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The Distance Between Good and Great

The distance between good and great is where Bill Furnas lives. Which is to say, Carillon’s executive chef thrives on scaling that distance, and is passionate about helping his dining team learn to do the same.

At a basic level, we’re talking about a meal that looks as good as it tastes; a dollop of fresh cream sitting atop a slice of pie, toast that is cut into neat little triangles, spaghetti served in a perfectly swirled mound with a dusting of fresh parsley.

On a deeper level, it is the dining experience that Bill Furnas cares so much about, and wants others to care about, too. And they do. For you can’t really be around Chef Furnas without some of that inspiration rubbing off on you.

“You see how adding just a little peach and cranberry made our iced tea ZING?” he’ll say. “And it took hardly any time at all.”

Or, “If we were to just crisp that chicken under the broiler for just 30 seconds or so, oh my! Wouldn’t you just love to sit down to a piece of chicken that was juicy and crispy at the same time?”

The point, of course, is that iced tea by itself is good. Iced tea with peach and cranberry is splendid. Even when perfectly prepared, there is nothing spectacular about a chicken breast — until you crisp the skin. Crisp the skin, and you’ve gone from feeding someone, to delighting them.

The distance between good and great is never lost on our residents, and Chef Furnas knows that better than anyone. He also understands that going the extra mile is never easy when the tasks are many and time is short. His advice is often tempered with a familiar refrain: The simplest things often make the biggest difference.

“I like it when Chef Furnas comes to visit,” says Linda Allen, dining manager at Carillon Assisted Living of Hendersonville. “The energy in my kitchen is always high, but when he’s here, it’s even higher.”

“Bill has such high standards, but he makes it look so easy,” says Laurie Sawyer, executive director of Carillon Assisted Living of Hillsborough. “If you watch him, you’ll learn how not only to make the food look beautiful and taste great, but how to do it efficiently. He wastes no time in the kitchen, I’ve noticed that.”

Carillon residents notice it, too. Dining satisfaction scores on Carillon’s quarterly resident survey have steadily risen since Furnas joined the company two years ago.  It’s not that the food itself has changed that dramatically, residents say, as much as the attention to detail that has made the overall dining experience a richer one.

“People my age are sometimes hard to please,” says Grace Fierro, who calls Carillon Assisted Living of North Raleigh home. “They really try to accommodate all tastes. We spend so much time in that dining room, just laughing and enjoying each other’s company, that it does say something about the quality of the food and the service.”

Posted in Sage Stories on May 16, 2014

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