It’s not just about food…it’s about the experience of dining.

By Pam McDonald

I’m a long-time fan of the TV series Top Chef. I thoroughly enjoy watching these talented chefs as they are challenged to create mouth-watering concoctions. I especially like contests that push them way out of their comfort zones – like conceiving budget-conscious, healthy meals for school kids or putting together a dinner party for six – vegans.

Now the competition I’d like to see would pit Top Chefs against Stone Morris and Sarah Gorham, challenging them to prepare an entire tantalizing, nutritional meal of finger foods. I believe I could pick the winner going in since Stone and Sarah, co-founders of Grind Dining™, a Senior Housing Forum partner, are finger-food specialists.

Finger Food Specialists

Their patent-pending process starts with a traditionally prepared meal and transforms it into a protein-packed, hors d’oeuvre-sized meal – that is enticing as well as easy to handle, chew, and swallow.

These meals are perfect for senior living residents who find eating challenging either because of cognitive or physical limitations. And, Grind Dining’s menus are a far cry from typical over-processed, over-salted finger foods, like mini pizzas or quiche, cheese cubes, fried chicken strips, sliced meats or sandwiches.

We’re talking about high-end, restaurant-quality fare including such items as grilled salmon with brown rice and vegetables; chicken, rice and asparagus crepes, BBQ brisket with mac and cheese and collard greens; sweet and sour pork with fried rice; or scrambled eggs, potato and spinach roulade.

It’s Not Just About Food

Stone says, “No matter where you are in the world, the common experience that brings people together is food. But it’s not just about food. It’s about the experience of dining. It’s tradition. It’s celebration. It’s comfort. It’s culture. It’s grandma. It’s love.”

Since founding Grind Dining in July 2013, Stone and Sarah have been working with senior living providers to Put Dignity Back on the Menu . . . it’s their mission. But Stone notes, “It’s really important to fully understand the dining challenges faced by some residents as well as by the kitchen, dining room staff and caregivers.

“Sadly, sometimes due to the inability to manage utensils, residents lose their autonomy,” Stone notes. “Because they can’t eat like ‘normal’ folks they can become marginalized or ostracized, forced to settle for ‘toddler food’ (like frozen peas and ravioli). Or worse yet, at 89-years-old, are fitted with a bib and spoon-fed! That’s what motivated us to come up with a solution (and enter, Grind Dining)!”

Comprehensive Toolkit

Stone explains that Grind Dining’s program works well in assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing. It’s usually implemented in four phases and focuses on training and culture change. Participating communities are provided a comprehensive toolkit – explaining the processes, recipes and use of a small electric meat grinder.

Dining directors and executive chefs are taught to combine freshly ground proteins, vegetables and carbohydrates in a base for each entrée. Food is fresh, not frozen or pre-packaged. It retains its texture and aroma, is visually appealing and portioned in bite sizes.

The community uses its own kitchen and food, eliminating the need for a “separate” memory care menu. Its methods and techniques can be easily taught to entry level kitchen personnel as well as serving staff, so it is cost effective with regard to capital, food and labor.

With Grind Dining there are no particular foods that have to be eliminated; so noodles, rice, and steak can make a comeback and residents’ lifelong preferences can be retained. Choking incidents often decrease while meals eaten increase, lessening the likelihood of weight loss, especially in dementia care.

Dignity and Independence

Stone points out, “Sarah and I believe that one thing we can bring to senior living residents with cognitive, neuromuscular, or chewing disorders is the ability to eat a great meal on their own – with dignity and independence and without stigma or embarrassment.

“We found a way to blur the lines between the abled and the disabled. The senior living industry can prepare and serve meals that satisfy residents’ needs and give them back something they lost. Now, that’s pretty awesome,” Stone concludes.

And, definitely the hallmarks of Top Chefs.

To learn more about Stone and Sarah and their innovative dining program, visit Grind Dining™.


Baked Chicken Crepes with Wild Rice and Asparagus.jpg

Grind Dining’s chicken, rice and asparagus crepes make an appetizing and satisfying finger food meal.