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Staff Stories - July 31, 2023

Chef Howard: Meet the Executive Chef at The View Alexandria

by Nada Boris

As we approach the one-year mark since Goodwin Living welcomed The View Alexandria’s retirement community into our organization, we look back and give thanks for the opportunity to build on the wonderful community of residents and team members. We also are grateful for the opportunity to invest more than $1 million in common area renovations, apartment improvements, a new resident recreation room and a complete makeover of the top floor lounge now called “The Vista”.  The new spirit of the place is felt in the spaces and in the faces of the people you meet.

One of the friendliest faces you might see on campus is Chef Howard Henry, who recently joined the team at The View Alexandria. We asked him if we could chat about his recent job transition, his history of service to Goodwin Living and his passion for food.

Goodwin Living, Great Career

We met Chef Howard in one of the newly renovated spaces – The Vista. Located on the top floor of the main building, this community space is where the sweeping views of Alexandria’s West End meet the iconic skyline of Washington D.C. to offer a wonderful view. The space is well suited for a range of activities, from social time with other residents, to enjoying quiet time with a book or simply taking in the views.

Chef Howard, the newly appointed executive chef at The View Alexandria, is no stranger to Goodwin Living. In fact, he has devoted more than three decades to the organization. His journey began in 1992 when he and his family emigrated from Jamaica to the United States. They settled in Virginia, and shortly after, Chef Howard joined Goodwin Living in 1993.

With an infectious passion for cooking, Chef Howard’s eyes light up as he talks about the joy of preparing meals for residents. He shares, “I try to instill in my chefs, servers and the entire dining team to look at the residents as your mom and dad or your grandma or grandpa.”

This approach, emphasizing empathy and care, was instilled in him by Harry Baldwin, a prior executive director of Goodwin House Alexandria (GHA). Harry believed that treating residents as family is essential to providing exceptional service. He passed that belief onto Chef Howard, who continues to apply it to his work and pass it on to even more team members and business partners.

Sterling Lindsay, Director of Dining Services at GHA, has known chef Howard since 2007. They worked together for more than 15 years. Sterling has watched Howard grow from his position as a cook to his current position as executive chef. “Chef Howard has a can-do attitude and a passion for cooking,” Sterling said. “He puts his heart in it. He understands what service is.”

Committed to Services & Growth

Dedicated to service as well as continuous growth, Chef Howard has progressed from his first position of cook to sous chef at GHA. Along the way, he has embraced diversity in his culinary creations. From the richness of Jerk chicken to exploring flavors from French, Asian, Italian and Mediterranean cuisines, he finds delight in bringing a wide array of dishes to residents’ tables. He also seeks input from residents.

“I like to listen to their concerns, what they like to eat and what they don’t like to eat,” Chef Howard explains. This attentive approach has led him to introduce update menu items regularly. Sometimes, he brings back favorite classics such as pasta primavera and lamb chops. Other times, he draws inspiration from his own team members and their diverse backgrounds to showcase authentic versions of dishes like Mediterranean gyros.

He also has introduced more gluten-free options, vegan dishes, and other options that might appeal to those with specific health and diet needs. He believes that food can be both nourishing and delicious, and he adapts to residents’ evolving preferences.

The feedback from the residents has been overwhelmingly positive, and Chef Howard’s joy in receiving praise from them is evident when he says, “They’re happy. And when they’re happy, I am happy! I love it!”

Journey With Mentors

Reflecting on his own humble beginnings in Jamaica, and his more than 30 years developing his skills in dining services at Goodwin Living, Chef Howard acknowledges that his journey to becoming an executive chef was supported by mentors. Through his work at Goodwin House Alexandria, he has learned from others, including Sterling Lindsay as well as GHBC Executive Chef Nina Rakotoarisoa and Culinary Innovation and Development Chef Brian Patterson.

Howard remembers Sterling’s words, “You are a leader, and I see something in you.” These words have encouraged Howard to embrace challenges and grow as a chef.

With a deep sense of responsibility and admiration for the residents’ life experiences, Chef Howard aims to enhance every aspect of the dining experience. “My goal is to achieve 100% satisfaction,” he declares passionately. He seeks to create moments of connection and warmth, not just through the food itself, but also by sitting down with residents, including those who reside in the long-term nursing center at TVA. He enjoys engaging them in conversations so that he can better understand their needs.

When asked about his most successful dish since taking on the executive chef role at TVA, Chef Howard proudly mentions a Moroccan-style chicken curry with chickpeas. It was inspired by the diverse backgrounds and experiences of residents, including those with careers abroad in foreign service. Howard feels compelled to do his best to ensure their happiness, knowing that one day, “If we’re lucky, someday we’ll get to be that old.”

As Chef Howard embarks on this new chapter at The View Alexandria, his empathy, humility, perseverance and passion for culinary excellence shine through. With every plate he serves, he nourishes residents’ bodies and their spirits. The dining journey at The View Alexandria is in capable and loving hands, guided by Chef Howard’s dedication and heart and the wonderful Dining Services team.

_________________

Nada Boris, Marketing & Communications Coordinator, joined Goodwin Living in February, 2023.  She enjoys learning about the lives of residents and wishes to be like them when she grows up.

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