“The food has surprised the daylights out of me. I feel like I’m at a fancy restaurant,” said Ruth Ann Gorup. A Naperville resident, Gorup is a rehabilitation guest recovering from surgery at The Springs of Monarch Landing. The positive review is welcome but no surprise, as providing quality dining services is a top priority at The Springs. In order to ensure that guests and residents all rave about the food, Beth VanDerWal, dining manager at The Springs, has put together a dynamic staff of culinary professionals. “I have a fabulous team,” she enthused.
Jesse Navia-Head Chef/Kitchen Manager
In an unfair but natural distribution of aptitude, Jesse Navia seems to display both right and left-brained dominant traits. The left-brain talents became evident at an early age as he excelled at architecture and electronics, almost majored in engineering, and still finds himself working with computers. Fortunately for the many people who have encountered his cooking prowess, his right-brain skills won out professionally, and Navia pursued culinary arts as his profession for more than 34 years.
Fourteen years of Navia’s work experience has been with country clubs which has served him well at The Springs. “Country club clientele have high expectations for food and service, and that’s important here!” he said. His additional experience in hotels, corporate dining and health care services rounds out his expertise.
Navia said that he was pleasantly surprised by the great atmosphere and commitment to fine dining at The Springs. “It’s really upscale,” he said. Navia said that part of his job that he especially enjoys involves going to greet new guests and residents, and tell them about dining services. “I’ll explain our menus. People are always surprised at the number of choices we offer, and the fact that we’ll happily accommodate their preferences and dietary needs.”
Navia added that he is encouraged to draw on his creativity with menu items. “We’ve introduced a pasta station, cooking demonstrations and special events. Everyone’s really open to whatever ideas we have to make things more enjoyable for the residents,” he said.
Laurie Franger-Pastry Chef
“With creations including sticky buns, cinnamon rolls, red velvet cupcakes and more, Laurie Franger brings a special set of skills that beautifully compliment the inventive dining program that we’re so proud of,” said VanDerWal. “What we offer is so far above and beyond what guests and residents expect!”
Franger said that she’s loved baking for as long as she can remember. “When I was little, I was the one making pancakes and baking pies at home, not my mom.” She went on to attend pastry school at Kendall College in Chicago.
Most recently, Franger worked as a pastry chef for an oil company in North Dakota. “They had lodging for 250 workers. I worked 84 hours a week, making cookies, breads, biscuits and six different daily desserts. I loved it. It was gorgeous out there. But my family is in Elmhurst and LaGrange, and I wanted to be closer to them.”
When Franger moved back to the area, she heard about an open position at The Springs, and pursued the opportunity. “I had no idea what to expect. I’d never been in this area of the culinary field before,” she said. “I really love working here. I like working with the residents, meeting with them and chatting with them. Furthermore, I get to be creative. I experiment with sugar-free pasty items, Bundt cakes, cookies and more.
Part of Franger’s responsibilities is to prepare made-to-order breakfasts in the country kitchens in each area of The Springs. “I love that everyone gets their day started out on the right foot, having a good cup of coffee and a breakfast that they really enjoy. I hear that a lot of rehab and skilled nursing places give a choice or two for breakfast. Here, I ask, ‘how do you like your eggs? Would you like French toast or waffles?’ Each breakfast is truly made-to-order.”
As Franger is working full-time at The Springs, she is also studying to become a certified dietary manager through the University of Florida. “I’m learning more about medical nutrition and therapeutic diets,” she said. “When I’m certified, I’d like to work more with the guests one-on-one, talking about their nutrition history, preferences, appetites, etc.”
“Jesse and Laurie are part of our team that is completely committed to providing the best dining services to our guests and residents,” said VanDerWal. “Dining services is such an important part of the experience at The Springs, and we really shine!”