Monthly archive for July 2016

An Interview with Debra Ryan

Debra_Ryan_care OneDebra Ryan‘s passion for nutrition comes out of her own struggle with food allergies and limitations and a desire to give back and help people with similar restrictions.

She started off her career working for Sodexo as a dietary technician and when a trayline supervisor position opened up, Debra got her first taste of management experience. From there on out she has held a variety of management jobs in Patient Services, Retail, Catering and later advanced onto Assistant director positions. Now she is one year into her position as Director of Nutrition at Care One of Woodcrest, a long term care facility in New Milford, New Jersey.

While working hard to keep Woodcrest running smoothly, Debra Ryan serves as President of the Greater New Jersey Society for Healthcare Food Service Administrators (GNJSHFSA), a state chapter of the national level Association for Healthcare Foodservice (AHF). We spoke with her about her career path, what its like in a long term care facility and a myriad of other topics regarding healthcare food service.

What were you doing before Woodcrest? What brought you there?

My career advanced from a contract based company to self operated Organization after about ten years of contract experience. Then after working eight years as an Assistant Director at a self operated facility, due to restructuring, my position was eliminated. Within a month, I was fortunate to be hired into my current position as Director of Nutrition at Care One of Woodcrest.

Shifting my career path from acute care to long term care and moving up to a Director’s position where everything relies on you was something I was not acquainted to, however, having had several years of diverse management experience facilitated a seamless transition.

How has long term care dining evolved?

In a nutshell, the views of a long term care facility’s dining services had been institutional ~ mainly to provide sustenance that met the nutritional needs of the residents. It has now evolved to not only provide meals that adhere to guidelines but also to provide the highest quality of food and presentation while serving the meals to the residents.

Our residents have had opportunities to enhance their palates by experiencing different cuisines of the world so their expectations are now much higher. I’m very proud to see where we are now compared to where we were.

Menu wise there is a lot of pressure to serve “farm to table” style and local produce. Is this realistic for a facility such as Woodcrest?

Yes and no. We have certain vendors that we are required to use and order guides that we are authorized to order from. We do have a local produce company that we use to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables.

How are you able to serve residents with specific restrictions or preferences?

By being creative and thinking out of the box to exceed expectations. For example we had an Indian resident with very specific dietary restrictions and cultural preferences. It was a challenge and something we had not done before but we were able to formulate different recipes for this resident.

We created his meals individually and every time we served him there was such sincere gratitude and appreciation that we went above and beyond.

How do you choose your vendors? Is it based on price or do you have specific vendors you always go to?

There are specific approved vendors that we are assigned to use at our facility. We have very little autonomy in our vendor selection.

How about kitchen equipment? Is it the same process?

We have an approved list of vendors to choose from and then we are required to get three different quotes from them for the same item. Whichever company offers the best deal is the one that we go with.

Have you done any renovations in the kitchen or do you have anything planned?

It is a great expense but we would like renovate our kitchen flooring. For now, with some creativity, we sanded and repainted to make it slip resistant and presentable but are hoping to modernize it in the near future.

What is your approach to building your team at Woodcrest?

I truly believe you have to lead by example. You can’t build a team if you aren’t a part of it. I am very hands on and adhere to the same expectations I have for my staff. I also believe in getting my staff involved in decision making to encourage ownership of the new ideas and processes. They’re my lifeline, it is a team effort to be successful. If something is not working, we work together to fix it.

How are you attracting the young, millennial generation of professionals to your facility?

Currently, my night staff is primarily made up of millennials. The way I approach it, is to make them cognizant that there’s always opportunity for growth and to build a career. That they are going to be successful if they have real passion for what they do.

Mentorship that leads towards promoting within is also vital to uphold their longevity within the Organization.

What would you tell someone who wants to work in nutrition or healthcare food service?

There are endless possibilities and job opportunities in the field of nutrition. Whether you have a concentration in culinary arts or nutrition or even a combination of both, there is a position out there that will not only challenge you but will be extremely rewarding.

In the realm of long term care facilities, most of the residents reside there, it is their home. We as food service professionals are their personal chefs, wait staff and dietitians. We are responsible for them. It is not just coming in and working for whatever your shift is and leaving. You are making an impact on somebody’s life.

Thanks for your insight Ms. Ryan!


Here’s a link to the original article

Interview with our very own Dawn Cascia


Dawn Cascio wears multiple hats in the Healthcare food service industry.

In addition to her position as Director of Dining at Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, New Jersey, Dawn also serves on the board of The Greater New Jersey Society for Healthcare Food Administrators. After moving up from a small psychiatric rehabilitation hospital Dawn moved to a 250 bed community hospital and assumed the position of Assistant Manager before taking over at Valley Hospital. We had an opportunity to speak with her about the Healthcare service industry, her career path and how her occupation has evolved in recent years.

Ms. Cascio, How did you get into the healthcare service industry?

I started out as a clinical dietician. My first job was a mixture of covering critical care units, ventilator unites and a drug detox unit.

What sort of career path did you take to your current position?

I took a few positions, each with increasing food service management responsibilities. One position I had was in a small 90-bed psychiatric, alcohol & drug detox rehabilitation hospital. I functioned as the Clinical Dietitian as well as the Food Service Director. My time was spent fifty percent clinical and fifty percent food service. From there I took a position at a midsize 250-bed community hospital as the Assistant Director/ Patient Services Manager.

How have the dining needs of your patients evolved?

I think the patients in the hospital are more acute and they stay now for a shorter period of time. Most patients are elderly. You have to make sure food is classic comfort food that can be easily eaten. It cannot require too much cutting and it needs to be soft. It is also a balancing act to create a menu that pleases your very ill and older, and your younger maternity patients and their significant others.

What is your approach to building your team?

I think it is best to have a team that enjoys working with one another. Your supervisory team must have a say in who they think will be the best fit for the department. It is also important that work be a collaborative effort. Also, acknowledging a job well done is extremely critical.

What type of employees succeed in your culture?

People who are collaborative and will help each out even though it might not be their area. We really stress that we are one team and team work is essential in meeting and exceeding patient, employee and community expectations

What are you doing to attract the “next generation” of professionals to healthcare dining?

We are a host site for several Dietetic Internships in New Jersey. We take students from Montclair State University and Rutgers University. They typically spend four weeks with us.

I am amazed at the breadth of responsibility you and your department have beyond just food. What else falls under your managerial umbrella?

In July of 2010 we began a project of having our own beehives to make our own honey. Managing bees has been an interesting part of the job. We go up on the roof frequently to see how they are doing. Occasionally we get loose bees that we have to contain. It is always a nice reason to go outside, especially in the warmer months.

How do your foodservice, nutrition and dietitian all work together?

We have monthly department meetings. All staff, both clinical and food service, attend the meetings together. We also involve the staff when making menu changes for the patients as well as for the employee cafeteria.

What makes for a successful operation?

Communication and respect are essential. It is crucial to keep foremost in mind that we are here for one thing and that is to serve the patient.

From a menu standpoint there seems to be tremendous pressure to serve farm to table and local food. What is your approach to that?

I would not say pressure. We want to do local foods because of the superior flavor and freshness. We do as much local and farm to table as possible being in the northeast. We have a vegetable and herb garden on site. Our chefs grow a lot of heirloom vegetables. We also belong to a CSA (Community Supported) Agriculture in at Catalpa Ridge Farm in Sussex Country, New Jersey about fifty miles from the hospital. Jersey corn and tomatoes are amazing!

What role do your food and beverage vendors play in your success?

They are a great resource for ideas and inspiration. Their commitment to the healthcare segment is commendable. We know we can rely on them in any situation.

Do you go to bid constantly?

We are always checking price and monitoring the markets. If we know the price of an item is going up, we’ll modify the menu. Making sure we are getting the best possible value for the hospital is paramount to us.

Thanks for your insight Ms. Cascio and good luck in the future!






Original article

GNJSHFSA BBQ – Fun Had by All




Valley Earns Top Honors at National Healthcare Culinary Competition

July 19, 2016 – The Valley Hospital’s John Graziano, Manager, Executive Chef, and Jason Nyman, Manager of Food & Nutrition of Patient Services, were the top winners at the national 2016 Association for Healthcare Foodservice (AHF) Culinary Competition in Dallas, Texas.

John Graziano and Jason Nyman were presented with gold medals and the top award (the Silver Plate) at the Gala Banquet during the AHF annual conference in early June for their winning dish entry, Tex-Mex Chicken & Waffles.

AHF WinnersThe annual competition has a format similar to Food Network challenges. There is a time limit of 75 minutes to prepare, cook and present the entrée and sides.  Additionally, the winning dish had to use certain mandatory ingredients and had to fit within the stated guidelines: cost under $8 to produce and be appropriate to serve in a facility on a regular menu rotation, whether retail, catering or patient feeding. The teams and their dishes were judged on organization, culinary skills, taste and presentation.

The culinary competition is an AHF signature event where self-operated healthcare facilities across the country are afforded the opportunity to showcase their innovative and delicious meals. Part of AHF’s mission is to bolster the spirit of the best and brightest culinary talent and to provide an opportunity to showcase their skills and creativity. 

This year’s competition took place at 3015 Trinity Groves, Dallas’ landmark culinary event venue known as an incubator for innovation and entrepreneurism.

The event not only raises the bar for healthcare foodservice, but also helps to change the public’s perception of hospital food.   AHF’s culinary competition is a perfect illustration of healthcare foodservice having a positive impact and making a statement about the entire facility.  Healthcare organizations such as The Valley Hospital, continue to usher in a new era of hospital food that is both healthy and delicious.

Photo caption: Jason Nyman, Manager of Food & Nutrition of Patient Services (pictured left), and  John Graziano, Manager, Executive Chef,  (right) with Silver Plate awards for their winning dish at the 2016 Association for Healthcare Foodservice Culinary Competition.

Click for original article