Employee Spotlight: Gwen Hanzalik, Line Cook
If you ask Gwen Hanzalik about the year she began working at Vi at Bentley Village, she’ll crack a joke.
“I tell everyone I was 2,” she said.
In November 2017, Hanzalik will celebrate her 30th anniversary in the kitchen at Vi at Bentley Village, a career she reflects on fondly and has no intention of giving up any time soon.
Several years before Vi purchased the community, Hanzalik’s sister was working at Bentley Village and told her the food and beverage department was hiring kitchen employees. Hanzalik jumped at the opportunity.
“I’ve been in food service all my life,” she said. “My mom was a chef, and I like everything about this work.”
Keeping Things Humming
For most of her time at Vi, Hanzalik has remained behind the scenes and has been instrumental in maintaining the steady rhythm the kitchen needs to create a great dining experience for residents.
She worked in the former “village store,” a sundry shop; the employee cafeteria, where she prepped 150 meals per day; the care center kitchen; and in the pastry kitchen. Today, she’s a line cook in the kitchen for Seaside and Azure, the East Clubhouse restaurants that opened in fall 2016.
Every day, Hanzalik is responsible for salads both in the restaurant and for the community’s to-go service, as well as appetizers, fruit plates, entree salads, and even vegetarian meals.
“She’s our morning rock,” said Shep Drinkwater, executive chef at Vi at Bentley Village.
Drinkwater, who has worked at Bentley Village for three years, says Hanzalik made preparing the kitchen for the new restaurants’ openings a seamless experience. “Gwen was an amazing person to have around when we put together the pantry,” he said. “She set up all the stations and had everything in hand. Her many years of experience have been invaluable.”
Overcoming Obstacles — With Support From Vi
In a 30-year career, there are bound to be both ups and downs, and Hanzalik is no exception: In 2003, she faced some health challenges.
“My doctor said, ‘If you really want to go back — and you work hard in rehab like you’re supposed to — you will go back to work,” she said. “This is going to sound corny, but Bentley is my home away from home — my coworkers are like my sisters and brothers.”
Three months later, Hanzalik returned to Bentley Village and got right back to work in the kitchen. She remembers Jason Keam, Bentley Village’s director of food and beverage, pulling her aside and offering to adjust her responsibilities to accommodate her health needs.
“You will never find another company that will treat you as well as you’re treated here. They really make you feel like a person,” she said. “It gives me goosebumps.”
Balancing Home and Work
At home, Hanzalik is a caregiver for her 42-year-old daughter, who has autism. As sole caregiver and guardian, Hanzalik provides her daughter everything she needs — and Vi has helped her feel more balanced and supported as an employee and mother.
Drinkwater says Hanzalik has been a pleasure to work with — the kind of employee that exemplifies Vi’s core values of integrity, compassion, and excellence.
“She helps make this a really fun place to work. There’s a lot of laughter in the kitchen every day,” he said. “I hope she stays another 30 years!”