Although they were strangers to each other as well as to the senior living industry, their vision and work ethic melded perfectly. The team of James (Jimmy) Blyther and Sean Curry are the new force leading Monarch Landing’s dining program. Over the course of the last couple of years, the Naperville retirement community has unveiled two completely redesigned dining venues for their residents: the Millstone Restaurant and the Riverwalk Café. Now, under the direction of Jimmy and Sean, the dining program is destined to reach luxury hospitality standards.
Jimmy, a native of London, England who has been in the U.S. for 11 years, came to fill the director of food and beverage role at Monarch Landing after a prestigious record in upscale restaurants and hotels. “Hospitality has always been a constant in my life. I love creativity, and I feed off of the energy from when people are brainstorming, and ideas are coming together,” Jimmy said. “For me, it’s all about delivering an experience. Fine dining is like putting on a Broadway show. Every meal has to stand out and be memorable.”
Sean, who lives in Naperville, has also been with luxury hotels and restaurants, both as an executive chef as well as director of food and beverages. “I’m excited to be back in the kitchen, doing what I love. Over the recent past as the director of food and beverages at Washburne Culinary and Hospitality Institute, I’ve missed the kitchen,” he said.
Neither of the culinarians had any experience in senior living and had unappealing preconceived notions. “I thought everything would be really industrial; scoop and serve fare with no salt and no flavor,” said Sean. “That was not at all the case, and in fact, not what the residents would want or accept.”
After visiting Monarch Landing and talking with the residents, Jimmy said, ”We were like kids in a candy store. We saw not only what they were already achieving in dining, but even more so, the great opportunity to do more. We’re going to serve as the new standard for senior living dining.”
“The resident-run dining committee interviewed me, and I realized that I was talking to knowledgeable, discerning people who knew what they wanted. They’re engaged, and that helps me to steer the ship,” said Sean, who added that he plans to make his mark with each resident. “We want all the residents to feel important and like they have a personal chef. I am always telling them, ‘I work for you.’” The words, ‘delicious,’ ‘fresh,’ and ‘flavorful’ pepper his conversation constantly as he talks about the upcoming fare.
The team has already ramped up the menu and streamlined service at the Riverwalk Café, which completed an extensive renovation earlier this year.
Moving forward, they are planning to incorporate more fresh entrees and seasonal foods. “I envision a chef’s garden, beehives, cooking and cocktail classes and demonstrations, special themed meals, and more,” said Sean.
Jimmy said, “We’re hospitality professionals, and we’re always striving for the best we can give. We will always work to exceed expectations.
Sean concluded, “Our vision is to be like a luxury resort.”