Chef gives NHS nosh nod of approval

STEPHEN PULLINGER Giving a top chef a peek inside a hospital kitchen sounds like a recipe for disaster. Indeed, it conjures up visions of a reality television show with Gordon Ramsay-style histrionics provoked by overcooked vegetables and watery shepherd's pie.

STEPHEN PULLINGER

Giving a top chef a peek inside a hospital kitchen sounds like a recipe for disaster.

Indeed, it conjures up visions of a reality television show with Gordon Ramsay-style histrionics.

But when one of Norfolk's rising celebrity chefs dropped in at Gorleston's James Paget University Hospital to open its revamped staff restaurant, kitchen staff were in no danger of an ear-bashing.

There were only smiles and nods as Richard Hughes, chef proprietor of the Lavender House, Brundall, near Norwich, inspected a baked aubergine pasta being prepared for the new-look restaurant Aubergine.

While Mr Hughes, a regular contributor to the EDP and Norfolk magazine, typically lavishes £14 on the ingredients for one three-course meal, cooks at the hospital work to a daily budget of £2.70 per patient, and have to prepare 2,000 meals a day.

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But in his conversation with staff, Mr Hughes noted one vital thing that his 16th-century thatched restaurant and the 1980s hospital kitchen have in common - fresh ingredients.

Catering manager Andrew Head told him: "We are rare in this country that everything is produced in our kitchen and starts out raw here. Many other hospitals, such as the Norfolk and Norwich, bring in food prepared by an outside caterer and heat it up."

Nichola Hicks, head of support services, said: "We use bakers in Norwich and Lowestoft, our eggs come from a local company and our mushrooms are also supplied locally by Broadland Mushrooms."

Opening the restaurant, following a £50,000 revamp, Mr Hughes, who has recently launched his new book, Puddings Galore, said: "Fresh ingredients are so important. When someone asked me to teach them how to cook a good steak, I asked them where it came from. When they said they bought it in a supermarket, I said, 'Lesson one - don't.'"