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I'm a confused, young, chef

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

Ok, I work at an assisted living facility and I replaced the old chef because she was ordering stuff premade and just throwing it in the oven. So They hired me to be creative and to stay under budget. I'm not going to lie. Im really start to be creative, and just going all out on the the freshness, and well today, I get feedback that everything I was proud to make, such as a roasted beet salad, and yes I roasted and peeled the beets myself, soups all from scratch even the stock, and even fresh fish that they have been asking for, they don't like. Wondering if anyone else has been in a similar boat? I dont know, its just seems like everything I am proud to make they hate, and everything that is so generic, they are just jumping out of their shoes! Im a confused, young chef.

 

 

thanks,

 

 

skizz44

post #2 of 7

'Assisted Living'....are you feeding seniors? Is there any sort of standardized menu (28 day rotation or similar) that you're asked to follow, or is it $ per meal per client, with you having free rein to do whatever you wish?

 

Did the majority of the residents dislike your new dishes, or was it just a few? And how many people are you feeding? Can you meet with the residents and respectfully ask for suggestions, likes/dislikes? If you are feeding seniors, it's possible that some of them may be a wee bit set in their ways as far as their meals are concerned, although I'm sure that they would be delighted to be getting fresh and creatively prepared food...you might just need to get some input from them, and to take baby steps as far as change is concerned. Remember, it's about them, not about you, don't take it personally, difficult as that can be.

 

(I've only worked in one senior's home, it was kosher, and the menus were not flexible at all, but that was a different situation; two completely separate kitchens and so forth, so my ideas are based on a more generic institutional viewpoint.)

"The satisfactions of making a good plate of food are surprisingly varied, and only one, and the least important of them, involves eating what you've made" - Bill Buford, Heat

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"The satisfactions of making a good plate of food are surprisingly varied, and only one, and the least important of them, involves eating what you've made" - Bill Buford, Heat

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post #3 of 7

OK, take a deep breathe.

 

Those in an "assisted living facility" generally have been around for a lloonngg time and have developed their palates accordingly.

 

You can be "fresh and creative" as long as you keep the "hook" that they remember, sometimes that is the tricky part, discovering the "hook".

 

Look at the dishes the do like and figure out why they like it: texture, spices, main component, reminds them of childhood, etc. Then build on that.

 

They like stewed green beans with bacon and tomatoes? Change out the bacon, or part of it, for pancetta, turkey bacon, etc. Slip in some sun-dried tomatoes or, maybe, pimento.

 

They won't eat their veggies? Dust with a pinch of sugar, not enough to make them "sweet", just enough to temper the savory.

 

Aging palates have reduced taste sense, up the mushrooms or use ingredients with umami, maybe slip a pinch of MSG?

 

Some do not like al dente veggies, blanch or cook a little longer.

 

DO NOT SURPRISE THEM WITH SOMETHING THEY HAVE NEVER SEEN BEFORE.

 

For some, it helps to think of them as children, very selectively, don't let different foods touch others.

 

Periodically have some old favorites, beef stew, chicken pot pie (fresh veggies, homemade stock, roast chicken), Shepard's Pie.

 

Once they get comfortable with what comes out of your kitchen, then you can innovate.

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Reply
post #4 of 7

Gotcha! I work at in a hospital kitchen and a chef/cook and I know completely as you feel.

 

Our kitchen produces a heinous amount of premade frozen food. The reason is because we can't hire "professional" cooks because it would be too expensive and a waste of time. Our patients don't want gourmet. They want steak and potatoes on a styrofoam plate. If I asked my boss if I could serve trout almondine, she would laugh my butt out of the kitchen. Instead, we serve "home-y" meals like pot roast, lasagne, pasta, etc. It's sad, but that's the nature of the beast.

 

My dad's best friend is a pastor at a church and a Baptist retirement village. At his work they hired a "world class" chef and he produced beautiful gourmet meals, but the patients refused to eat the meals. So, they fired him and brought in someone who would do menu items that they would like

 

My advice to you is work with your preset menu. Make every meal perfect and keep it at that standard. But, because you're a young chef, take this as a stepping stone in your career. (I'm having to tell myself that, too!)

post #5 of 7

Back when I was 16 I used to work as a Dietary Aide. The hardest part about it is that you cannot screw a recipe up. In those kinds of places, one thing could easily kill some of them or too much sugar in something can put somebody into shock. Not to mention the really low budget you have to work with. Then again, you could be working in a place where nobody has health problems but rather it's their age that put them there. 

 

Just keep it simple. Pete hit the nail on the head when they said older people are like kids. Fish wouldn't be good to serve to seniors because of mercury. If I were you, I would cook home style meals. Their palates were set on food that their family used to cook back in the day consisting of produce and meat from their family's farm and what not. 

post #6 of 7

Can you cook?  Like really COOK?

 

I would stick with trusted favorites.  Pot roast and mashed potatoes, meatloaf, roast chicken, stuff like that.

post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the info guys. Not going to lie, its hard to find the right, "hook." so to speak. However, I have also been getting a lot of good reviews too. I even was contacted by the local newspaper to put out a couple recipes, and they did do an article on me when I first started. It was pretty nifty. However, I am doing the mashed potatoes, pot roast...etc. I have been doing that for  couple months now. Just this last week I threw some new stuff at them. Potato Leak soup, Roasted Pepper Salad, Roasted Beet Salad, That kind of thing. I am from a small town, hence if it has any foreign name, the residents  immiediately get turned off. Just the nature of the beast.

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