Bobby Bonds, the executive chef and restaurant manager at English Meadows’ Blacksburg Campus, calls himself a “local yokel.” Bonds and his parents both grew up 30 minutes away from Blacksburg, but his 27-year career in the food service industry has taken him far beyond the New River Valley.
Prior to joining the team at English Meadows, Bonds spent nearly a quarter-century in fine dining. He cooked up delicacies at local spots that may be familiar to English Meadows Residents and their families, including Lefty’s Main Street Grille in Blacksburg; The Farmhouse in Christiansburg and Chateau Morrisette Winery in Floyd County. But he also occasionally traveled to consult with corporate kitchens, troubleshooting their operations.
Bonds enjoyed that work, but said a personal loss prompted him to reevaluate his career. Bonds was raised by his grandmother, and she passed away as his last living grandparent at the age of 96. “I was blessed. She was a saint on Earth,” Bonds said. He felt he needed to give something back after all the love and support his grandmother had shown him.
So, he said, he left mainstream kitchens and transitioned to senior living. Having lost his last grandparent, Bonds said, it only made sense to “adopt 80 more” in the form of English Meadows Residents.
The job at English Meadows gave Bonds the opportunity — for the first time in his career — to focus on his personal life, he said. “I don’t have to work until two in the morning,” on the English Meadows Campus, he explained.
However, the career change offered even more. Bonds said he “discovered a new passion” building fresh, seasonal menus for the English Meadows Residents in Blacksburg.
Feeding seniors presents a few challenges. For instance, we all gradually lose our sense of taste as we age. This can make food taste bland and dull our interest in eating. For this reason, Bonds complements his dishes with fresh herbs, aromatics and locally-blended spices to heighten the sensory experience.
Bonds said that dining in senior living communities has evolved dramatically in the past few years. “It’s more like fine dining,” Bonds said, which harkens back to his earlier career. “Everything’s made from scratch. We’re not doling stuff out and microwaving it.”
In addition to planning and executing rotating weekly menus, Bonds also plans special, themed Family Night events for English Meadows Residents. Prior to the pandemic, English Meadows would regularly open its doors to friends, families and neighbors for “Carnival Night” or “70s Night.” Insistent that no Resident would eat alone, the team would reach out to local churches for volunteers to attend and accompany Residents without family nearby.
Bonds said special events like Family Night “are definitely what define (the Blacksburg) Campus.” He continued, “It’s the best day of the month. (Residents’) spirits go through the roof and it carries over for a week or so afterward.” Bonds has enjoyed his time at English Meadows so much, he said, he’s even recruited a few former restaurant coworkers to join the team. Between them, Bonds said, the three men have more than 60 years of experience in the dining industry. So the food’s bound to be good!
Chef Bobby Bonds and English Meadows are proud to offer meals made with fresh, local ingredients to Residents. The fine dining experience English Meadows offers is only one of the community’s many amenities. To learn more, visit our website at WeLoveOurResidents.com.