Many hospitals, long-term care and continuing care facilities are now focusing on providing healthy food service programs. The connection between healing and healthy eating, as well as community and employee satisfaction, is driving this improved approach to providing nutritious and sustainable food programs. If your health care facility is moving towards the greener and fresher menus of today, then you will need staff who are qualified to make it happen.
Gone are the days of hiring a cook to head the kitchen. In today’s hospitals, executive chefs are moving into cafeteria kitchens to improve purchasing, menu development and overall satisfaction in food selection. [Source]This is because providing a healthy and healing meal plan for patients and residents requires a specialized approach. A great example of this shift in healthcare food service is found in the national initiative called Healthy Food in Health Care that is part of the Health Care Without Harm program. This initiative is working with hospitals nationwide to improve food service sustainability, as well as connecting the health of the hospital’s community to the food that is served. Initiatives like this encourage hospitals through programs such as the Balanced Menu Challenge and Healthy Beverages.
In order to truly implement a successful and nutritionally-balanced menu, you need a balanced team in the kitchen. This includes hiring an executive chef, a registered dietitian and a cohesive workforce of kitchen and hospitality professionals who are dedicated to your cafeteria’s mission.
Here are some suggestions on what to look for in each job candidate:
In our article, Hiring the Right Chef for Your Restaurant, we highlighted what to look for in a chef, where to look for a chef and how to retain a chef. These same principals hold true for a finding a culinary professional in a healthcare facility. Look for executive chefs who have possess the following attributes:
- Accredited culinary education
- Experience working on a team
- Shared philosophy of your facility’s food program and goals
- Willing to work with a dietitian for a balanced menu
And along the lines of a shared philosophy, consider all the aspects that you would like the direction of your healthcare facility’s kitchen to go. This could include:
- Experience and/or knowledge of ordering from local food sources
- Experience and/or knowledge of creating balanced menu plans
- Knowledge of or willingness to learn about menu planning for patients or residents with special dietary restrictions such as:
- Difficulty swallowing
- High blood pressure
Registered dietitians with an education from an accredited program and affiliation with recognized organizations such as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offer much more than just menu planning. The professionals are trained in dietary health sciences and are up-to-date on current issues concerning nutrition.
Dietitians can offer:
- Provide nutrition advice to the chef
- Assist in nutrition training for patients, residents and employees
- Participate in budget planning
- Plan menu marketing initiatives for patients, guests and members of the community
The right culinary team can make all the difference in the success of your healthcare facility’s food service program. An executive chef and registered dietitian can lead the charge with heaps of advice and training, but it will take the right line of culinary professionals to make it all happen. When interviewing job candidates to work in your kitchen, consider the following:
- Interview trained culinary professionals looking to gain experience in a nutrition-focused kitchen
- Advertise to recent college graduates
- Seek out individuals who express a willingness to work as part of a team
When searching for the right employees for your hospital, residential care or long-term care facility, it is important to have a firm food service philosophy that your facility wishes to maintain. Keep your patients, residents and employees happy, healthy and satisfied with an energetic assembly of professionals that can create an enjoyable dining experience for all patrons.