Cook has a recipe for success

Cup of positivity, few ounces of imagination = solutions galore

For someone who is most concerned with the preparation and presentation of food, Brian Lafantaisie has a remarkable knack of shaping far more than that.

He is a cook at OMNI Health Care’s Forest Hill in Kanata; Brian is also the Inspired Leader for that residence, and that’s because of the way he takes small inconveniences and turns them into great possibilities.

For example, simply preparing a week’s worth of washed and cut celery rather than cutting and cleaning it for each meal has saved time not just for the cooks, but for others.

His most recent foray into innovative solutions has to do with the way purees are served; instead of taking the time to individually wrap each small bowl, Lafantaisie suggested the bowls be taken to the residents’ units in steam trays, and served directly from there. It saves time in the kitchen, and again for the servers, whose job it was to unwrap each container for the resident.

They are small things, Lafantaisie says, but he’s known for the one to come up with the solution.

“I was honoured. I really was. I said, ‘You think I’m a leader, really?’ For me, I thought I was just doing my job because of the amount of experience I have, I was just passing it along to the next person. To win the award, I was like ‘Wow’,” he says.

Having been at Forest Hill since it opened 12 years ago, Lafantaisie says the job can be mundane at times. His favourite task is when he’s asked to create a buffet or a special event for the residents, such as the one a few weeks ago when a family member requested a function to show appreciation for the staff.

“That’s what gets my creative juices flowing,” he says, adding that he used to love catering.
In fact, the humble cook from Forest Hill’s kitchen once helped cater a party — including teaks to order — on Victoria Island in Ottawa for 5,000 people.  It showed him what was possible when you are organized and imaginative.

So what keeps a chef like that interested in a job where every Monday the meal includes pudding, and every Tuesday it’s roast beef? Moreover, what makes him so invested in his job that his colleagues would choose him as their Inspired Leader?

Lafantaisie says he thinks it’s his attitude.

“It is challenging at times because it’s monotonous. It’s always the same,” he says. “I guess it’s how you approach your job. Some people think, ‘Ugh,  I have to go to work again, ugh,’ but I try to challenge myself to do my job a different way, and I try to instil that in the other cooks.”

“I like to find new, easier, more efficient ways to do things. It took me 12 years to figure out the puree solution, but I figured it out,” he laughs.

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