As soon as Jeff Whitaker walked through the front doors of CarDon & Associates’ Plainfield senior living community, Cumberland Trace, he felt right at home.
“There was such a positive vibe at Cumberland Trace right away,” he said. “Everyone seemed to be happy with what they were doing here.”
Jeff has felt comfortable in the kitchen since he was a kid, so Food Service Director was a perfect fit for him at the community. (Plus, “Chef Jeff” has a nice ring to it!)
As the oldest in a single-parent family, Jeff found himself doing a lot of cooking for himself and his siblings when he was growing up, and he grew to thrive in the heat of the kitchen. He went on to work in restaurants as a teenager, having fun flipping burgers and pancakes at A&W and Golden Bear, respectively. He also attended Warren Central High School’s two-year food service training program.
Jeff continued working in restaurants over the years and branched out into senior living communities as well, making his way to Cumberland Trace five years ago. He’s been planning and preparing delicious, nutritious meals there ever since.
One of the main aspects Jeff loves and admires about the community is the longevity among both associates and residents. He describes the CarDon company as a loyal, devoted family, and he notes a lifelong love between two particular residents.
“There’s a couple in assisted living that’s been together an entire lifetime, which fascinates me,” he said. “They’re both 105 years old, they’ve been a couple for 90 years, and they’ve known each other since they were five, as they went to school together. It’s inspiring to see people who’ve been together for that long still being in love and caring for each other the way they do. It’s similar to how CarDon has been caring for people for so many years.”
Jeff is in the midst of outdoor dining season at Cumberland Trace. In the past, he’s organized Fourth of July feasts as well as luau parties, making palm trees out of pineapples. A highlight memory for Trei Barnett, Administrator of Cumberland Trace, is when Jeff did his own research to prepare special cuisine for Eid al-Fitr, creating memories of their native homes for some associates and staff.
Among many other dishes, Jeff takes pride in his slow-cooked ribs and made-from-scratch pizzas. He is a master of desserts as well, specializing in parfaits and layer cakes.
Jeff describes these dishes as the kind of “home-cooked” meals he loves. For him, Cumberland Trace feels like home, reminding him of his childhood kitchen where he first fell in love with cooking. He’s happy to serve the residents as if they are his own family members.