A bespoke, free training platform dedicated to chefs working in NHS hospitals has recently been launched to support their career progression in the sector. Hosted by the NHS Supply Chain’s culinary specialists, they feature live demonstrations, hands on cooking, guest speakers and the opportunity to network with peers.

All NHS chefs can register their interest for a Chef’s Academy event which are held at colleges and cookery schools across the country. So far, academy days in Manchester, Birmingham, London and the south coast have taken place, with more to come. Nick Vadis, Culinary Specialist at NHS Supply Chain and one of the trainers, says “We’re exploring the use of further colleges in Newcastle, Bristol and Plymouth. We want to provide the opportunity for chefs to attend these training days from as many Trusts as possible across the country. Chefs in other areas of the catering industry benefit from development days and interaction with other chefs. NHS hospital chefs deserve more attention. It’s important we invest in them and their future, which is why we launched this bespoke training platform.”

The training programme aims to continue the ongoing journey of raising catering standards and gives NHS hospital chefs opportunities for career development. Nick says “This is something encouraged in the Independent Review of NHS Hospital Food 2020. If we can support and play a small part in bringing some of the recommendations in that review to life it can only be a good thing. By investing in the talent that exists within this sector we can hopefully attract future talent.”

The day-long events give chefs the chance to learn new skills without the distractions of their day job. Nick says “We generally pitch the day at a chef de partie level or below, but make sure that their lead chefs in Trusts have access to all the dishes and recipes that we cover on the day so they can be utilised.”

The training comprises of practical hands-on cooking, as well as transferable skills that chefs can replicate at their Trust including; cost analysis, improving efficiency in the kitchen and assessing the nutritional value of dishes.

During the events, participants are taught how to cook a variety of international cuisines. The regional focus on India saw chefs cooking dishes such as Vada Pav (spiced potato burgers), Meen Molee (a creamy fish curry), chickpea and sweet potato rogan josh, Keema kathi roll (a lamb or chicken spiced wrap) as well as side dishes such as lemon pilau rice, tarka dhal and coriander chutney. Nick says “The food programmes are all built around what is popular among consumers. We’re also covering 100% plant-based dishes, as well as pan-Asian dishes including chicken katsu burgers, chilli glazed salmon with noodles, donburi rice bowls and firecracker chicken.”

According to Nick, patient dining has to be nutritious and suitable for the patient. “There can be a lot of personalisation in patient dining due to the individual’s different needs. Meals also need to be enjoyable in both appearance
and taste for patients, staff and visitors. You have a captive audience, so there needs to be variety as well as innovation
and excitement.”