we were in Duluth at the time. A job opened up over in Fergus Falls, so we decided to check out this side of the state and moved.

One day I was looking for work, and there was an ad for PioneerCare, I had a 2+ hour interview and that sealed it for me, I knew there was a reason I was brought here.

I bet there are a lot of misconceptions about what the food is like at a senior living community.
I truly hope that the misconceptions are changing! I think many people think of hospital food when it comes to senior living. More often than not, eyes widen a bit and smiles grow a bit more when people hear about the food we provide and the lengths we go to provide a great quality product utilizing as much fresh local product as possible.

It isn’t easy and we work very hard to do as much scratch food as possible, but I think that knowing and being able to tell someone exactly what is in the food that they are eating is extremely important.

With all the emphasis on childhood obesity and the foods that schools are serving, I believe we should also be exploring what goes into the foods our aging community is being served when they move into senior housing. Fresh and natural is always better and should be our goal.

Would you be willing to share a recipe?
Of course I would! Here’s a recipe for BBQ Brisket. {Warning, this will feed a lot of people! You’ll want to adjust the recipe for a smaller crowd.}

How is it different (or not different) being the chef at PioneerCare vs. at some of the other restaurants you’ve worked in?
Comparing PioneerCare to restaurants is tough, because in some ways, they are so very different. We have one main choice for each meal (plus an alternate choice), so you know right away that not everyone will always be pleased, and that is sometimes difficult to deal with.

You still strive for every meal to make your customer base happy no matter where you work, but they are living here, so you are cooking basically in the people’s home. I think that brings an added pressure that isn’t there when people are coming to your establishment to eat. It feels at times that roles are almost reversed.

It is a thrilling experience, one that I wouldn’t change.

Thank you, Scott, for taking time to share your story with Aging Services – and for all you do serve older adults!