At Glenaire, the quality of dining has always set a high standard. Nicholas Oates, Glenaire’s new senior director of dining, has set his sights on raising the bar even higher for residents today and well into the future.
The challenge, Nicholas admits, is ensuring that the dining experiences reflect the culture and tastes of the community, as well as provide opportunities to evolve to meet the demands of residents now and in the future.
Once the expansion and renovations are completed, residents will have six different dining venues to enjoy, each with its own distinct flavor and character — and each delivering a high level of quality. What excites Nicholas about these venues is the range and caliber of food that Glenaire will have to offer.
“It’s just going to be outstanding,” says Nicholas. “We’re coming up with ways to deliver on not just regional favorites but also broaden that horizon a bit.”
Not a small task, especially in the midst of a pandemic. However, since starting in August, Nicholas has spent a good bit of the first several months in his new role meeting with and listening to residents. Whether individually or in committees, he welcomes the opportunities he has to better understand the needs and desires of the residents.
But it’s not just their appetites, likes and dislikes that are important. It’s the experiences and flavors that make Glenaire unique that Nicholas believes must be respected and brought forward as the community adds new dining options to its tradition of delicious, healthful cuisine.
In addition, Glenaire is now able to reap the benefits of Morrison Living’s initiatives regarding sustainably sourced, local ingredients. This means greater access to local and regional products than what the community would be able to source on its own.
For example, soon residents will see the debut of the community’s very own Glenaire Blend coffee created by Raleigh’s Carolina Coffee Roasters. Visitors will even be able to purchase bags of the blend in the Glenaire gift shop.
For Nicholas, he knows there’s still much work to do. And he is committed to building relationships with the residents and appreciates the support of so many who have reached out to him since he started.
“Glenaire is definitely unique in how engaged and involved the residents are… I’ve met some really great personalities who have been really loving and supportive,” he says. “I’ve been blessed.”
Looking ahead to when the new dining venues are open, Nicholas adds, enthusiastically, “I want (residents’) families and friends to come and see what we’re doing here. I would be willing to compete with any restaurant in this area with the quality of what we’re doing.”
Nicholas’ culinary journey started early on in life. His father was a U.S. Army Ranger, which meant his family spent much of Nicholas’ younger years living in different parts of the country as well as abroad. This experience contributed to the appreciation he has today for a broad range of cultures and cuisine.
After graduating from Johnson and Wales University, one of the top culinary schools in the country, he built a career in the kitchens of AAA Four and Five Diamond hotels. After getting married and having children, though, Nicholas felt drawn to take his talents and experience in a different direction that would allow him more time with his growing family and provide him greater personal growth.
He found that direction working as executive chef in a variety of settings, including CCRCs, ultimately becoming executive director of dining at James Madison University. He eventually found his way to Morrison Living and the residents of Glenaire.
“What drew me to my work at CCRCs was working with a nonprofit where the focus is on quality and the residents,” he adds. “There’s a lot of sunshine in these people.”