When it comes to the ultimate dining experience, consumers today are looking for the next best meal where the food is not only good to eat but Instagram approved. It might come as a surprise to find Plano’s best-kept dining secret is at The Legacy Willow Bend, Plano’s only life care retirement community, where the dining team has fostered an overall experience by catering to residents’ preferred tastes and desires. Since the senior living community opened its doors 10 years ago, dining services has provided modern restaurant-style dining that only recently has found its way into the rest of the senior living industry. While it might seem standard to offer such services, The Legacy Willow Bend takes accommodation to the next level, knowing that residents are used to five-star dining and expect high-quality service. In addition, the dining staff works to meet requests from residents, even going so far as a trip to the local grocery store for ingredients. Such accommodations are rare, even in comparison to the restaurant industry where substitutions are seen as an annoyance. According to Mark Brown, director of dining services at The Legacy Willow Bend, this attention to residents’ dietary preferences is only the beginning of the community’s philosophy and much goes into ensuring each resident’s needs are met.

“From the very beginning, our philosophy has been to cater to our resident’s individually by getting to know what they want from their dining experience,” said Brown. “We make it a priority to customize our offerings for each resident by creating memorable and delectable dining options. Personal requests are always answered, and we work to give those requests recognition. For instance, a resident came in regularly and asked for a custom salad during lunch. Other residents started requesting the same salad, so we made it a permanent staple on the menu and named it after the resident who created it. The residents make the rules when it comes to our kitchen.”

Such attention to diners’ tastes has greatly influenced the dining team and how they create meals that provide a delightful experience while infusing fresh and nutritious ingredients. The kitchen is well-known among residents for combining fresh fruits and vegetables with hearty meats that, when paired correctly, offer quality flavors with a nutritious twist. Brown and his team focus on the perfect balance. The dining team, led by the community’s new executive chef Roberto Madrid, designs its menus to cater to all palates, allowing for residents to make the final decision.

With an extensive background in the restaurant and hospitality industries, Madrid has the experience and understanding of what’s required to assure that The Legacy Willow Bend’s high expectations for fine dining is maintained. Madrid’s experience has varied throughout his career, having learned about the quality demanded in hospitality-centered dining at Westin Kierland Resort and Villas, as well as the speed required in the restaurant industry as executive chef of the Sumo Maya in Scottsdale. Additionally, he brings with him extensive knowledge about dining services in North Texas after overseeing operations for Big Beat Dallas and from running his own business, Culinart LLC. At The Legacy Willow Bend, food is more than something to be had, it is an experience, and Madrid’s background will allow him to continue to meet this expectation.

“If our residents request a vegan meal, we’re going to make that happen,” said Brown, “We believe in providing variety that allows everyone choice and promotes healthy habits. One side of our menu changes daily, while the other changes quarterly. We accommodate off-the-menu requests as well. We believe it’s all about being open to what the resident wants and making the overall dining experience special.” 

One of the most important aspects of dining at The Legacy Willow Bend focuses on the community’s commitment to the Jewish faith. As a Jewish-sponsored community, The Legacy Willow Bend believes the importance of observing Jewish traditions, and that includes traditional meals. In addition, the community also provides kosher dining, with an entirely separate kitchen for kosher meal prep. Food is a reminder of who we are and where we come from, and the dining team believes in highlighting tradition. Emphasis is also placed on the importance of family and community, with weekly Sunday brunch provided for residents and their loved ones to gather and enjoy a buffet of delicious offerings. The menu also features fresh breads and desserts made daily by the community’s in-house bakery and pastry chef. Residents also have the ability to book the private dining room where they can host family meals for any occasion, with various options available for catering the event. Whether it’s family-style dining or a four-course meal, the dining team will meet each resident’s wishes.

“Food provides a sense of comfort and familiarity associated with memories of the people we love and where we’ve been,” said Laura Levy, executive director of The Legacy Willow Bend. “We want residents to know this is their home, and they can have those types of experiences whenever they want. We do not have many limitations here at The Legacy Willow Bend, our job is to go above and beyond to ensure our residents have a meal that leaves them satisfied. Our staff is trained with hospitality in mind and believes in delivering excellence and superior service every day.”

“At The Legacy Senior Communities, we strive for excellence in all areas of care and service, and the dining program at The Legacy Willow Bend is a prime example of that philosophy,” said Melissa Orth, president and CEO of The Legacy Senior Communities. “When looking at dining, we don’t hold ourselves to the industry standard, we hold ourselves to our own high standards to match the expectations of those we serve. The kitchen is often the heart of a household, and we’re proud to offer residents delicious dining that inspires personal connections and conversations each day. We will certainly infuse this same focus and standard for excellence in dining at our new community under development, The Legacy Midtown Park.”

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