The Journey of a Healthcare Chef

The last ten years of my career have mostly been centered around one common goal, changing the public’s perception of “Hospital Food”. Over this journey, I’ve made plenty of mistakes, won many awards, and met many people whom share the same vision. One thing I know for sure , it’s not an easy path to venture down,  and as a chef in healthcare, there’s a handful of qualities you must have as a chef to carry out your vision.

Passion– This is the first step, and most important I believe. This is the backbone of your work. As a culinary leader in healthcare , your passion should be infectious throughout your team. It also provides the fuel needed to put in the time and effort needed for success, and to constantly be doing the right thing even when nobody else is watching. You can’t fake passion, if your operation has been trying to improve the level of food and service for years and have been unsuccessful, the first thing I’d look at, how passionate is the leader?

Commitment– As the chef, you will need to be “All in.” We all know that there’s certain perks for a chef to be working in healthcare, but really making a difference involves a bit more effort than just going through the daily motions. To truly make a difference, you need to be committed to continually challenging yourself to be better. Examples of this are attending industry trade shows, staying up on trends, new recipe development, competing in culinary competitions, achieving certifications, and having a presence in the local culinary community. Additionally, every new hire you make should be bringing on somebody that can bring you to your goal even sooner. You can’t just fill positions, you need to build a team. This takes commitment.

Follow Through– Do what you say you’ll do. Your team will see right through you if you lack follow through and over a period of time it will be harder to achieve your goals. As a culinary leader of a team on a mission, if you expect your team to follow through and support new initiatives, you must do the same. Set goals that you can realistically meet. Don’t focus on being first, focus on being best.

Visibility– You need to be visible. To your team, and to your organization. They should all know about your desire to improve healthcare food. They can support you greatly if they are aware of your vision. Nurses, cashiers, pot washers, and office personnel should know your teams stance on improving the food quality. They will help get the word out to the patients and community. They will get you the feedback from customers and patients that is crucial to your overall success.

Patience– Contrary to some of your beliefs, you are not a  magician, and you won’t be able to do it all at once. This is a journey, and it doesn’t happen overnight. If you think that putting everyone in a shiny new chef coat is the answer, you are wrong. This is a process which  will take years of hands on training. It contains numerous baby steps, so start small, get the results, and move to the next project.

Stay true to yourself and your goal, and you will start to make a difference. #HospitalFood

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About Chef Ryan CEC

I'm the Executive Chef for Rex Healthcare's Culinary & Nutritional Services team in Raleigh, NC. We are doing some amazing things. We are changing the perception of "Hospital Food"- one meal at a time.
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