Learn how Morrison Healthcare morphed into reformatted café spaces with touch-less delivery systems, online ordering, food lockers and robot salad machines in a few months due to COVID-19.
By Lisa Parrish, GMC Editor
All culinary industries have altered their new normal due to COVID-19. Morrison Healthcare Corporate R&D Chef Jeffery Quasha explains how his industry morphed five years of planned change into two months. Students and instructors alike can learn how being nimble and having the ability to pivot on a dime are skills required in times of change and upheaval – no matter the culinary entity.
Beyond his time in healthcare, Chef Quasha has exhibited a constant drive to learn, teach, develop and educate the community. In every position along his culinary path he has grown these deep, foundational roots. His career has spanned positions such as Five Star dining operations, training under two master French chefs at the South’s Grand Hotel, franchise corporate chains, fast casual dining, culinary school instructor, contract services and specialty events.
Read on to discover how Chef Quasha’s experience during the last six months has changed his plans for the next five years, learn what advice he would provide culinary students looking for a professional position, and how a cancer diagnosis has changed his own culinary habits.
Describe changes in the healthcare culinary industry from March to May 2020
Before COVID-19, the technology trend was moving toward mobile ordering, food lockers, smaller and easier operating menus, kiosk and app-based ordering, and even cashier-less systems. This was expected but not standard. We were still several years away from these standards being the norm throughout the country versus in select markets. COVID-19 accelerated what would have been doable in five years to needed it back in March.
In two months between March and May we launched programming like Take Home Meals, Pop Up Markets, a new app called Insta Eats, built food lockers and ghost kitchens, and designed new concept kitchens and outdoor spaces.
A demand for customization is one of the biggest trends we have seen post-March. Consumers were forced out of necessity and safety to buy pre-packaged food items like meal kits, sandwiches, salads, and grab and go during the height of the pandemic. With self-service stations like salad bars being removed, customers are demanding more and more customization. Made to order salads and bowls are filling the void left from self-service kiosk and stations in the healthcare, business and industry, and fast casual industries.
What advice would you give today's culinary students and graduates as they prepare for a career in the healthcare foodservice industry?
The healthcare industry from hospitals to senior living continues to be a strong environment to develop your culinary skills and grow as a culinarian. Many of my friends who owned restaurants or were executive chefs in small non-corporate positions leaped at the opportunity during the height of the pandemic toward the healthcare industry. Right now, there is such a demand for skilled culinarians who are eager to be on the front lines fighting the pandemic and becoming a healthcare hero. My advice to the culinarian graduate is to seek the non-conventional careers especially in the healthcare industry. I would also recommend looking into getting a dual degree, even if it is later in your career. I would investigate becoming a Certified Dietary Manager.
What steps would you advise culinary graduates to take in securing a position in today's market?
I would first recommend making sure your resume and cover letter are current, up to date and have been reviewed by an advisor. Then, I would make sure you have created a strong social media presence on LinkedIn and Instagram. I would begin to look for advisors or mentors in the industry to help you as you leave the safety of culinary school and enter our industry that has been drastically altered from the pandemic. Me personally, I would befriend as many recruiters as possible on LinkedIn and create profiles on some of the largest Foodservice contract companies like Compass Group, Sodexo and Aramark. I would also be flexible; companies like Morrison Healthcare and Compass Group have amazing programs like internships, traveling sous chef or marketing positions that develop and train you onsite in various accounts and across the country, and provide you with mentors and career development. You must be flexible right now!
Describe one surprising event in your professional life that made a valuable impact on your career?
In April of 2017, at the age of 39 I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, which is an incurable blood cancer I didn’t even know existed. I dabbled in the concept of food as medicine up until this point but had more of a half-on-half-off approach to the concept. During my radiation and chemo treatments, I realized quickly what I put in my body dramatically affected my quality of life. It was at this point I shifted my food philosophy and started to make deliberate modifications to recipes I developed, what ingredients I used, and fortifying foods with spices and herbs for immune boosting. I have been in remission since August of 2017. I take the healthcare trends and immune booster conversations to heart.
More About Chef Jeffrey Quasha
Chef Quasha’s has been an active member of the ACF from states spanning the Deep South to South Florida. It was during this time Jeffrey became a member of the Chefs Move to School Program, Chef and Child Chairs, member of the Chaine des Rotisseurs and an adjunct culinary arts professor at the University of South Carolina. Chef Quasha is also President of the Chefs of the Low Country and Culinary Board Member of Savannah Technical College.
Currently, Chef Quasha is the Corporate R and D chef of Morrison Healthcare in charge of developing key retail programs for over 950 hospitals across the United States. He is a Certified Executive Chef (CEC), Certified Culinary Administrator (CCA) and Approved Culinary Evaluator (ACE). Chef Quasha has also been featured on several Food Network programs, Guys Groceries Games, Best Young Chefs in America, PBS, and travel channel cooking shows.
Click here to read GMC story featuring Chef Quasha, “Breaking the Credibility Stigma of Non-restaurant Chefs.”
Editor’s Note: “Chef’s Corner Table” will become a regular feature in upcoming issues of the Gold Medal Classroom. Articles will focus on professional chefs from various facets of the foodservice industry. The questions will delve into their views of current foodservice developments and how culinary students can find positions within their industries.