The community dining room shut down. The café closed its doors. During the COVID-19 quarantine, residents at a Pennsylvania retirement community got all their meals delivered to their doorsteps, where they ate at home on their own to prevent a virus outbreak.
The coronavirus put a stop to socializing around meals at The Hill at Whitemarsh in Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania. But executive chef Adam Ochs dreamed up the idea for a meal-kit service that could help residents prepare restaurant-quality food in their home kitchens and continue to feel engaged with their community.
Calling it “Green Apron” as a play on the popular Blue Apron meal-kit delivery service, Ochs put together boxes of premeasured ingredients and instructional videos to help residents navigate broiling, dicing and sautéing. The July offering featured broiled halibut with green tomato salsa, mango-stuffed crepes and homemade granola.
The goal was to provide residents with an activity to do at home, while still having interaction with Ochs. Pre-pandemic, the chef would often entertain community members with live cooking demonstrations.
"We were trying to think of ways we can engage the residents, and one of the first things I thought of were cooking demonstrations,” Ochs says. “We wanted to give them something they could do on their own at home.”
A fun quarantine break
Anne Cantor, 79, who lives at The Hill, says the Green Apron meals, which are provided for a fee, gave her a valuable morale boost during her time in quarantine. “I did it because it was something to do, and because the food was fabulous,” Cantor says. “It was something that I never would have made."
Cantor has limited trips outside her home in recent months due to health concerns and says preparing the Green Apron meal kit gave her a fun break from her usual routine. “It was like Julia Child. The chef was preparing ingredients and talking through it,” Cantor says of Ochs's instructional videos, which were broadcast on The Hill at Whitemarsh's television channel.