Stacy Salsgiver

Stacy Salsgiver, the dining director at Juniper Village at Meadville, chops vegetables recently. Salsgiver produces a cooking show for the residents at the personal care community that is posted on Facebook.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it brought an end to Stacy Salsgiver's in-person cooking classes at Juniper Village.

The dining director at the Meadville personal care community, Salsgiver would lead seniors in cooking various types of meals. For many residents, it was a delightful event to which they looked forward.

With COVID-19 mandating social distancing and keeping events to a minimum at care facilities like Juniper Village, it seemed like the classes would have to be put on hold.

That is, until Salsgiver got the idea of putting those classes online.

Every other week, the Juniper Village at Meadville Facebook page posts "Cooking with Chef Stacy," bringing that cooking experience to residents safely. With dishes often themed around the time of year — such as "Pot-of-Gold Drop Cookies" for St. Patrick's Day or chocolate-covered pretzels for Valentines Day — the videos provide ideas for a wide variety of meals.

For Salsgiver, who mainly records the videos in her home on her own, making the transition to video production was a bit of a challenge. She had never shot a video before the first episode of "Cooking with Chef Stacy," and it took some adjustment.

"My first few videos, I said the word 'um' a lot," Salsgiver said. "It was definitely something that I had to get used to, but I got used to it really quick."

Of course, Salsgiver is well acquainted with cooking. She formerly worked as a chef at the Baltimore Country Club in Maryland, which she says was once ranked among the top 10 country clubs in America in terms of food.

She even managing to reach the position of assistant executive chef. After moving back to Pennsylvania, she worked at several local restaurants and opened one of her own, before later gaining an interest in cooking at longterm care communities.

She came to Juniper in November of 2019 and has stayed on, enjoying making meals for the elderly residents.

"Food is very important to the elderly," she said. "It's one of the last things they have control of and it gives me pleasure to be able to give them that."

It is a good thing Salsgiver enjoys cooking, as the show often demands that she make the same dish multiple times. With episodes often condensed anywhere from five to 17 minutes, she usually prepares meals in advance at different stages of the cooking process, such as showing a meal before and after the food spends time in an oven.

Tami Williams, executive director of Juniper Village at Meadville, said the videos have the dual benefit of not just teaching residents recipes to cook, but also showing them how staff prepare the food being served to them.

Plus, the move to a video format has provided some advantages to watchers compared to the in-person classes.

"It actually is a benefit to them because then we can rewatch it or rewind a certain part if we missed it or need more visual instruction," Williams said.

While the show started as something to fill a gap during COVID-19, Salsgiver said she and Juniper Village may make the series into a permanent fixture. She's heard positive feedback from many of the residents.

She's even watched a few of the episodes with some of the residents, and feels the videos serve as a way for her to stay connected with those living at Juniper Village and their families.

In fact, the popularity of the videos has extended beyond just the residents.

"We actually have some people at the facility that are faithful watchers," she said. "We get a decent amount of people in our corporation and family members that watch it a lot."

Williams echoed the sentiments, saying that many residents are recommending the videos to their families.

"It gives them a sense of pride to say, 'Hey, did you watch the video Chef Stacy did at home?'" she said.

For Salsgiver, the videos have also provided a fun activity to do during the pandemic, when so much else has been shutdown or restricted.

Williams herself has also gotten in on the fun, saying she's made cookies and icing based off of recipes Salsgiver has made.

"They're simple enough to follow that even the grandkids can get involved," she said.

"Cooking with Chef Stacy" is posted every other Thursday at 1 p.m. to the Juniper Village at Meadville Facebook page. 

Sean P. Ray can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at sray@meadvilletribune.com.

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