The Face of Cassia

Chef Ricco smiles for the camera

Hospitality to Healthcare: Behind-The-Scenes with our Executive Chefs

We are excited to introduce our new Q&A series at Cassia, dedicated to showcasing our talented executive chefs who transitioned from the bustling world of hospitality to the impactful realm of healthcare.

In this installment, we have the privilege of featuring Chef Ricco, the distinguished director of culinary services at Regent at Burnsville in Burnsville, MN. Dive into the culinary journey as we explore his passion, expertise and the unique fulfillment he finds in the healthcare industry.

A: “I don’t think one specific thing made me want to be a chef. I knew I couldn’t sit still long enough for a desk job. My Grandma and Great Aunt were both great cooks so being around them growing up was a big inspiration for me to pursue a career as being a chef. My father was the first person I remember that suggested to me that maybe I should be a chef. 

From that point forward, I did nothing but put myself in a position to obtain the knowledge to be a great chef. I went to the Art Institutes International at 17 years old and graduated at 19 years old. My education allowed me to get into one of the most exclusive country clubs in the state and the opportunity to work under one of the most talented chefs in the state Jon Boetel.  I worked there for 10 years while obtaining my first sous chef position and had the opportunity to work the 2002 Solhiem Cup and 2008 Women’s U.S. open.

A: In 2011 I was hired at The Regent to be the assistant food service director. For the last 10 years I have been the director of culinary services.

A: My wife and I have 2 boys, and in 2011 my oldest was turning 4 and my youngest was just born. I had been doing this business long enough to see the toll it can take on being a present father and husband working long hours, late nights and weekends. 

It was a big move for me at the time since I wasn’t struggling at all with my current job and had a lot of career options I could have taken. If I’m really being honest I didn’t know if I was going to like this business at all. I just knew I wanted to set my life up in a way so I could be the best father and husband I could be while still being a chef. 

A: The hours are the biggest thing for me. I don’t really work past 6 p.m. and have Fridays and Saturdays off. The workload as well is more controlled. Also, adding the whole healthcare piece to cooking, leaning new terminology and understating Alzheimer’s and dementia. 

A: Most of my server team is under the age of 18, so being a mentor to the youth has been a big unexpected opportunity that I have truly enjoyed. I get them many times at 15 years old, so I get to watch them grow up and go to college. I just try to point them in the right direction with sage advice I wish someone had told me at their age. I also think working in senior living is a humbling experience that has made me more understanding of my own life and how I want it to be lived.  

A: This is always a tough question for chefs as I think if you are truly passionate about food your specialty is ever changing. I like to think my specialty is exceeding expectations consistently. 

A: I meet with the residents monthly at “Dishing n’ Dining” which is an opportunity for the residents to have a voice in the planning of the menus, voice concerns and talk about what is working. I’m not trying to shove my favorite menu items at them, but rather give them some say on what direction the menu should go. 

A: I would love to send a shout out to everyone on the extremely talented team at The Regent but specifically Jodi Chan, the activities director and myself have been working together for quite some time now, and it’s safe to say at this point it shows. 

We really try to push what can be done in a senior community. Whether it be ice carvings and crab legs for the tree festival, roasting a whole pig for our summer picnic or surf and turf for our volunteer dinner, I know I have a partner in her that is taking the actives side to the same level.”

Thank you, Chef Ricco, for everything you have done for our residents, their families and our staff at The Regent!