TUCKER -- Mary Hack oversaw preparation Tuesday of her special recipe, chicken paprika.
Sliced chicken seasoned and browned, diced potatoes and chopped onions, celery and carrots went into a skillet doused with olive oil, the combination creating an enticing aroma that wafted from the kitchen area at the assisted living facility Arbor Terrace.
"Looks good," Hack said, watching the food sizzle. "Looks good enough to eat."
The 90-year-old sported a white chef's jacket dotted with black buttons and topped with a black collar, along with black cuffs at the end of each sleeve. A chef's hat, she said, would have mussed her hair.
The jacket, though, is the customary outfit for participants in Arbor Terrace's resident chef of the month program. Through the initiative, implemented more than a year ago by Mia Williams, director of dining, the seniors living at Arbor Terrace get back into a kitchen and are able to share their own recipes and favorite dishes with fellow residents. Every month, a recipe submitted by a resident is chosen and is served on a select day to all the residents. The chefs of the month are invited to help prepare the meals or simply oversee the process.
While good food is one of the perks of the program, the residents themselves benefit from being involved.
"I think it motivates them to be still a little independent," Williams said. "We are here to assist, but I think by using the program that gives them (the attitude of), 'I got it. I'm not all the way gone just yet, I'm still here.'"
In addition to the chef of the month program, recipes requested by residents are prepared by the staff cooks throughout the month.
"We want to get the residents involved and then we know that that's a special time for them," Williams said. "I think it brings back memories of the way things used to be for them."
Williams assisted Tuesday with a trial run of Hack's dish, which will be served to the 65 Arbor Terrace residents for lunch Saturday, along with a tossed salad and dinner rolls, at Hack's request.
The chicken paprika is a meal Hack cooked for her daughter, Atlanta resident Janice Shure.
"My daughter liked it when I cooked it for her," she said. So much that a young Shure started making it on her own.
Hack's husband was a cook in the Army for 20 years. He was especially fond of using parsley as a garnish, an ingredient Williams suggested be added to the chicken paprika Tuesday.
"Put a little in," Hack said. "It wouldn't hurt."
Once the food was cooked, Williams served up a sampling, just a taste so Hack wouldn't spoil her appetite for lunch. Hack gave the dish the green-light for Saturday's lunch.
"When you're hungry it'll be even better," she said.