Baker’s Delight

FoodService Director - What I Learned - Dave RensiAfter five years owning a bakery, Dave Rensi decided to take on the challenge of hospital foodservice. Now as executive chef at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Superior Township, Mich., Rensi is bringing his commercial knowlegde to the hospital's full-service bakery. Rensi talks about his transition to non-commercial and how his previous experience helped him along the way.

FoodService Director - What I Learned - Dave RensiDave Rensi, executive chef at the 500-bed St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Superior Township, Mich., has 23 years in the foodservice industry under his belt, ranging from restaurants, country clubs, and as the owner and chef of a bakery in his hometown of Brighton, Mich. In 2004, after five years at his shop, Anjou Bakery, Rensi sold the store and joined the staff at the hospital so he could learn another part of the industry, this time in the noncommercial market.

“I’m not a classically trained baker. Baking has always been a hobby, and so I decided to open a bakery that made artisan breads and pastries. It was like a small café in that we would do soups and sandwiches as well. We built it up to a pretty good business. However, owning your own business is 100 hours a week. It was really taking a toll on me, and I had small kids at home too. So working that many hours, I was always so tired and I would have to go to bed at 8 o’clock. The hours were pretty much killing me. However, working 100 hours a week, I figure in those five years I got 10 years of baking experience. That was huge. So I sold the bakery and heard of the position here and I contacted the people and they hired me and here I am. I’ve been here almost four years.

We just opened a full-service bakery at the hospital four months ago, which obviously the experience owning the bakery helped with. We are just starting out, but we are baking all the pastries for our three different coffee shops and the breads for the cafeteria. We are only doing four patient desserts right now, but we will, I hope, eventually bake everything for the patient menu. The Anjou Bakery no longer exists; the person who bought it went out of business. I’m actually using the same recipes that I used at the bakery for pretty much everything. So I actually have some of my customers coming to the hospital. They will drive a half an hour to come and buy some cookies.

Some of the most challenging things to adapt to when I started working in the hospital were the policies and procedures. I went from managing about 10 employees at the bakery to managing almost 30 direct reports. Tracking absences and tardies, doing paperwork for family leave and doing a big payroll were pretty tough adjustments. Large scale cooking was also a change. When I first got here, a lot of the food was frozen, convenience-type foods. We changed the menu around. Now, when I do recipes I have to do the math and find out the correct amount for each ingredient so we can make it on a larger scale.

The amount of food that goes in and out of the hospital has surprised me. Between catering, the cafeteria and patients, we serve about 3,000 meals a day. We get our food delivery five days a week and it’s literally a semi. It’s six to eight pallets stacked to the ceiling. I have a full-time purchaser, stocker and inventory people, so I have support but I just didn’t know what it would take to run a storeroom.

My experience working in the commercial market and dealing with customers has helped a lot in my new position. I talk to a lot of patients, and a lot of people have a tough time adjusting to the change in diet. So knowing that the patients are your customers and making sure that they are happy is a part of my job. If a person is in the hospital on a low sodium diet, he was probably not eating all that healthy at home and he might have been admitted here for a heart attack or chest pain. Obviously, there will be a change in his diet while he is at the hospital. He is going from fast food to a specific diet, which is extremely low in fat. So some complain and I have to go and talk to them and explain to them why their food is this way.”



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