Kris Stefanski, Head Chef at the Royal Hospital in Donnybrook, tells us about himself, his role as a healthcare chef with Aramark and being crowned Aramark Ireland’s Healthcare Chef of the Year.
Tell us about yourself:
My name is Kris Stefanski. I am passionate about food and work as a healthcare chef in the Royal Hospital in Donnybrook.
I graduated from culinary school in 1996 and worked in an Italian restaurant - where all passion for food begins! After two years in this restaurant, I decided I wanted a change of scene. I volunteered with the First Special Operation Military Task Force in Poland. After military service I worked in various restaurants and hotels where I learnt about many different cuisines, including Italian, French and Chinese. During this time, I took part in few competitions and found this was a great way to test my knowledge and learn new skills.
As young chef, hungry to upgrade my skills and learn more, I joined one of the biggest cruise line companies called Princess Cruises as a Chef. I worked there for two years, as part of a team of excellent chefs from around the world, cooking and serving food for 3,600 passengers every day.
In 2005 I started a new chapter of my life as a healthcare chef and joined the team in The Royal Hospital in Donnybrook, where I have been ever since. After two years, I became head chef of the kitchen, working and learning new skills every day.
In my spare time, I am very active in crafts where my creative side comes to life. I love hiking and mountain sports and fell in love with K-9 training. I love to learn and be creative, as I always say: ‘’ watch, learn, win’’.
What motivated you to take part in the competition?
I love learning new skills and especially love to master one I already have. I am a firm believer that challenging yourself will only push you forward so I saw this competition as a way to challenge myself.
For those who may not know, can you explain what a modified meal is and the importance of modified meals in healthcare?
A modified meal is nothing more than the food that we all have every day, but prepared in a specific way, by skilful and knowledgeable chefs, to allow people have a proper balanced meal when they are going through an illness which may cause difficulty swallowing. These can be difficult and stressful times and not being able to eat is one of the most difficult times for patients.
As a healthcare chef, we not only cook food but also help people deal with their hard times by creating meals that are tasty, safe, and nutritionally balanced.
How did you come up with your winning dish for the Healthcare Chef Competition?
As the focus for the competition was to create a bread-based dish, I instantly thought about one of the most delicious sandwiches I ate on the very first day I came to Ireland, the Club Sandwich. So, I created a Club Sandwich, with rashers, tomatoes, lettuce and potato wedges. The challenge was to make everything as Level 4 textured components (pureed) to be tasty, safe and look appealing.
What is the most rewarding part / your favourite part about being a chef in a healthcare setting?
The most rewarding part about being a healthcare chef is the happy face of an ill patient that just had a delicious meal and did not hesitate at all to enjoy it, despite the hospital food stigma that some people may have. This proves that hospital food can be as wonderful as in good restaurant, cooked by passionate chef.