By LOIS KINDLE
In the summer of 2021, Yadenee Lewis began working as an intern alongside dietician Cathy Pickel at Sun Terrace Health Care Center at Sun Towers. The Kaiser University student, who was about to graduate with a degree in nutrition and dietetics, said the experience made her realize her future was in working with seniors.
“I fell in love with the facility, assisted living/long-term care and its residents,” said Lewis, who also has a degree from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Austin. “When my internship was over, I really didn’t want to leave.”
Pickel invited the young chef to return to complete a two-month rotation in food services, working in the kitchen under the direction of Chef Jerry Badders, director of food services.
Lewis felt she had made a real difference while there, so she put together a portfolio of her qualifications and accomplishments and presented it to Kyle Burkett, the administrator at Sun Towers. He was so impressed, he created an executive chef position and hired her to start working March 14, even before she received her diploma in May.
“The biggest factors for me were her organizational skills and how she put processes in place to benefit our residents,” Burkett said. “It was also her initiative and enthusiasm to get in there and work as a part of a team on their behalf. Her education was outstanding, as well.”
Lewis – whose experience includes working in several restaurants, as a cook at Disney World and hostess/server at Universal and as a personal chef – was thrilled.
“This feels like home,” she said. “I finally have a job where I can advocate for my employees, the people I serve and myself. I find it so rewarding to use both of my degrees in my work.
“I really enjoy working with the residents; they are so kind,” she added. “I want to create healthier meals for them at this stage in their lives. It’s important for us to take good care of our older generation.”
Originally from Orlando, Lewis lives in FishHawk with her husband, Haven, and her stepdaughter, Serene. The couple recently married in May.
“As director of admissions for the Sun Towers Retirement Community, I’m excited to tell prospective residents we have such a talented executive chef,” said Debbie Caneen. “I find her story of how she came here as an intern and worked herself into a career position inspiring. She has already become an important part of our team.”