Maribyrnong Leader – Tuesday September 27th – Bridie Byrne
COMMUNITY Chef has opened its doors amid criticism over the Meals on Wheels dishes.
The Leader was given a tour of the super kitchen in Altona last week where the 1.2 million food packs are produced every year.
Community Chef had come under fire from the Older Persons Reference Group in Maribyrnong which claimed that the elderly were buying frozen dinners from the supermarket rather than eating the meals supplied by its kitchen.
The $24 million centre was established in 2010 by a consortium of 13 councils.
French food-processing systems architect Francois Tesniere designed the kitchen to create a more linear process flow.
The kitchen is a hybrid model with chefs looking after each department from the preparation to cooking areas.
Up to 6000 three-course meals are prepared daily.
Customers who cry foul over slim pickings can look no further than their local council.
Each council has the task of choosing what food will be served up to its elderly or disabled clientele.
Community Chef offers up to 60 different main choices each season.
Business development manager Pam West said the kitchen offered a huge range from vegetarian to Asian options.
“What councils put on their menus is entirely up to them,” she said.
“Some only offer two menu choices a day or some don’t have salads and sandwiches.”
Chief executive Joe Ciccarone said where possible the company sourced local food.
“One of our best partnerships is with Karkana in Horsham, which is run by women in Uniting Care and they employ intellectually disabled people and they provide us with a portion of our carrots and onions,” Mr Ciccarone said.
“We donate a lot of our spare food to Foodbank and food relief.”
Ms West said there was taste-testing every quarter with recipients.
“Any time a menu is being developed, we go out and speak to different groups and we are really focusing on ethnic groups at the moment to have authentic recipes,” she said.
“We had an Italian group that complained and weren’t happy about the authenticity of the Napoli sauce and we approached an Italian chef and another one who owned an Italian restaurant his entire life and they helped us with the recipe. It’s now one of our most popular recipes.
“Recently we had problems with a meat supplier and we had feedback about the quality of the meat so we sourced a new supplier and we haven’t had one complaint since.”
Ms West said there were opportunities for the kitchen to cater for a particular person’s taste in food.
“It’s really important that the feedback comes back to us so we can hear and respond to the needs of the meal recipients,” she said.
The Leader also took a taste test of its cabbage and bacon soup, chicken and basa fillet with vegetables, cheesecake and chocolate mud cake.
We found the meals to be satisfactory.
Meals on a Grand Scale (download the PDF here – 278kb)