A passion for flavour, an eye for detail, and a drive to delight people – TriCare’s new Group Chef Manager for Aged Care, Casey Montesalvo, brings these qualities and much more to the plates of residents across TriCare’s 15 Aged Care Residences.
There’s not much that Chef Casey hasn’t seen or done in the food service industry in his 18 years cooking professionally. Over those years, as his experience grew, so did the size of his responsibilities.
“I’ve worked in hotels in the large scale and banquet side of things, which is what I love doing, and the last two years I ran the kitchen while managing all the extra challenges created by Covid,” says Casey.
Whilst managing 68 chefs across four hotel restaurants, Casey found that his forte and passion is in “bulk cooking”. “I’m excited to apply my knowledge of fine dining to the TriCare food experience.”
At TriCare, all meals are prepared onsite by our dedicated Chefs and their teams. We offer nutritious and delicious meals, and also cater for all dietary needs and restrictions.
Chef Casey started with TriCare earlier this year as the Chef Manager at the Sunnybank Hills Aged Care Residence. He impressed with his versatile approach and his genuine connections with residents and was an ideal fit to lead all of TriCare’s other Aged Care sites and Chefs.
“I now manage our Chefs and kitchen teams at 15 residences across Queensland. TriCare has approximately 1400 residents, and my job is to ensure they enjoy fresh and nutritious meals daily”
I will also be part of the commissioning of two new aged care residences over the coming months: Ashgrove in Brisbane, and Williams Landing in Melbourne, which I’m very much looking forward to.”
Casey explains the complexities of managing various aged care residences, “Each Chef obviously has their own personality and cooking style, and each cohort of residents has their own food preference. Aged Care is definitely more challenging, but in the best way.”
“It also means travelling to each residence to gain an understanding, so it’s definitely not a position where I’ll always be sitting behind a desk in the office, thank goodness!”
While there are notable similarities between hotel restaurant cooking and preparing food for Aged Care, such as the scale of the food service, Casey maintains there is no comparison when it comes to the challenges his team face, but also enjoy.
“In hotels, you have a lot more freedom with what you can do, whereas in Aged Care we have strict guidelines of what we can serve. Plus, we have to find a balance between nutrition and delightful flavours. It is a very unique set of challenges, so you have to be creative.”
TriCare’s residents are some of the most vulnerable, and in addition to compliance, our catering team also need to cater to individual dietary needs based on resident predispositions and their dietician’s review.
“Then you have food safety, which is the most important consideration and a massive part of my role. It’s a big job and one that is always evolving. In fact, I’m currently working on a new food safety plan for 2023.”
However, long before Chef Casey’s move into Aged Care, his relationship with cooking was nurtured from a young age in the busy kitchen of his family home. “Becoming a Chef was a natural progression,” he said.
“I was one of eight children, my mum was going to university, and I pretty much became lead Chef and shopper at home for my brothers and sisters,”
“I am also from an Italian background, so I always grew up watching my Nona and Nono cooking and making all of the sauces, pasta and so on. It had a lifelong impact on me, as you can see.”
Dining experience is a key ingredient in resident happiness
Chef Casey is now busy making the role of Group Chef Manager his own, and he has exciting plans for the future.
“I want to bring more elements of the fine dining experience to TriCare residents,” Casey says.
“Coming from hotels, the diners’ experience is emphasised: the service, the glassware, the presentation. I want to bring more of that in to elevate enjoyment.”
Many Chefs often say the best part of their job is witnessing the satisfaction on people’s faces enjoying their food, and Casey agrees.
“In Aged Care, people give it to you straight, whether they like things or not. I will always get honest feedback, which is an incredibly valuable thing,”
“I genuinely enjoy those interactions, going out into the dining rooms and having those conversations with people, that’s the best part of the role.”
“You’re setting menus and cooking for people who have been cooking for themselves their whole life. They all have their own preferences and needs, so they can be a tough audience to please,” jokes Casey.
“But that’s a good challenge too, which is great for me and my desire to do the best I can for the residents.”
We wish Chef Casey the very best in his new role and look forward to what he’ll serve up next!
Interested in joining Chef Casey Montesalvo and the amazing TriCare Catering Team? We’re currently recruiting a number of catering positions – find out more here.