Kaitlyn LaRocque, St. Louis Center Kitchen Manager, appreciates the role food plays in bringing people together.

Kaitlyn’s life journey is with a strong commitment to working with people of all ages and abilities. From a young age, she felt a calling to help others, and her natural talent for connecting with people has always been evident. This strong desire to make a difference led her to join the kitchen staff at St. Louis Center a little over two years ago, where her passion for people and her love for cooking found a perfect match.

Kaitlyn’s path has had its share of twists and turns, but her dedication to serving the mission of St. Louis Center has remained true. She has displayed her skills and talents by fearlessly confronting every challenge that crossed her path. One of these challenges involves mastering the art of modified diets for the residents, making sure each person receives the specific nutrition they need.

Two commercial grade food blenders on the counter in a kitchen.More than 90% of the residents receive food tailored to their unique differences. Each meal is planned far in advance to help accommodate each person’s needs. Chopped, pureed, low fat, low protein, no protein, and no dairy are just a few of the dietary needs that must be addressed each mealtime.

“It has taken time, but I have learned every resident’s restrictions, preferences, and eating habits. This is all-important so they can live happy and healthy lives,” Kaitlyn comments on her duty to learn the resident’s needs.

A young women standing by a buffet table of food that is ready to serve.Meticulous and precise in her work, Kaitlyn consistently goes above and beyond to ensure that the residents are not just well-fed but also safe, content, and satisfied. Her journey at St. Louis Center has become a testament to the remarkable impact that one person’s dedication can have on the lives of those she serves. Kaitlyn is a shining example of how passion, perseverance, and a genuine love for people can transform obstacles into opportunities for betterment and care.

“The residents love food and get excited to know what their meal of the day is. Their favorites include chicken alfredo, mac and cheese, pizza, burgers, and corn dogs.”

In a recent development that truly reflects her dedication and talent, Kaitlyn has been rewarded with a well-deserved promotion to the role of Kitchen Manager. This achievement represents a significant step forward in her journey and brings her one step closer to realizing her dreams.

Kaitlyn’s unwavering attitude and her passion for the culinary arts can be traced back to the loving influence of her family and friends. She fondly remembers the cherished moments spent gathered around the table, breaking bread, and sharing stories. These experiences instilled in her a profound love for cooking and a deep appreciation for the role food plays in bringing people together.

“One of my earliest memories is being in the kitchen with my grandma. Of all the things we made, lasagna was my favorite. I would help her mix the ingredients and spread them over the hot pasta, layering it to perfection. It is a recipe that I still make with my kids and would love to share with you,” Kaitlyn said with a smile.

Grandma’s Lasagna

A serving of lasagna by Hansuan Fabregas on Pixabay

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • ½ cup minced onion
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, divided
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  •  teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 (16 ounce) package lasagna noodles
  • 1 pound small-curd cottage cheese
  • ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 (16 ounce) package shredded mozzarella cheese

A smiling young white female wearing an apron.

  1. Place ground beef in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat; cook and stir until browned and crumbly, 5 to 7 minutes. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, garlic, basil, salt, oregano, and sugar. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.
  3. While the sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles in the boiling water, stirring occasionally, until tender yet firm to the bite, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  4. While the noodles are cooking, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  5. Mix cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese, eggs, remaining 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, salt, and pepper in a large bowl until combined.
  6. Assemble lasagna: Spread a spoon or two of sauce over the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish just to to coat it. Place two layers of noodles over the sauce to cover. Layer with 1/2 of the cheese mixture, 1/2 of the remaining sauce, and 1/2 of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers once more using the remaining noodles, cheese mixture, sauce, and mozzarella. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil.
  7. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until cheese is golden brown, 5 to 10 more minutes.
  8. Remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

“I find immense joy in knowing that each day, I make a meaningful difference in the lives of the men and women who call the center their home.”

For Kaitlyn, the most heartwarming aspect of her work is witnessing the residents of St. Louis Center enjoy their meals and the camaraderie that surrounds them. The significance of her work transcends words, and her dedication to their well-being is a testament to the remarkable impact a person can have when driven by a genuine love for others. Kaitlyn’s journey from Kitchen Manager to aspiring Head Chef is not just a career path; it’s a heartfelt mission to create a warm and inviting experience for those she serves.

Because of YOU, we met and exceeded $200,000 MATCHED funds!

St. Louis Center received two $100,000 matched gifts. Not only was the match met – we EXCEEDED it, with a final total of $218,894!


The match may be over, but your donations throughout the year are important and appreciated!