Variety is the spice of life.
Chef Noe Mateo serves over 250 meals, three times a day to Sequoia Living residents. His favorite part of the day is planning menus to take full advantage of seasonal specialties. “For me, it’s about making sure everyone enjoys the food,” he explains. “The residents really appreciate the quality.”
Residents are full of compliments for his culinary delights. They love how he comes out of the kitchen regularly to chat with them and learn what they like best about various dishes. He welcomes their suggestions, and they enjoy the results.
Chef Noe manages a team of fourteen kitchen staff members. “I work with an amazing team,” he says.
From a Love of Cooking and a Loving Family, a Dream Emerged.
Delicious meals have always been at the center of Chef Noe’s life. His grandfather was an executive chef. His grandmother cooked meals for people in need, and that had a strong influence on him.
“My grandma used to cook meals for people with no family in the U.S.,” says Chef Noe. “I helped her cook and fell in love with it.”
For Chef Noe, an executive chef at a Sequoia Living community, life began in Morales, Guatemala, along with his seven siblings. When he was old enough to start school, the family relocated to San Mateo, California.
A recipe for success.
From the beginning, his love of cooking and family shaped Chef Noe’s journey. As with anyone from humble beginnings and big dreams, the path is not easy. To earn money, after twelve years of public school, he began taking jobs in restaurants, the first at a tiny restaurant right next door to a grocery store.
It was a small start, but it was a start.
Quickly, he realized he needed to grow his skillset and hands-on experience. He enrolled in a culinary arts program at Sacramento City College, which changed his life.
From a College Campus to Senior living. A Big Transition, and a Perfect Match.
His first big break came as a sous chef at Sacramento State University. It proved to be a strong platform to showcase his talents.
A dining services company hired Chef Noe to join their team and provide dining services for a senior living community. It was a welcome change for a young man whose fondest memories were in the kitchen with his grandmother.
It wasn’t long before the dining services company invited him to join their team as sous chef for a Sequoia Living community. After only two months, Chef Noe was promoted to executive chef.
Chef Noe’s special bond with residents comes from the heart.
At the heart of everything he does are the people he serves. They remind him of his family and the recipes that formed the center of their life. That is why Chef Noe enjoys his daily interactions with residents. They bring light and laughter into his day, and occasionally a tear or two.
Chef Noe’s fondest memory at the retirement community is that of a resident from Columbia, with whom he built rapport, often conversing in Spanish together. When she faced health issues causing her to lose her appetite, he made a homemade Colombian soup. Unbeknownst to him, this was the same dish she enjoyed in her childhood after church each Sunday! The soup “tasted just like home,” lifting her spirits and restoring her energy. For Chef Noe, this experience reinforced the belief that food is about more than filling your stomach; it can bring back sweet childhood memories and make you feel better when you’re not well. Food has the power to nourish the body and soul.
Chef Noe often reflects on stories like these and the people he has served, from busy college students to older adults. It is the seniors who hold a special place in his heart. They are the ones who take the time to connect and to listen. “Young people don’t really talk as much. But residents enjoy it,” he says. “I really like getting a laugh and a smile. You make their day.” And it makes Chef Noe’s day, too.
Do you know someone who would enjoy working with older adults and would like to join our amazing team? We invite them to visit our careers page.