LTC system highlights culinary focus with competition

Oct. 30—For the second year, the 40-facility, 10,000-resident Benedictine Health System (BHS) held its annual Taste of Benedictine Health System. During the event, dietary staff from the system’s facilities competed in a culinary competition.

Twenty-two different appetizers and desserts, which are frequently menued in the system’s nursing homes, were judged for quality, taste and food presentation. The winners were: St. Isidore Health Center of Greenwood Prairie in Plainview, Minn., won first prize for its spicy bacon wrapped shrimp; St. Michael’s Health & Rehabilitation Center in Virginia, Minn., won second place for its Hammies—a ham and Swiss cheese baked sandwich; and St. Anne of Winona in Minnesota won third place with its easy tiramisu.

The event started as a way to increase resident and family satisfaction scores, according to Rich Daehn, food and nutrition consultant for BHS System. “We created three focus groups: one for satisfaction, one for service and hospitality and one for dining,” Daehn said. “Those focus groups worked on ways of increasing resident satisfaction. At this year’s Taste of Benedictine, we announced we were changing the name of our foodservice department to culinary services as a way of setting a new standard and putting our name in the direction we want to go with our meals and moving away from the stereotypical long-term care foodservice.”

Daehn said the goal to raise satisfaction has worked. “Last year we raised resident satisfaction by 10%. Eighty-eight percent of our residents say that the taste of our meals is excellent. The whole new mindset and focus on hospitality and a culinary feel for all of our facilities has really helped.”

That mindset includes changing menus to incorporate more variety, changing service styles, upgrading dining room appearances, culinary training for cooking staff and specialized training for hospitality and line staff.

Daehn added that the transition to a more culinary-focused department also was achieved by partnering with manufacturers. “This spring all of the culinary directors went to General Mills and worked alongside their chefs at the world center in Minneapolis,” he said. “They worked on different ways to prepare General Mills products to raise resident satisfaction.”