Ryman Healthcare’s two Hamilton chefs are facing off against each other having both made it as finalists in a national Food Awards competition.
Fiona Le Gros from Hilda Ross and Shane Ormshaw from Linda Jones will be competing with one other finalist in the Gilmours Excellence in Food Award for Care Homes and Hospitals which is run annually by the Aged Care Association (ACA) with the winner being named this Thursday night.
They both had to submit a detailed entry form describing innovations or ways they had made improvements, who the key team members involved were and what the outcomes were, as well as provide a four minute video outlining the village’s food service programme.
Then, they had a nerve-wracking few hours hosting the judges for lunch with only the dates of the week they would be arriving notified beforehand!
For Shane, being chosen as a finalist along with Fiona is proof that Ryman produces quality across the board.
“I thought it was fantastic that another Ryman village could make it to the final. Fiona works hard and is passionate. The results speak for themselves,” he said.
Fiona agreed: “I would say that Ryman Healthcare is a leader in the industry.
“Many things have changed in the five years I have been employed here. I think the constant desire to improve standards and to be on the cutting edge of development is realised in Hilda Ross and Linda Jones becoming finalists,” she said.
A love of French bakeries was what started Fiona out on her career, later training in a restaurant, expanding to fine dining and then changing to a café in order to stay with her employer.
Fiona with one of her sweet treats cooked up in the Hilda Ross kitchen.
When her mum moved into resthome care (not Ryman) Fiona felt that the quality of the food could be better and decided to apply for the role at Hilda Ross.
Since then she has built up a great team and a great rapport with the residents, something which she cites as the highlight of the job.
“I am most proud of the fact that I get to play a small part in our residents having a great day.
“One resident said to me recently that she may be having a bad day or she may not be feeling great but she knows that she will have a nice meal and that makes her happy.
“That makes me happy and proud of the kitchen team that we can deliver that for her.”
Hailing originally from South Africa, Shane started cooking from a young age as an interest and to help out his parents and later built up his experience in hotels catering for conferences and weddings.
He spent five years based at RAF Ascension Island in the Atlantic Ocean catering 250 meals a day for mainly military personnel and contractors.
Having to rely on deliveries of supplies by ship every six weeks made Shane an expert in menu-planning and managing stock!
Shane loves his job at Linda Jones, with the interactions he has with residents making it particularly special.
A decision to move to New Zealand with his wife and young son in 2018 saw him working for Sky City in Hamilton until COVID-19 shut everything down and forced him to find a new job.
That’s where Linda Jones came in, and Shane has relished the new challenge but with more family-friendly hours and the opportunity to build relationships with the residents.
“I am most proud of the team I have. Each one is hand-picked since the village opened and together each day we are able to provide the quality and consistency of food that our residents deserve. I am extremely grateful for all their hard work,” he says.
Shane says catering for older people in this setting may not be what people think it is.
“Retirement village food is not boring and dull! And the great thing is you get feedback every day. The residents will tell you if they like it and I enjoy forming those relationships with people.”
Both Shane and Fiona are very excited for Thursday night and say they would be happy if the other wins.
“I feel honoured to make it as a finalist. I really just want Team Ryman to win,” says Shane.
Adds Fiona: “Regardless of the outcome, when we return to work, we will still have our amazing residents to serve. And I look forward to that.”
Andrew Gibson, Ryman’s Hotel Services Manager – Operations, said Fiona and Shane are both fantastic chefs and the whole team was very proud of them.
“To have reached this level of recognition is a brilliant achievement and we wish them all the best for Thursday’s awards ceremony.
“We feel lucky to have Fiona and Shane in the Ryman family regardless of the result!”