In a commercial kitchen in Nanuet, New York at 5:00 a.m. every weekday Joe D'Apolito arrives at work as he has been doing for twelve years. There is little time for coffee and paperwork and his day begins shortly after his arrival as nine to ten cooks arrive to begin the dance of cooking, packaging and coordinating delivery of 850 meals everyday.
Guided by Registered Dietician Marianne Colucci, Director of Food Services, Meals on Wheels Programs and Services of Rockland food is ordered, menus prepared, dietary restrictions noted, changes in daily meals communicated all to ensure that D'Apolito and his team are ready to serve.
D'Apolito a Culinary Institute of America graduate, leads the kitchen preparing chicken marsala, stuffed peppers, salisbury steak, meatballs, cole slaw, potato salad all from scratch. Cauliflower, braised cabbage, black beans, fresh yams, orzo sautéed with onions, fresh mushroom sauce or fresh cut fruit.
The Beginning of A Career
When D'Apolito was sixteen a friend was grounded and couldn't work the night shift, washing dishes, at O'Learys Pub in Northvale, New Jersey. D'Apolito took the shift and began his career in food. "I learned pub cooking from a man named George Green who also worked nights," D'Apolito remembers. Shortly after he decided that he would attend the CIA in Hyde Park, NY. After graduation D'Apolito worked at Marriott in Clifton and at the Arcola Country Club in Paramus.
Realizing that the restaurant business was very much about working weekends and Holidays, and after meeting his wife Kim, D'Apolito decided to get into the food service industry which is much more Monday through Friday.
He started at Nyack College and his co-worker was involved in The Fountains at Lake Point Woods in Sarasota, Florida-- an elegant community with assisted living, villas and independent living options. It was a decision that D'Apolito decided to take after learning the organization would double his current salary.
"We took the chance and moved down to Florida," he said. After four years his father passed away and the couple came back to New York to be with their family. The Fountains was opening a facility in Tuckahoe, NY and it seemed like kismet and that all parts would fit nicely into place. Staying in New York as the couple wished, a Monday through Friday position and a brand new exclusive property that needed a food professional. D'Apolito took the position.
As fate would have it, the organization began restructuring shortly thereafter and D'Apolito's Regional contact was taken out of New York and the organization changed the way they did business now farming out food service.
D'Apolito took a position with Meals on Wheels for five years as Chef Manager until his younger brother Jonathan wanted to open a restaurant in Ridgewood, New Jersey and name it after their Mom. The restaurant, Francesca's, was open for three years. The men worked hard but the restaurant business can be a difficult business and Francesca closed.
D'Apolito went back to Meals on Wheels to lead the kitchen.
Meals on Wheels Programs and Services of Rockland
"We are included as an organization where members of the community come for community service," D'Apolito explained. "I really enjoy mentoring, especially the young people that come in with a little glitch in their lives. Many times these same people, after completing their required hours, come back and volunteer."
Hundreds of volunteers deliver meals to individuals who are homebound, provide general assistance in the Rockland Senior Centers and in the Bobbi Lewis Adult Day Care Center, work at Meals on Wheels special events and help staff with day-to-day activities.
"I think my favorite part of my job is meeting all the people that make this place tick. Whether it's the community service people, the volunteers, or the administration --it's really a great place."
Meals of Wheels/Rockland prepared 205,826 meals in 2013.
850 meals per day.
All in a day's work for D'Apolito.
Meals on Wheels is very grateful to the Banfield Charitable Trust for organizing the donation of pet food for Meals on Wheels recipients in Rockland. For many seniors, their beloved pet keeps them vibrant and motivated to stay healthy. Removing the burden of the cost of pet food helps them immeasurably. If you know a Senior who needs Pet Food, please contact Meals on Wheels.
Meals at Home for Families Facing Breast Cancer
Visit their website for more information: http://www.mowrockland.org/index.html