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Providence Chef Makes Each Meal a Memory: ‘It’s All about Family’


At age 14, Tom Corley needed a job, and the local pizza place was hiring. He started bussing tables there and stayed in the pizza business throughout high school. “After high school, I tried some different things: construction, factory work, warehouse work,” he says, “but I went back to what I knew the most.”

What he knew most turned into his career. Tom went to culinary school, where he took restaurant management classes and excelled, driven by his desire to learn. He spent several years in France and Ireland, working in restaurants and hotels. He then came back to the States (with the wife he met in Ireland) and pursued opportunities as a chef in country clubs and restaraunts. Tom was even chef at the Signature Room on the top floor of the John Hancock building.

All of that experience brought him to Providence. For 17 years, Tom’s been a Providence chef—sometimes cooking for residents, sometimes cooking for corporate events, but always just going wherever he’s needed most at the moment. And he’s loved every minute of it.

“Since day one, everything has been great,” he says. “Providence has been so good to me.”

Now at Village Woods, Tom particularly enjoys the interaction he gets from grateful residents. “I love getting to spend time with the residents,” he says. “They’ve enjoyed what we’ve done—even little things, like fresh fruit every morning. And they’ve let me know how much they enjoy me being there and the changes in the food. I love to get to know them better.”

Tom knows that meals are the highlights of the day for many people, and their feedback is helpful as he strives to make each meal special. “We want to make sure residents enjoy everything about their meals,” he says. “Maybe you put an orange twist on the plate, or you do a cooking demonstration, or find out their favorite dessert and you put it on the menu.”

And meals are very much a part of enhancing the lives of the people he serves. “It’s just really about keeping people happy. And then everything else will fall into place.”

While his current focus is on the residents, he’s always enjoyed cooking for all the organization staff who have passed through the corporate office for trainings and meetings over the years. During a time when so many restaurants had to close their doors and chefs were out of work due to the pandemic, Tom is thankful that he was able to stay employed in his chosen field at an organization he believes in so strongly.

“I truly feel that my blessings are aligned with Providence’s mission,” he says. “It’s an honor to be part of the organization so long.”

He appreciates the work-life balance Providence has given him, allowing him to spend time with his wife, two kids, and two (soon-to-be three) grandbabies.

“It’s all about family,” he says. “Both at work, and at home. It’s all you can really ask for.”

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