Why the EDP is going on the hospital menu

Richard Hughes at The Pod, one of the food outlets at the Norfolk & Norwich university hospital. Pho

Richard Hughes at The Pod, one of the food outlets at the Norfolk & Norwich university hospital. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2013

It's one of the biggest events in this year's EDP Norfolk Adnams Food and Drink Festival calendar which will reach more than 10,000 people and put one of the busiest Norfolk dining establishments on the map. FFind out how the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital is joining in with this year's festival.

Head chef Jon Bachelor will be spearheading Richard Hughes's vision at the Norfolk & Norwich univers

Head chef Jon Bachelor will be spearheading Richard Hughes's vision at the Norfolk & Norwich university hospital. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2013

We all know that it's the best regional newspaper in the country, but the EDP will soon be finding its place on the menu at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital as part of a special week celebrating local food.

Richard Hughes's recipe at the Norfolk & Norwich university hospital. Photo: Bill Smith

Richard Hughes's recipe at the Norfolk & Norwich university hospital. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2013

As part of the EDP Adnams Norfolk Food and Drink Festival, the NNUH will be holding its first ever festival event, a week-long celebration of local food in its restaurant which will see the county's produce under the spotlight.

Richard Hughes, chef proprietor of The Lavender House Restaurant and Richard Hughes Cookery School and festival patron, has been working with the NNUH and Serco to improve hospital food and was keen to get the organisation on board for this year's festival.

With at least 2,000 people visiting the hospital's restaurant daily, the Eat Well, Feel Better! event will see patients, their families and hospital staff given the opportunity to choose local dishes from the menu, all of which will be packed with food sourced from Norfolk's artisan suppliers and some of the county's best-known brands.

The Eastern Daily Press will form part of a mackerel dish cooked en papillote, a technique that involves sealing food into a package to steam in its own flavourful liquid.

'Our plan at the hospital is to raise the quality of the food, make people's time here as enjoyable as possible, promote local suppliers and provide some really great meals at what I think is the most important restaurant in the county,' said Richard.

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'It's somewhere that people really do take pleasure in the simple things, such as a great piece of bread, local cheese or meat, a portion of a delicious pudding – all these things can help people feel better about the world while they're eating it.

'Good food is as essential as the treatment and care that patients receive while they're at hospital and we have fantastic local ingredients on our doorstep so it makes sense to celebrate them.'

All patients who are able to leave their beds will be given a free meal voucher throughout the week in order to enjoy their food with their family and other visitors as opposed to eating in on their ward.

'A great deal of the enjoyment of food is who you eat with, the way you are served and the feeling that the people who have made your food have put a lot of thought and effort into it,' said Richard, who will be on-hand to oversee the event.

The NNUH has made a new appointment, executive chef Jon Batchelor, who will be bringing his extensive experience into the kitchen and will kick-start his new job with Eat Well, Feel Better!

He and his team will be providing a menu with an emphasis on locally-sourced food with a special festival dishes provided every day alongside the more traditional restaurant fare, snacks and lighter options.

Dishes will include the winner of the Battle of the Bangers competition with pulled Swannington pork shoulder, beans and smoked bacon, fillet of smoked haddock topped with Norfolk rarebit and sweetcorn fritters, slow-cooked beef cooked in Woodforde's Wherry with Colman's Mustard mash and crispy breaded fish cakes with tartare sauce.

There will be fish pie with Smoked Dapple mash, Norfolk chicken leg with prunes, onions and Norfolk cider sauce, local goat curry and rice, Mardler goats' cheese and sticky red onion quiche with candied pecan and pickled pear salad, Woodforde's ale-battered fish of the day with chips and mushy peas, venison burgers with cured bacon in a brioche bun and mackerel fillet, cucumber, carrot and fennel steamed inside the pages of the EDP.

Additionally, there will be special festival sandwiches on offer, including Cromer crab, lime mayonnaise and cucumber and Mardler goats' cheese and sticky red onion and a Norfolk afternoon tea plus extra vegetarian options.

Serco director Nayab Haider explained that in addition to looking at the food offered at the hospital, Serco had also engaged People1st, the leading hospitality industry training and development partner, to deliver customer service training using techniques adopted by London 2012 to train the volunteer Games Makers.

'We have a fantastic hospital with incredibly high standards of care and high levels of patient satisfaction and we obviously want to reflect those high standards in the food we offer and the service we give,' he said.

'With 7,000 staff here, it's also important that they feel valued and offering them wonderful food is one way that we can show them how proud we are of what they do. The festival is a way for us to tell everyone about the exciting changes in hospital food here at the NNUH.

'We have a huge number of challenges: there are 27 special diets, different age groups to cater for and we have to bear in mind many factors – the oncology ward will want different meals to maternity and so on. There are no quick fixes, but with Richard's help we have already made great progress.

'The festival has really created a buzz here and none of us can wait to try the food. People are already trying to book tables! My hope is that the food here will complement the great work that happens in the hospital and that with lots of hard work, we will become the flagship hospital for food in the UK.'

* Eat Well, Feel Better! is at the NNUH restaurant from September 16 to 20.

Meet the chef:

Jon Batchelor, 33, is the new executive chef at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and begins his new role on September 13, just days ahead of the Eat Well, Feel Better! Event.

'It's Friday the 13th, but let's hope it'll be a lucky day!' laughed Jon.

Jon will be leaving his role as head chef at Barnham Broom hotel to take up the challenging new role and is relishing the opportunity to improve the food offered at the hospital in its canteens and restaurants.

After catering training at Norwich City College – where he was lectured by Richard Hughes – Jon went to work at The King's Head in Bawburgh for two years before taking up a role at Barnham Broom.

After two years he moved to Delia's Canary Catering before returning to familiar territory at The King's Head and then back to Barnham Broom where he has been in position for five years.

'The brasserie is very informal with an emphasis on great flavours, great service and locally-sourced food. Although the hospital is a very different environment, I will still aim for those goals,' said Jon, who is married with a four-year-old daughter and two step-daughters.

'People are very often reluctant to be in hospital and the food that's on offer can make a huge difference to their experience here. If it's good, it can cheer them up, if it's bad you can be sure they'll tell everyone it was bad.

'In the restaurants, there are a huge number of people that walk through the door and we need to send them away having had a healthy, flavoursome, great meal that's reasonably priced and beautifully served.'

Jon's own experience of hospital food brings back painful memories, but also serves to drive him forward to producing food he can be proud of and which will put the NNUH on the NHS map for best practice.

'My Mum was diagnosed with coeliac disease five years ago and I watched her go from healthy, happy and completely normal to dying three months later because her condition was too far gone to treat,' he said.

'It was a horrible time, but because we were at hospital a lot we obviously ate here regularly and I remember thinking that the food could be better. So this new job is close to my heart: it's too late for my Mum to benefit, but if our team can help to make people's experience of being here better, it would be fantastic.'

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease triggered by gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and rye. In extreme and rare cases, complications can be fatal, although generally the disease can be controlled by diet and medical treatment.

Jon, working closely with his team – which includes new retail manager Adam Goodwin, a group of chefs who all have more than 20 years' experience at the hospital and Richard Hughes – hopes to add a more local flavour to hospital food.

'The food you get at hospital hasn't got the best reputation, but we want that to change. We want people to go away talking about the food they've had here in a completely positive way,' he said.

'I want to bring healthier, lighter options to the table using fresh, local produce. Obviously, it's not a brasserie, it's a hospital, but we want to bring those high levels of service and satisfaction to what we do.

'Ultimately, I would love to get my hands on the patient food, but that's a massive project that will take a long time to happen and a great deal of work. But I'd love to be part of that.

'I see this job as an opportunity to help make the NNUH a stand-out hospital in the country for food. Events such as the one we're involved in for the Food Festival can only help to let everyone know that we're serious about food here and we want it to be the best it can be.'

* The EDP Norfolk Food and Drink Awards 2013 form part of the EDP Norfolk Adnams Food and Drink Festival which runs until October 6. For more details, visit www.norfolkfoodanddrinkfestival.co.uk and www.edp24.co.uk/what-s-on/norfolk-food-and-drink-festival where you will find recipes, quizzes, interviews and more.

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