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May 16, 2017

Students benefit from hospital kitchen training

A LOVE of food, learning and supporting people to succeed are what motivates Middlemore Hospital’s Food Services Manager Karen Reynecke.

With a background in food services education, Karen began working for Compass Group New Zealand’s (Compass) in 2015 when she took up the challenge to run one of the country’s busiest hospital kitchens. While Karen’s focus is on the kitchen, the ‘classroom’ beckoned when she was invited to give a motivational lecture to Mangere’s Southern Cross Campus students.

“It was a great opportunity to share my personal hospitality and food services experience, while helping them see the many career pathways in both the food services and public healthcare sectors,” says Karen.

Karen then invited five freshly inspired students to experience her ‘real’ working kitchen, with more than 142 employees all preparing, cooking and serving up to approximately 3,000 meals every day to Middlemore patients and caregivers.

“They’ve learnt about good work ethics, as well as serving patients with many diverse needs. Food services in hospital settings are particularly interesting as every single ingredient on each plate is carefully considered. In healthcare, we need to think about nutritional balance, special meal preparation (such as pureed food), and allergens, among many other considerations,” she says, adding that they have also been taught about wider topics such as dietitians, supply chain, computer programmes and more.

“Our kitchen team has welcomed the students by encouraging them to learn and upskill. The students now want to compete in this year’s national NZ Chefs’ Association National Salon competition, so every Saturday we support them in preparation for their competition dishes.

“I’ve also heard they are more engaged in school life and parents have given the school positive feedback about their experience at the hospital – this is a wonderful outcome.

“Counties Manukau Health is committed to the communities it serves and Compass supports this. We are privileged to support students from our community to help them to develop and learn, while creating broader awareness around health and nutrition to achieve long-term health and wellness benefits.”

Before joining the Middlemore team, Karen taught food services at New Zealand’s NZMA and Cornell Institute of Business and Technology and worked at Auckland Airport, as well as at educational institutions in South Africa.

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