A bi-annual magazine for the Hong Kong Academy community.
A Day in the Life of a Chef by Chris Gallaga 16 Chris Gallaga, Chef of hkaEATS. We all eat, and many of us cook. It’s an experience many of us share and understand. But just as preparing for a dinner party for 20 is different than preparing a meal for a family, daily food preparation for a school community of nearly 1,000 is something different again! An operation like hkaEATS regularly serves nearly six-hundred or so meals before 2pm. This sheer volume dramatically impacts food preparation methods and approaches. The diversity of tastes and dietary needs at a school such as HKA is also much greater than at home. We feed an age range from 3 to perhaps 70, taking into account different preferences and dietary needs. What is the same at home and school, however, is the planning that goes into healthy fare, and in a school environment, food’s nutritional value is treated with scientific scrutiny. Gary Wan, Chef de Cuisine of hkaEATS, preparing platters for an HKA event. For a school kitchen, the day starts early! Food preparation sometimes begins well in advance with marinating meats, chopping vegetables, making sauces, and coordinating the dozen or more team members who work together to make sure there’s food on the table at HKA. By 7am on any given day, loaves of breads and other baked goods are sliding in and out of giant ovens. Meanwhile, our seven or eight cooks begin preparing cafeteria meals. Each day we prepare about 30kg of raw produce (meat or vegetable) for any main dish. On Friday we prepare about 100 large pizza bases just for the cafeteria. The team also prepares starches (like rice and pasta), soups, salads, vegetables, sandwiches, and sundry items. Koon Lin Lee, Food and Beverage Assistant of hkaEATS, preps for lunch service.
By 8am on many days we are also preparing for one or more events for dozens of adults — perhaps parents, visitors, or teachers — that require the setup and delivery of coffee, tea, pastry, fruit, etc. By midday, the rush begins! Hundreds of students and adults gather and dine in the cafeteria for the daily hot meals, while dozens more crowd into the UG Cafe for lighter meals. On some days our catering operation goes into the evening for functions such as Back to School Night, curriculum evenings or other events. As the chef, I am often in the kitchen, but I also move about quite a bit throughout the day, ensuring service and production are meeting the needs at hand, interacting with our students, faculty and staff and helping anywhere that is experiencing a challenge. Once the lunch rush has quieted down, I assess that day’s successes and challenges and make notes for the next time the menu appears in the cycle. HKA Secondary Students enjoying one of their favourites, pizza. and preparation choices. All menu items are also considered for nutritional balance; drawing on scientific research and bearing in mind the timeless advice of the Oracle at Delphi: nothing too much. Ingredients are creatively substituted to reduce unhelpful fats or empty calories while increasing micronutrients, fiber, and developing overall macronutrient balance. Lean meats, and cleverly incorporated fruits, herbs, and vegetables are often employed to create that balance. Ann Lee, Food and Beverages Clerk of hkaEATS, all smiles with lunch in full swing. As you can imagine, menu preparation is a big part of the process for hkaEATS, especially as we take into account the seasonal availability of fruits and vegetables. We have two menus for every planning session. For the cafeteria, the menu is a four week long cycle that is repeated once or twice before a new menu and cycle begins. Over the course of a year’s four-cycle menus, we create 48 main courses that include western, Asian and vegetarian/ vegan options. In addition we plan four soups, side dishes and desserts, and a dynamic variety of salad bar items. Planning for the Upper Ground Cafe is equally intensive as we offer “grab and go” food, as well as dependable snacks, sandwiches, salads, hot items, and drinks. While the Cafe menu stays more the same than what’s offered in the cafeteria, we do adapt as items move in and out of popularity and as vendors introduce new ingredients worth a try. HKA student sampling the daily soup offering. To borrow an old saying, a chef must think like a scientist, organise like an accountant, inspire and motivate like a warrior, move like a track star, plate like an artist and cook like a grandma. A school chef is more or less the same. — Chris Gallaga Importantly, our menu and preparation processes are done within the school’s mission and values. In addition to basic issues of food safety, we actively take into account sustainability, fair labour, and environmental awareness in all our procurement 17