Posted: April 22, 2021

Community Life

Cooking with Krystl at Walnut Crossing

Meet our Chef

Krystl Gray, the Director of Dining Services at Walnut Crossing, has always had a passion for food. With over 15 years of experience in dishing up memorable moments through food, Krystl brings a level of creativity to every dish. After graduating Le Cordon Blue, Krystl was a chef for the Pittsburgh Steelers organization. She moved back to Ohio after her first child was born, where she ventured into opening restaurants for several companies throughout central Ohio. After her second child was born, she stayed home to care for her children. Krystl missed the interaction and creativity that working in the kitchen brings. She re-entered the workforce, where she worked for 5 years as a corperate executive chef.  She attributes her past experiences in helping her transition into the role of Director of Dining Services, where she brings creativity, professionalism, and leadership to her amazing team.

Krystl knew at a young age that she would pursue a career in culinary arts. She started cooking with her grandfather at age 5. “Working with the residents at Walnut Crossing brings me back to the days I would make homemade pasta, perogies, ribs, and Jambalaya with my Grandfather”. Cooking down-home meals that the residents love and ask for brings her back to her roots.” One of the perks of this role is creating menus that cater to the residents taste buds, just like meals my grandfather loved”.

To provide a hands-on learning and sensory experience for the residents at Walnut Crossing, Krystl created ‘Cooking with Krystl’ sessions where residents feel more involved and positive about their overall mealtime experience. When Krystl is not enjoying her time with residents, she is traveling, coaching, and spending time with her fiancé and 3 children.

Cooking with Krystl

“Cooking with Krystl” Offers Hands-On Learning to Memory Care Residents at Walnut Crossing.

The kitchen is often seen as the heart of the home, so it can be difficult for people with dementia to arrive in a community where they have little or nothing to do with cooking or spending time in a kitchen. For Walnut Crossing memory care residents, however, there is an opportunity to still get involved with cooking-related activities.

Day in and day out, Walnut Crossing’s dining partner Duet Hospitality plays a critical role in helping residents live their best lives. Duet’s Chef Krystl has implemented ‘Cooking with Krystl’ sessions that provide residents with a hands-on learning and sensory experience. They can be a powerful reminiscence tool and a way of establishing identity while helping them feel productive and purposeful.

Sessions occur twice a month and activities are usually centered on holidays, celebrations, or national foodie days like St. Patrick’s Day and National Banana Day. Activities are designed to be simple for the residents to get involved, like volunteering to help Chef Krystl whisk or stir ingredients or using recipes with minimal ingredients. Recently for National Banana Day on Wednesday, April 21, residents constructed their own banana split—where peeling the bananas and building up their choice of toppings proved to be a purposeful and rewarding activity.

Since the start of ‘Cooking with Krystl’, Walnut Crossing has seen a growing interest in attending the sessions with almost 100% of the memory care residents participating in some way. Residents share that being given these opportunities makes them feel involved and positive about their overall mealtime experience.

“To see the smile on their face and to know that I’m making a difference in residents’ lives is truly heartwarming.”

– Chef Krystl

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