On this week’s episode of LTC Heroes, we sit down with Keo Velasquez, executive director of Watermark Retirement Communities.
Keo has helped Watermark Retirement Communities list in the top 25 best workplaces for aging services in a national program. He has more than 20 years of experience in the culinary industry and, in the episode, we discuss his transition from executive chef to executive director.
Topics covered in the episode include marketing, hospitality, and food.
The episode begins with Keo answering some icebreaker questions before he explains how he got into the long-term care industry.
We learn about the learning curve Keo experienced during his move to the long-term care industry and when he realized that it was the right industry for him.
Keo explains how he was trained for the long-term care industry and shares his advice for anyone making a similar transition.
Generational food changes are discussed, and Keo talks about the changing menus served at Watermark Retirement Communities.
Toward the end of the episode, Keo discusses the marketing of Watermark Retirement Communities. He explains that he focuses on developing delicious food that will encourage residents’ children to want to visit the community.
Learn how Keo Velasquez, executive director of Watermark Retirement Communities, transitioned from executive chef to executive director by tuning into the latest episode of LTC Heroes
Rapid Fire Q/A
Do you have any uncommon hobbies?
I used to have a lot of hobbies before I became a dad. I used to do things like get out and do camping, fun, and adventure survival stuff.
Now that I’m a dad, all my hobbies revolve around my son’s day-to-day life. We just made a camping trip where it had the record for the world’s largest spider web. So that was a fun camping trip and good exposure for him.
Did you know what long-term care was 15 years ago?
No. In fact, I kind of fell into it.
I was looking for a job in 2009. I met the HR director of a hotel, just happily walking out to the front desk where I handed my resume, and we had a good conversation.
I found out it was an independent living building under the Hyatt brand. That kind of kick-started my career in senior living. I spent four years there and then was recruited to Four Seasons, where I spent four years.
When you got into long-term care, when did you think ‘there’s something special about this industry?’
It was probably about a month, or maybe a little bit more than a month in. One of the lead cooks had been out for family medical reasons.
I was ambitious and had been making all these changes.
We’re a month and a half in, and this cook walks in. He’d been used to being the hot guy in charge and was a really good close friend of the previous chef there.
He had a look of shock and awe on his face when he saw everything that had changed and what we were all doing.
I hadn’t realized how far we’d come in such a short time. It was eye-opening for me to see.
What advice would you give to someone in similar shoes to you that’s different from how you learned?
I would encourage them to reach out for more information daily to help keep them on track with things.
My managing director was there to support me, but he took kind of a hands-off approach in a lot of areas. I think that was a little bit of a failure on my part not to rely on him more because I was afraid to say, ‘Look, I don’t know what I’m doing.’ I wanted to show that I could figure it out and manage it.
What do generational changes mean for the industry?
Liver and onions were still a big hit in my first community back in 2009.
Now people don’t touch it. You can see the generational shift away from that.
The people that I’m dealing with now grew up in the 60s. They grew up listening to rock and roll and Woodstock and things like that. So their approach to food is this mixture of what grandma or mom used to cook and wanting something incredibly innovative.
We’re only going to see more of this kind of change.
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