For assistant Chefs who are looking to take on more responsibility and take a head Chef position at an Aged Care facility, there is a lot more than food to master!
Running an Aged Care kitchen can be a complex process; planning menus, keeping multiple stakeholders such as residents, families, dieticians, facility management, and accreditation authorities happy. Head Chefs are also required to manage budgets, as well as hire, manage, motivate and train staff.
Oh, and then there are meals to prepare!
There are 5 key areas to master to keep a smooth-running kitchen and happy staff.
There are understandably many requirements for food safety in Aged Care. Facilities are reviewed regularly and it is part of the Head Chef’s job to make sure the current standards are being adhered to in the kitchen.
They are also partly responsible - and this will vary between facilities - for ensuring their staff are also aware of the necessary procedures and following them accordingly.
Your staff need to know their safety is your priority. Make sure each new team member receives a formal induction into the procedures and safety standards of your kitchen.
Offer regular training updates and place posters to remind your staff of the steps they must take to prevent burns, cuts and falls.
The latest Aged Care Quality Standards (due for release in July 2019) has highlighted a change in the way residents are prioritised, bringing them to the forefront of all the services and treating them less as ‘patients’ and more as customers.
As the new standards are implemented, facilities will develop processes and procedures which fit both their facility and the updated standards.
For Aged Care Chefs, depending on the current way of providing meals for residents, there may be changes to the dining room, food service and customer interaction.
Texture modification requirements are specific to the needs of individuals and are likely to change over time.
The new IDDS (International Dysphagia Diet Standards) helps clinicians, Chefs and kitchen staff maintain consistent levels of texture modification. The IDDSI website has free resources which can be printed and used in your kitchen. In addition we summarised the IDDSI content into easy-to-understand articles and downloads here.
Potentially one of the most time-consuming tasks for Aged Care Chefs is staff management.
Putting together a strong kitchen team you can rely on day in and day out - and over the weekends requires ‘soft skills’ not often taught.
Scheduling shifts, ensuring a high standard of food quality, consistency of preparation and presentation, and managing staff motivation and teamwork are all part of running an Aged Care kitchen.
Strong planning and people skills are important.
There are cloud-based programs like Shiftboard, Humanity and When I Work available. You can use them to create a roster and set them up to notify your staff when they have a shift coming up. These systems allow staff to swap shifts amongst themselves or put their hand up when there is an extra day’s work available.
Being the head of an Aged Care kitchen puts you into a leadership role, however, many people working in Aged Care don’t see themselves as leaders.
Surprisingly though, Aged Care Chefs who are passionate about creating an amazing dining experience for their residents, who care about their staff, and have pride in their work often already carry the traits of a good leader.
Knowing how to manage expectations and keep staff motivated are simple yet very effective skills which empower everyone in the kitchen to do the best they can.