Two top Ryman Healthcare chefs are buzzing after being awarded silver in the Senior Life Style category, Kitchen Open division, of the New Zealand Hospitality Championships 2017 at the weekend.
Princess Alexandra’s Steve Iraia won second place while Anthony Wilding’s Paul Korunic won third place, but all of the top three placings were awarded silver for their efforts, indicating just how close the points differential was.
Ryman Healthcare’s Hotel Services Manager Andrew Gibson said the double whammy win built on the success that Charles Fleming chef Avril Grant achieved in 2015 when she placed third.
“I’m stoked, I’m so proud of them,” he said.
“I’d have been proud of them just for competing and having the courage to put themselves out there, but to compete and to get silver on their first go is an outstanding effort.”
In total there were 12 competitors from across the New Zealand aged care sector who had 75 minutes to prepare and present four individually presented main courses - two of which had to be served as soft or minced - and using strict criteria for the ingredients.
The judges marked them on a number of factors including technical skills, food safety, food and personal presentation, as well as originality, visual appeal, use of time and wastage.
Andrew said while they were given the brief before the competition so had time to plan ahead, the chefs were responsible for bringing everything they would need on the day.
“They were allowed 10 minutes to set up, and then the judges were marking them straightaway. They might ask them how they plan to do certain things or why they’re doing certain things, they’ve got a camera in their face and the whole time the audience is watching as well.
“It was a high pressure situation and a very difficult thing to do. It was incredibly challenging for them,” said Andrew.
And while the two chefs were initially wishing they had done a few things differently in order to have secured the top place, Andrew said it wasn’t long before they were buzzing about their success and talking about next year.
“All three winners won silver so to just miss out on a few points shows we’re definitely in the running for a top placing if this is our starting point.
“Out of 30-plus categories only one got a gold distinction which shows you just how challenging it was.”
He added: “It’s confirmed to me that we have got really talented people working in our business and really good chefs.”
A panel of Ryman Healthcare operations managers selected Paul and Steve as the best candidates to enter the competition based on a number of factors.
These included looking at how they fared in Ryman’s national food surveys and what kind of input they had with the Delicious menu design.
Ryman Delicious is the name Ryman Healthcare used to describe its ambitious menu overhaul, launched in February this year, which was to give residents more choice and variation in their food and improve the overall food experience.
Andrew said the competition success was a great way of showing that Ryman Healthcare was serious about its strategy to improve food service within all its villages.
“The standard of food has become the next battleground within the aged care sector,” he said.
“If it was as simple as writing a new menu we would just get a celebrity chef in, but there is a lot more to it.”
Andrew said it also involved reviewing supplier relations, kitchen design, how food was delivered to residents, food types, costing systems, marketing and menu presentation and of course residents’ perceptions.
“The whole journey for us is to raise the game and bring our food service up to what it should become, what we want it to be and what we want to be known for.
“The win is certainly nice recognition for our chefs’ skill, but it also sends a message that we’re serious about food and we’re going to challenge ourselves to do better. This is one way we can learn in order to achieve that.”