A new training programme launched by Unilever Food Solutions is aiming to help those in hospitality jobs gain a greater understanding of the importance of health and nutrition in the food service industry.
Called Understanding Nutrition in Commercial Kitchens, the programme is aimed at professional and aspiring chefs and was developed in conjunction with the hospitality industry's sector skills council People 1st.
The course will help chefs better understand nutrition and the use of convenience ingredients in the professional kitchen, with the training programme made up of seven sessions, including the building blocks of nutrition, catering for special diets and retaining nutritional content when cooking.
All students that successfully complete the programme will receive a formal qualification through vocational educational organisation City & Guilds.
Tracey Rogers, managing director of Unilever Food Solutions, commented: "We want to empower chefs of the future to recognise the influence they can have over their customers' health.
"Times are changing, as are consumer needs, so we want to ensure we're equipping young chefs with the right knowledge and skill set for when they enter the workplace."
Unilever began developing its health and nutrition training programme and qualification back in 2011, working with the Professional Association of Catering Education (PACE) to understand experts' views on nutrition.
It has since worked closely with PACE and other organisations to develop the programme.
Geoff Booth, chief executive of PACE, said: "The fundamental knowledge of how nutrition impacts on a commercial kitchen has been missing from the education network.
"We need to ensure chefs are trained to handle the challenges of the 21st century food industry and match the content of our programmes to these specific needs. It's great to see that companies like Unilever Food Solutions are taking the lead and helping develop the next generation of chefs to meet the demands of the workplace."
The news highlights what is becoming a growing issue for those in hospitality careers and chefs in particular – how to balance appetising food with good nutrition.
And whether you seek a professional qualification or not, understanding the importance of healthy eating can prove a major advantage in furthering your career in hospitality.
With awareness about the dangers of obesity rising, many more consumers now expect to see a low-fat, nutritious option on the menu when they eat out at a restaurant or catered event.
Paul Bates, executive chef at Intercontinental's Park Lane hotel, is among those to have noticed this developing trend.
"Even event bookers are very much more into using healthy products," he commented recently. "We're using high energy things like blueberries. Blueberry smoothies on arrival, low-fat blueberry [and] cranberry yoghurt – all made in-house, with no preservatives or anything like that.
"It's almost getting to the point where we can't use things with a high sugar content – we want to use high-potassium stuff like bananas."
Meanwhile, according to the latest Peach BrandTrack survey on attitudes to health and the eating out market, some 62 per cent of the population believes that obesity is a major problem in Britain, and restaurant and pub chains should do more to tackle it and promote healthy eating.
Of course, the trick for chefs is to make sure that dishes are still full of flavour while being healthy at the same time.
Unilever believes this is possible my making a few small changes to dishes that won't make a noticeable difference to the taste but will reduce fat and salt content.
"Eating out should still be a treat for consumers when they want it to be and we don't want to change this," said Ms Rogers.
"What we do want to do is raise awareness to chefs that they have the power to make small changes that won't impact on taste or quality."
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