When Keith Brown came to work as a cook at Salina Presbyterian Manor in 2012, he thought it would be a short-term job until he moved away. But then he fell in love – with the woman who would become his fiance, and with working here.
Not only did Keith stay on, he became a supervisor, then completed the Certified Dietary Manager program at Barton County Community College. This spring, he was named director of dining services at Presbyterian Manor.
"This job is way more suited for what I need in my life," Keith said. "It's helped me be such a better person in general – working hard and getting what you deserve when you work hard."
Keith's life in the kitchen started when he moved back to Kansas from California in 2007 and starting working at a family friend's pizzeria. "The chef there took me under his wing, and it put that fire in me to want to work with food," he said.
He relished the fast-paced restaurant life, and it was quite a change when he came to Presbyterian Manor. But then he discovered the joys of getting to know the residents, finding ways to meet their dietary needs and learning their favorite dishes.
After Keith became a supervisor, he started bringing in more fresh ingredients to make many items in house from scratch, reducing the amount of frozen and processed foods they use. Dining services also puts on more special events like the recent steak dinner.
"One thing that was a hit is making bierocks in house," Keith said. "A good portion of people are willing to try new thing. I'll go out and talk to people and build that relationship. We'll hear their complaints and compliments take them to heart and try to change things. A good portion of items on our menu now is due to the residents' requests."
It gives the cooks a boost of confidence when residents are pleased, he added, and he encourages them to be creative and experiment. He thinks they feel comfortable coming to him for advice or ideas because of his own experience at the prep table.
Keith, in turn, appreciates the support he received from his own supervisors to pursue his education and incorporate his studies into his work day when possible. Now, he says, it's gratifying to see other staff members feel empowered to advance their own education. "They're getting that boost to take that next step, like I did, when I decided to go back to school.
Part of what drives Keith's ambition is becoming a family man. He met his fiancee, Sara Marshall, when she was a CNA at Presbyterian Manor. Together, they have three children. "I was moving around a lot, and I enjoyed seeing different places. Once I became a father, I realized this is the time to find a career. It played out real nicely," he said.
Keith and Sara are saving up for their wedding, and in the meantime Sara plans to go back to school to get her gen eds. We wish them the best!