Following the belief that “food to a man is like oil to a lamp,” Mark Grant aims to brighten the lives of Creekside at the Village’s nearly 100 residents through cooking.

Grant, who took over as executive chef at the Wexner Heritage Village independent and assisted living community last month, brings years of experience in fine dining and upscale restaurants to Creekside, where he is determined to turn out the “best kosher food in Columbus,” he said.

“There are a number of things I’m hoping to incorporate,” Grant said. “Things like adding more fresh fish and vegetables and locally grown options when that’s available.”

To meet this goal he spends every Thursday at the Bexley Farmers’ Market to source ingredients. He’s also planted an herb garden at the facility, along with Creekside resident Mollie Lakin, 100. Members have already been able to enjoy the work of the garden with Grant’s rosemary chicken and spaghetti pesto pasta.

“If it’s fresher, it’s healthier,” he said.

Grant came to Creekside looking for an opportunity that would allow him more creative freedom in the kitchen. Although he has only been there a short while, he’s found himself completely at home.

“It’s rewarding, not just in the kitchen, but personally rewarding as well,” he said.

Grant, who lives only a few blocks from Creekside in Columbus, works closely with the religious leaders at the facility to ensure a kosher kitchen. He also works with the Creekside food committee to ensure the menu lines up with the members’ needs.

“We just did a survey a couple of weeks ago,” Grant said. “To find out what people liked, what they wanted, etc. We know that we can’t tailor meals to every single individual here, but there’s also no reason that we can’t try.”

WHV Interim Leader Chris Christian said, “Food is such a vital part of what we do and who we are that we jumped at the chance to have Mark join us.”

It wasn’t just Grant’s culinary abilities that attracted WHV.

“His leadership has been really wonderful,” Christian said. “Bringing his experience to our team has been a big benefit.”

Grant’s culinary experience started in Milford, Conn., when at age 15 he started working in the kitchen of a banquet hall. He found the work rewarding, but didn’t see a career in it, so he made other plans and went to college to study pre-law.

While he sat in the classroom, his heart stayed in the kitchen. After a few semesters, he realized his passion was to create in a hands-on environment and he enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America. His training brought him to Columbus and the kitchen of local favorite Handke’s Cuisine, which has since closed.

After graduation, he moved through the food circles of New York City and New Orleans, but always kept his eye on Columbus. When an opportunity opened there, he jumped at the chance. Since his return, he’s helped build the region’s now-thriving dining reputation with his work in the kitchens of BRAVO Cucina Italiana, BRIO Tuscan Grille, Lindey’s and Bon Vie Bistro.

At Creekside, he said he’s found a “unique” opportunity.

“This is not like a job,” Grant said. “It’s more family-oriented, just a really big family.”

Noell Wolfgram Evans writes for the Columbus Jewish News from Columbus.