What you’ll quickly notice about Noble’s new Dining Director Lisa McGhee are her shoes. They not only reflect her fondness for food, but her great sense of humor; today she wears shoes decorated with hamburgers and pizza.
Lisa’s began her career at Noble Horizons 15 years ago as a dietary aide alongside her mother, who later became a resident and passed in 2018. Sometime after her mother became a resident, Lisa moved on to other challenges although returned to Noble in 2019.
So, what did Lisa do during her 14-year hiatus from Noble? She worked at the Kildonan School in Amenia, NY until it closed its doors for good in 2019. Lisa began working in the kitchen as a sous chef and was later promoted to Head of Kitchen. When the school ultimately decided to outsource the kitchen operations, Lisa was offered a new role.
“Both the Headmaster and Assistant Headmaster felt that my talents were now best served working in the office and directly with the students. Not only did I do things like dorm duty and arrange student travel, but I was given the opportunity to go to Belize several times on foreign exchange student trips.” This wasn’t Lisa’s first experience with foreign exchange student trips – she visited China 3 times while in high school on her own foreign exchange student trips. “It’s been an amazing experience both as a teenager and an adult. I’m still in contact with several people I met in Brazil through the Kildonan School.”
After the Kildonan School closed, it just made sense to return to Noble Horizons’ kitchen. “It’s what I know,” says Lisa. Her decision to take on the Director of Dining position didn’t come lightly given the many facets of running a Dining Room that makes 1095 meals a year for about 100 people . “I knew I could do it and do it well because of my personality. I’m outgoing, make friends easily, and I understand other personalities and can read people pretty easily.” In fact, a resident named Ollie was overheard saying, “There is something so warm about her.”
So what does a typical day look like for Lisa – a lot of planning and prepping for 3 meals a day, taking inventory, ordering food, cleaning, managing a staff of 13 (and growing), and of course, interacting with the residents. You might wonder how Lisa manages to fit everything into her day. She isn’t afraid to work long hours, and it’s not uncommon to see Lisa working late, even up to 10 pm at night to prep food for the next day.
While her typical day might overwhelm even the best at time management, Lisa has a little trick to staying calm. “I take everything 10 minutes at a time. Of course I have to plan and prep several days in advance, but when it comes to tackling the day, I do everything 10 minutes at a time. Otherwise, you’ll just get completely overwhelmed.”
Although there are always new faces in the kitchen, Lisa feels grateful to work with several long-time staff, including Amy, Francesca, and Peter who were actually in the kitchen when she and her mom were a team. Prepping, cooking and serving requires hard work and long hours, but to Lisa, the residents make it all worth it. “The feedback and comments from the resident, little inside jokes, or even something as simple as remembering my name are what bring me joy.” Lisa is at Noble because she truly cares about the residents. “I’m always trying to take things to the next level. Something might be OK, but I’m always thinking about how we can make it better.”
Lisa and her staff cater to a wide age group of residents – from people in their 60s to over 100. Lisa works closely with Sue, Noble’s Dietician, to formulate a balanced menu. “We look at salt content a lot. If we serve a lunch that has a higher salt content, then we balance that out with a dinner of lower salt foods and fruits. We are also working on sourcing more of our food from local businesses.”
Lisa currently lives with her father, not because he needs help, as he’s often been found up on the roof inspecting gutters, shingles, etc., but to keep each other company on the rare nights when Lisa is home. Incredibly, when Lisa is not at Noble she has a second job at Lia’s Mount View Restaurant in Pine Plains, NY. Run by a very close friend, Lisa helps out there 3 nights a week – 2 nights in the kitchen, and 1 night behind the bar. She often hears the comment that she is always working and doesn’t have a life to which she casually responds, “This is my life.”
Noble residents and staff are thrilled that Lisa is back, and that she is running the kitchen. Not only is the food delicious-even staff get to enjoy her meals at the monthly staff lunch-but they welcome her warm spirit and of course, love her shoes. “Be sure to check out my feet tomorrow,” Lisa laughs, “I’ll be wearing my doughnut shoes!”