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Published: Wednesday, December 14, 2011, 12:01 a.m.

Dietary manager knows her grub and customers at Stanwood's Josephine home

  • Helen Vindasius (left) is the dietary manager at Josephine Sunset Home in Stanwood. Her staff of 30 includes prep cook Lucy Wanambisi.

    Kristi O'Harran / The Herald

    Helen Vindasius (left) is the dietary manager at Josephine Sunset Home in Stanwood. Her staff of 30 includes prep cook Lucy Wanambisi.

Helen Vindasius might mysteriously disappear, Jimmy Hoffa style, if she served pot pies again.
"You won't find my body," she said with a grin.
It's no reflection on the cooks, but her clients are fed up with pot pie.
Vindasius is the dietary manager at Josephine Sunset Home in Stanwood. Serving hundreds of meals a day, seven days a week, she strives to get it right.
And she does.
My folks, Bill and Yvonne Brayton, are customers of Vindasius. They live in the assisted-living wing at the five-star skilled nursing home. They can't say enough about the ample, yummy food.
"It's the best," Mom says every time I see her.
I wanted to meet the person responsible for keeping my parents content in the food department.
Vindasius was born in California where her dad was in the service. The family lived in Japan for three years and moved to this area when she was 11. They lived in Everett, Silvana and Stanwood.
"My dad was an excellent cook," Vindasius said. "Cooking was a big thing in my family."
She graduated from Cascade High School and worked at Boeing for 13 years.
"I'm a hugger," she said. "I realized you can't hug an airplane."
She tested different career waters, she said. Vindasius, 64, did medical claims and was a waitress at Black Angus and the Shipwreck Restaurant on Camano Island.
Some 19 years ago, she saw an advertisement for kitchen work at Josephine. She took the job, went to school to be a dietary manager and now guides a staff of 30 who work early in the morning and into the night.
She raves about her wonderful crew, most of whom have been on board for more than five years. She calls her assistant manager, Kathy LaPiers, her work better half, and praises the wait staff who know each resident's likes and dislikes.
One cook came from a five-star restaurant in Hawaii. One owned a restaurant for 20 years.
"I have a cook who worked in Japan for 10 years," Vindasius said. "She makes stir-fried pork, and it's a hit."
Most everything they make is homemade, including cookies and sweet breads made from scratch. Vindasius does the ordering and said she'll dash to the grocery store if they run out of something.
There about 160 folks who live in skilled nursing, 60 in assisted living and a day care program with about 144 children who get breakfast, lunch and a snack. They staff may eat a meal for $2.
"We probably average 30 staff members for lunch," she said. "On hamburger day, 40 to 50 staff members eat."
If a resident prefers, they can prepare something using a toaster, griddle and microwave oven in the dining room.
On a recent visit I made to an assisted living facility in the county's eastside, there was no bread and jelly between meals. Residents were kept from entering the dining room by a cord stretched across the doorway.
The elderly stood like a flock of sheep, waiting to be seated.
My folks can gather with others in the dining room any time they want.
Vindasius said they cater to their residents. One person wanted iced tea. It looked good to others, so now they make six pitchers. A man named Allen wanted a piece of bacon every morning for breakfast. Soon others wanted bacon. The kitchen began making a big plate every day.
Bacon isn't healthy?
My Dad is 91 and if he wanted bacon everyday, he should get it on his plate. "We make it as homey as we can here," Vindasius said. "Food is the center of their world."
She rotates menus and said they are lined with resident requests.
"We get beautiful roast beef," she said. "Our quality is absolutely excellent. Last night we had salmon."
Sometimes they like breakfast at night, she said. They wanted country fried steak. If someone wanted instant breakfast, they got instant breakfast.
A grilled cheese at 10 a.m.?
Coming right up.
They favored taco salads, barbecued pork on a hoagie and chicken strips, but they got sick of teriyaki ribs. Tater tot casserole went away for a couple of years, but it's back.
Of course it's all prepared on a budget, but Vindasius said other dietary managers she knows would love to have her resources. She credits the Josephine board, CEO Terry Robertson and Administrator Teri Lindgren for making it possible in light of federal cuts, to provide residents with quality care and food.
She said all departments work together to pull off major functions, such as a salmon dinner for families and the Christmas party. They fulfill the logo -- One Heart, Many Hands.
Vindasius doesn't head right to her Stanwood home kitchen after work. She said dinner is often Japanese rice and vegetables, something light. She walks with a Josephine group and on her weekends. Vindasius enjoys reading books by Ann Rule and romance novels. She goes fishing when she can and visits her family.
Her relatives offered input on her menus. Vindasius said her mother and sister have both been residents of the rehab area at Josephine.
"A lot of the staff have family members here," Vindasius said. "There is lots of love going on."
Kristi O'Harran: 425-339-3451, oharran@heraldnet.com
Story tags » DiningEverettSilvanaStanwoodFederalWalkingLocal FoodChristmas

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