A Day in the Life of a Fairhaven Treatment Center Chef
Chef Leslie Rowland joined Fairhaven in January 2016 as our first full-time culinary trained chef. Along with being a generally wonderful person, Leslie is also an Air Force veteran, serving from 1999-2010. Leslie Rowland served in both Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Thank you for your service!
Keep reading for more about what a typical day is like for Chef Leslie.
Each day starts around 9:30 a.m. and begins with meal preparation and sometimes helping clients make a morning snack. The task can be daunting, especially for the client…sometimes a bit too much hustle and bustle in the kitchen or just the thought of deciding “what do I want?”
At times, the simplest answer is right in front of them, but it takes a helping hand to guide their decision. Our nutrition staff makes knowledgeable suggestions, for example, “How about some avocado toast and a little fruit?” Grain…check! Fat serving…check! Fruit…check! A little help and compassion can go a long way, especially at the start of a day full of emotions and vulnerability.
Midday, I begin preparing lunch by checking the meal prep log against the client’s sign-in sheet, giving us a good idea of how many meals will need to be prepared. Meals can range from a turkey and Swiss spinach wrap with vegetables to a piping hot bowl of red beans and rice with turkey sausage. Often times, we serve meals with an Asian flair, such as pad thai with chicken.
The Fairhaven seasonal menu is a melting pot of flavors all selected and put together by our nutrition team, comprised of two culinary-trained chefs and our talented sous chefs, a food service director who is in charge of acquisition and is often referred to as our “Fairy God Mother.” And finally, four incredibly knowledgeable and passionate dietitians and a dietetic technician help bring it all together.
Lunch is served for our outpatient program at 12:15 p.m., keeping in mind the importance of a timely meal. Our staff members do their best to have the tables set with water, name tags and plates for each individual made according to their specific meal plan, minus any allergens, trauma foods or dislikes. Working at Fairhaven, our team understands the importance of compassionate care for our clients, especially surrounding meals, and recognize early on that anything we can do to make meals a pleasant experience without causing any extra anxiety or stress for our clients is paramount.
After lunch is finished and the chefs take a mindful break, we begin to prepare the dinner meal for our nighttime IOP clients and adolescents. Dinners can range from chili with crackers to balsamic glazed salmon with asparagus and risotto. Clients have another snack in between meals at 3 p.m. and often take the opportunity to partake in a sampling of banana bread or avocado bread (made from leftovers to help eliminate waste). Therapists and dietitians often join, as well.
Knowing how hard food can be for our clients, our staff works diligently to make the kitchen a warm and welcoming place that brings everyone together. Playing music and even the occasional game can make a difficult day a little easier. The energy in the kitchen is certainly a part of the day-to-day life and continuing to provide loving and compassionate energy is top priority.
At all meals, we take special care to plate the food in a way that is aesthetically pleasing, colorful and flavorful, yet not too overwhelming for the clients. Also, each meal is nutritionally balanced according to each of their meal plans. We even offer a range of vegetarian protein options that can be made in keeping with the clients’ dietary needs as well.
I am proud to offer a wide range of dishes and desserts that give our clients the chance to try foods they might have been afraid of in the past but can now enjoy with the help and support of the staff at Fairhaven.
After dinner prep is wrapped up, the team resets the kitchen and ensures it is tidy and prepared for another day of client care, and most importantly, compassion.