‘Iron Chefs’: Calabasas Seniors Compete In Cooking Contest

The Belmont Village Senior Living community in Calabasas hosted an “Iron Chef” style cooking contest Thursday, full of nostalgic recipes, delicious eats and elegance.

The event was just one of four Belmont Village “Iron Chef” competitions across California Thursday, said Nancy Nelson, Director of Belmont Village Calabasas. All the events were really different, Nelson said, and the Calabasas event was elegant and classy.

The head chefs from the Belmont Villages in Calabasas, Encino, Rancho Palos Verdes and Thousand Oaks competed in three different cooking challenges. First, the chefs prepared recipes submitted by staff representing their culture or lives. The chefs then prepared recipes submitted by residents and created dishes using a secret ingredient — key lime.

Resident Jaqueline Koster won the resident recipe challenge with Belmont Calabasas chef Jorge Antuna, who cooked Koster’s “Ratatouille Jaqueline.” The recipe was developed for Koster’s French restaurant in Hollywood, La Poubelle, which is now run by Koster’s daughter, Nelson said.

“It was such a special thing for her — for all of us to see this precious lady that had invested in food all of her life … win that award yesterday and get that trophy,” Nelson said.

Other winners included Rancho Palos Verdes chef John Umali, who won with a family recipe for a frittata tart, and Belmont Encino Chef Taina Avila, who won the secret ingredient competition by only one point.

Not Your Grandma’s Assisted Living Home

The event, Nelson said, highlighted the healthy and creative cooking at Belmont Village assisted living facilities. More importantly, though, the event fights stereotypes about seniors and assisted living facilities, she said. This isn’t just a meat-and-potatoes, bingo-playing generation — Belmont residents go to seminars, host social events and enjoy fine dining.

“I think people misunderstand, sometimes, what assisted living is. Assisted living in this day and age is seniors that want to live out this season of their life in the most engaged, full, social way possible … it’s like living on a cruise ship on land,” Nelson said.

Belmont Village hosts special events the cooking challenge all the time, Nelson said. The Calabasas Belmont Village hosted an Olympics-inspired event a couple months ago.

“Senior living is really a positive experience. It’s not the end of your days — people don’t come here to die, they come here to live fully,” she said.

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