Growing memories: The philosophy of a memory care facility chef
Oct 23, 2023, 6:48 PM | Updated: 7:05 pm
SALT LAKE CITY — To David Bench, a tomato sandwich is a lot more than just a few slabs of beefsteak between two slices of pesto-lathered bread. It’s a way to bring back memories.
Bench is a chef on staff at The Auberge, a memory care facility in Holladay where he set up garden boxes and a large garden plot to grow tomatoes, basil, peppers, zucchini, and other garden staples. A few chickens and beehives (Bench is a beekeeper) provide pollination, honey, and farm ambiance.
He tries to involve residents in the farm-to-table process — picking crops, planting, harvesting, and cooking wherever he can.
“Anything that will spark their memories, anything that they’ve done in the past — getting into the garden, getting their hands in the soil, pulling away putting the plants in.” Bench said. “When you bring those flavors and those foods in those smells, it sparks those memories and gets them thinking about their life.”
For Bench, the garden brings back memories of his grandparents.
“Those are some of my fondest memories, going out in the garden picking fresh peas. We’d pick strawberries every day and every couple of days she’d make fresh freezer jam. Amazing to see how much she loved you. And she showed [me] through that,” Bench said.
Bench says his goal isn’t to impress the residents with gourmet cooking but to create the tastes and smells they remember.
“It’s not about being making really fancy food. It’s making food that people can connect to. ’Oh, this tastes like what mom made.’ Thoughts of happy times and things that make you feel good,” Bench said. “When they enjoy it, it’s good for you. It’s good for your soul.”