You could be forgiven for thinking that Harbourview Rest Home in Porirua is a high quality restaurant judging by the delicious meals its residents enjoy.
Favourite dishes include lime and lemon baked fish with freshly made crumb, grilled tomatoes and asparagus. For dessert, a dreamy espresso brulee. A birthday cake is baked and decorated for every resident, and in the summer, there’s fine dining, outdoor barbeques and ice cream days.
This is all thanks to award-winning head chef Jerson Lat, who designs the menus, cooks, and runs the rest home kitchen.
Jerson is one of the country’s top two rest home chefs, having won second place in the ‘Senior Lifestyle Cuisine Award’, a new category at the New Zealand Chefs National Salon 2016.
The category has been created by ServiceIQ Sector Manager Pippa Saxon and two independent industry experts, to raise the standard of food for residents in New Zealand rest homes.
The initiative is being hailed as a game-changer by one the world’s leading rest home operators, BUPA New Zealand, owners of Harbourview Rest Home and Hospital, and part of UK based BUPA Health Care Group.
“We can’t overestimate what this means for our industry,” says BUPA Operations Manager, Joanne Grant. “Before this competition, there hadn’t been any recognition of this incredibly important service for New Zealand’s elderly citizens. Not only does the competition help raise the standard of food, it also has the potential to improve the image of rest home cooking as a great career.”
BUPA’s goal for rest home dining is great cooking that residents thoroughly look forward to.
“We want fabulous food for fabulous people,” says Joanne.
On top of his award, Jerson will receive a new national cup that Joanne has introduced to recognise the extraordinary contribution that BUPA chefs make for residents and the business.
He’ll also pass on his culinary secrets at a new series of workshops where BUPA’s expert chefs from around the country can get together to share tips and tricks, and discover how their star cook reinvents a menu to satisfy and delight diners.
“Jerson is fantastic. He’s exactly what we want to see across all of our rest homes. He creates extraordinary, beautifully presented food, but he also manages to make everything within a budget,” says Joanne.
With no extra money from government to cover rising catering costs, chefs need to be innovative with ingredients, and this takes courage, confidence and knowledge that comes from having a strong skill set, says Joanne: “We just need to give our great cooks the how-to.”
Catering apprenticeships are an exciting offer on that menu. Bupa has already trained 150 kitchen staff on-job with ServiceIQ’s NZ Certificate in Catering Level 2 and 3.
Now it’s turning up the heat for two employees with a ServiceIQ Catering Apprenticeship Level 3 & 4 qualification.
One is a young kitchenhand keen to cook her way into a rewarding and creative career, the other a highly experienced rest home cook getting the benefit of formal skills and knowledge.
“Suddenly, working in a kitchen is no longer considered a dead end job, and instead it’s become quite a sexy career,” says Joanne.
The apprenticeship is designed for kitchen managers and head cooks. It reinforces their cooking skills and gives them the all-important financial planning and people management skills they need to run an efficient operation serving excellent quality food.
It’s early days, but the flavours taste good, Joanne says: “We are already seeing changes in the food they are both preparing.”
At Harbourview Rest Home, Jerson conducts regular surveys and meets with residents’ families to make sure he is helping to make residents’ lives more enjoyable.
Since taking over as head chef two years ago, residents’ food satisfaction rating has gone from 73 per cent to over 90 per cent today.
Jerson says: “The main thing about working in a rest home is not just about your food, it’s about your relationship with the residents. If they are not happy, I make a point of talking with them.”
“I love my job so much. I love the residents and it’s really hard when one of them dies. I feel my heart belongs to them.”