Sous Chef: A Great Recipe for Boosting Retention

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One Chicago community is giving a local chef a year of free rent to conduct onsite catered events and cooking demonstrations.

Sous kitchens are relatively common in luxury apartments. But Magellan Development Group’s Gallery on Wells apartment community in Chicago is taking food as an amenity a step further.

The community is bringing in Tyler Houston, a sous chef at the trendy Pacific Standard Time restaurant, as its first “chef-in-residence.” Houston gets 12 months of free rent. In return, he provides Gallery on Wells with his culinary skills, including catered events and cooking demonstrations on the building’s outdoor terrace (which Magellan says is one of the city’s largest roof decks and includes a 25-yard lap pool). He is also surveying residents to see what types of events they would like to see.

“Since I am the first chef-in-residence, I have somewhat of a blank slate to play around with,” Houston told Curbed Chicago. “The survey generated a lot of great feedback and revealed interests in grilling classes, outings to the farmers market, wine pairings and using seasoning ingredients.”

Houston is not the only artist in residence at Gallery on Wells. In fact, Houston represents the sixth artist-in-residence Magellan has secured since April 2017. Luis Ramirez serves as the artist in residence Gallery on Wells. At four other communities, the company employs a musician-in-residence.

Magellan is an advocate of the arts and always looking for new opportunities to support that community, according to Vanessa Casciano, Magellan’s Community Relations Director.

“Through this program, we’re enabling up-and-coming artists to hone their craft by offering the opportunity to live rent-free for one year while providing performances and lessons to tenants on-site,” Casciano says. “Simultaneously, Magellan is making the living experience more fun for tenants by hosting these types of artists at select locations as a bonus amenity. The program permits residents to learn together, enjoy entertainment together and get to know each other.”

Magellan evaluated and interviewed each artist to determine if their talent level, commitment and personality resonated with residents and the “aesthetic” of each building, according to Casciano.

Each artist was selected by residents in a popular vote. “We wanted residents to choose their live-in artist and future neighbor and provide programming that matched their interests,” Casciano says.

The ultimate success of Magellan’s program depends upon the talent level and commitment of the artist and the response of the residents.

“The biggest factor in this program has been ensuring talent has enough time to dedicate to their role, as many of them are pursuing other projects related to their careers, which is why we’ve conducted resident surveys to ensure the events and lessons offered will be well-received and well-attended,” Casciano says.