Cooking Up Creations

By Melanie Mowry Etters

For more than two years, Jeannine Canales has been cooking breakfast, lunch, or dinner for the many residents of East Ridge Retirement Village. The facility is a not-for-profit retirement community in Cutler Bay, south of the city of Miami in Miami-Dade County. The 76-acre campus offers independent living, along with assisted living, memory support, and skilled nursing to its residents.

Canales completed a culinary program at Robert Morgan Educational Center and Technical College in Miami, where she learned the basics of working in a professional kitchen. She quickly landed a job cooking at East Ridge. “I like it because of the profession I am in. It gives me the chance to enhance my cooking skills,” said Canales.

Canales is a full-time employee with benefits at East Ridge Village. Food and Beverage Director Miguel Parks said, “Jeannine has a good work ethic. She is self-sufficient and doesn’t fall behind. She is willing to help out with extra shifts. Jeannine is always willing to help her team.”

Canales says her coworkers treat her well and with respect in the kitchen.

Canales has a developmental disability and receives services from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD). October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and APD is highlighting the workplace achievements of people with disabilities and the employers that hire them.

Canales said, “I have become better at creating different recipes. I have improved my prepping skills and learned new methods of cooking.”

Parks says he periodically taste-tests the food to ensure everything is delicious and finds Canales’ work is always good.

Canales has many things she enjoys like cooking at home, but she still likes to go out to eat. She goes to movies, too. Another favorite South Florida pastime for her is going to the beach for a walk or to play volleyball or football.

Jeannine Canales (left) works as a line cook with Miguel Parks (middle) and Alex Sanchez (right) at East Ridge Retirement Village.