Rex Healthcare rolls out “Black Hat 2.0”

Published in FSD Update

The Black Hat chef program, one of the most talked about culinary training modules in healthcare foodservice, has become obsolete at Rex Healthcare, in Raleigh, N.C. But that’s just fine for Foodservice Director Jim McGrody; he’s already found something to replace it.

McGrody has created Discovery Sessions for his chefs and cooks. In a Discovery Session, a member of the culinary team can carve out some time during the workweek to learn a new skill that, ultimately, should benefit the department. Now eight months old, the program—which McGrody calls Black Hat 2.0—has allowed seven chefs to learn skills as diverse as making sourdough bread from scratch and refining charcuterie skills. Ten more employees are on a waiting list.

McGrody says the new program was born of necessity. “After about two years, our food culture started to change,” he explains. “Our reputation started to grow in the Raleigh market. We started getting chefs from the restaurant community who wanted to be part of what we do. I now have seven culinary graduates working with me. They’re extremely talented people and they already knew the stuff we taught in Black Hats. So that program became obsolete.”

Discovery Sessions grew out of a conversation with a team member during recipe development. “The chef said to me, ‘I wish I could do what you’re doing,’” he relates. “And I thought about it and said, ‘why can’t he?’ So I sat down with the chefs and asked them, ‘What do you want to discover about food? What do you want to learn that you’ve never had the chance to do?’”

Under the program, one chef or cook at a time works on a project of his or her choosing. Participants are required to keep a journal and in monthly meetings they talk about the experience. “It creates a culture of food speak,” McGrody says, “and it creates this energy in the kitchen. These guys can’t believe they’re getting paid to discover something they always wanted to learn.”

It also helps to build camaraderie, as chefs share knowledge with each other. McGrody talks about one chef who wanted to learn to make sausage. Another team member, who once worked in a sausage shop, served as a mentor.

“The biggest difference between this and Black Hats is this is sustainable,” he adds. “There are always things people want to learn, and always people willing to share their knowledge on those subjects.”

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation

When it comes to sustainability, sometimes the smallest kitchen changes can make the biggest difference. When Chris Henning, senior assistant director of dining services for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, switched from standard latex gloves to nitrile gloves, he also set up a recycling program. Once recycled, the gloves are turned into playground equipment, bike racks and park benches.

Henning says the nitrile gloves have been a good fit for his department, both in terms of durability and cost. “Participating in the campus buying program reduces the cost, as [our]...

Ideas and Innovation
elderly old hands

A family’s request for at-home meal support for a patient at Lee Memorial in Fort Myers, Fla., led System Director of Food & Nutrition Services Larry Altier to uncover a gap in care. He saw that only 1% of patients had been coded (diagnosed and labeled for billing purposes) as malnourished, while more than 60% of all Lee Memorial patients are over 65 years or older, a population that experiences the issue at a higher rate.

His discovery helped more rigorously identify malnutrition, but it also strengthened Lee Memorial’s community connection. The hospital launched a delivery...

Ideas and Innovation
nutrition facts label

Despite operators’ attempts to communicate nutrition information to guests via cards and labels on the food line, many guests still feel they have no clue what’s in their food. University of Illinois food economist Brenna Ellison shares a few guesses as to why consumers ignore these signs following a recent study on their placement in dining halls.

Q: Who is most likely to read the cards?

A: Students who were already exhibiting more healthy behaviors. So those were the students who track their intake using an app or a food diary. After the first week, we found the rates of people...

Managing Your Business
studient orientation

When an alma mater and an employer are one in the same, it can be a win-win for both the employee and the school. Here’s how two students’ experiences with campus dining—one positive and the other negative—led them on a path to their current jobs.

A Feast to Remember

NC State University’s main campus in Raleigh, N.C. was built on farmland given to the state by Richard Stanhope Pullen; every spring, students gather to celebrate those agricultural roots through Farm Feast, an outdoor celebration with food and music. Design major Christin King remembers her first Farm Feast vividly: “...

FSD Resources