22 May 2018
The role of the Head of Chef Academy and Executive Chef
My name is Brian Lane and I joined Hallmark Care Homes in 2016 to support our chefs to provide tasty and nutritious meals. I have been lucky enough throughout my 40 plus years as a chef to have worked in a number of kitchens, which have included country hotels and large-scale catering operations and restaurants, even running my own. Through my career customers have had the choice to eat in these establishments so, since coming into the care sector in 2005, my goal has always been to make a difference to residents that don’t have this same choice.
My prior perception regarding the food in the care sector was that it was poorly prepared by people that didn’t have a passion for food and that everything was generally overcooked and not correctly presented. The perception was only half right; there are chefs with passion who are willing to learn, but no one has been there to give them direction to help improve what they do and guide them when they go wrong. So, I set out to help make the change. My goal was to work with chefs in the care sector to help improve their practical ability and, at the same time, give them the underpinning knowledge so they have a better understanding about food, food production and presentation. My aim is to make a difference to the residents through the chefs I coach.
Since the beginning I have been working side by side with the teams in the kitchen, demonstrating and guiding them through preparation and cooking techniques. It is very easy to show someone how to present a plate of food, but the key is in the preparation and cooking. If this is right, everything else will fall into place.
My main role is to develop and support the kitchen teams. At Hallmark each home develops its own menus; this is very important because it takes into consideration the residents’ likes and dislikes. It also enables the chef to be creative in his or her own kitchen. I am always there to give guidance with the menu and make suggestions on how it can be improved, if needed. I have produced six recipe books to give the kitchen teams extra guidance and inspiration. I have also organised various workshops throughout the year as these are a great way to help develop the team and get them together to share experiences. The most successful and enjoyable have been working with a Master Chocolatier for a day, Billingsgate Fish Market tour and workshop, meat and poultry demonstration and modified diet workshops.
My top tips for cooking for residents are as follows:
• As you are cooking for the same residents every day, be inventive and not repetitive with menus.
• Ensure residents’ likes and dislikes are taken into consideration when producing menus.
• Food is a focal point of the day so the experience needs to be a positive one.
• Feedback need to be responded to straight away.
• Holding regular food forums will help involve the residents in menu choices.
• Create dishes that evoke memories, for example plated apple pies, Victoria sandwich cakes and madeleines.
• Ensure food is correctly prepared so it looks in proportion when presented on the plate.
• Prepare and cook food as close to food service as possible to ensure freshness.
• Don’t overcook food; cook to the correct texture and consistency to retain nutrients, vitamins and colour.
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