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Straight Talk with Vi
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Upscale Dining Senior Living Community Chef Holds Plated Food
Pleasing Palates with Culinary Adventures Close to Home

At Vi at Aventura, dining isn’t just a daily meal — it’s an experience. Vi residents seek creative and diverse menu options, but they also want to enjoy their favorite comfort foods whenever possible. 

Maintaining this balance can be a high-wire act — and one that the community’s Executive Chef, Gonzalo Vasquez, has come to know well. 

“We rotate our menus with what’s fresh and in season,” Vasquez said. “About every six weeks, everything changes: soups, appetizers, entrees, sides, and desserts — we offer about 500 different items.”

One of Chef Vasquez’s biggest fans is resident Barbara Blumenfeld. Blumenfeld has lived at the community for seven years and still marvels at the sheer number of options available to residents on a daily basis.

“There are two sides to the menu — it’s beautiful. If you can’t find something to eat, there’s something wrong!” said Blumenfeld. For lunch and dinner she typically chooses a simple chicken breast or fresh salmon filet, but still believes that “having all those choices at every meal is just heavenly.”

Exploring New Flavors
In addition to the classic, “always available” items on the menu, Vasquez also enjoys treating residents to more adventurous entrees through his “Chef’s Specials” creations. Some recent specials have included entrees like snapper with truffled mashed potatoes, and pork chop with sweet potato mash. 

Vasquez also notes that since the resident population at Vi at Aventura is ever-changing, the flavors represented on the menu are updated to reflect the palates of new residents. His most recent culinary introduction is a nod to Miami’s Latin American population: a rice dish studded with fresh seafood, scented with Peruvian spices, and flavored with lobster and seafood stock. 

“We have some adventurous eaters here who love to try new things,” he said.

Catering to Varied Tastes
Vasquez loves the daily challenge of preparing dishes for different tastes and dietary requests, including for the community’s Jewish residents.

“Many of our residents enjoy a special menu on Fridays: corned-beef brisket, braised brisket, gefilte fish, chopped liver,” Vasquez said. “But we also offer the classics for a Friday night dinner, like roast chicken, filet mignon, and fresh salmon.”

Among that variety, though, Vasquez says dining services takes a simple approach to all its food: high-quality ingredients, used at the peak of their season’s freshness, prepared using proper techniques, and served with great attention to detail.

Working Hard to Create an Experience
Vasquez says he has an open-door policy — he’s always happy to answer residents’ questions, listen to their concerns, or even offer a tour of the kitchen. And he always shares their feedback with the rest of the kitchen staff, so they can continue preparing meals that are up to the community’s standards.

But residents don’t just want delicious food — they also want a stellar dining experience. Complementing Vasquez’s diverse menu creations is Monika Slodownik, Vi at Aventura’s Dining Services Director since 2013. 

“From the moment I saw this community, I compared it to the high-end hotels where I worked,” she said. “The dining room staff is always working to create an experience that’s similar to a five-star restaurant.”

Slodownik credits ongoing training as a way to keep the front-of-the-house staff at their best when it comes to service standards, and food safety. 

“We’re always working to raise the bar: offer better service, better presentation,” Slodownik said. “We spend half an hour training every day to help our front-of-house staff understand the menu and answer any questions they may receive from residents. There’s no exception — this happens seven days a week, just before dinner service.”

In a competitive market like Miami — and knowing the expectations of Vi at Aventura’s high-caliber residents — this pursuit of perfection is non-negotiable.

“Our residents are well-traveled, well-educated, successful people who have visited different countries and experienced different cuisines,” Slodownik said. “I tell all our employees, ‘This is not your average customer!’”