Alumnus - Elaine Lazzarato
Food and Nutrition Management, Graduated 2003
Food and Nutrition Management graduate, Elaine Lazzarato has the unique ability to walk into any commercial kitchen, see problems, and then solve them. “I am a fixer,” she says.
After 22 years as a top producing food and beverage administrator and chef manager, she saw a need for a fix of her own—a career change that would get her out of the kitchen and into people’s lives.
“I really wanted to work one-on-one with elderly and infirm clients in a long-term care facility,” she says. “I had relevant skills, but I lacked an understanding of how food and nutrition intersect with healthcare.”
To gain the right qualifications, Elaine enrolled in George Brown’s Food and Nutrition Management Certificate in 2002. As the only program of its kind in Ontario, the curriculum prepares people who already have a culinary and hospitality background to work in hospitals, retirement homes and healthcare facilities. Students learn about food and nutrition through the lens of illness and/or aging - for example, how to make a plate of pureed pork chops look appetizing for someone on a textured diet.
While in the 10-month program, which is accredited by the Canadian Society of Nutrition Management, Elaine completed two mandatory co-operative positions: one clinical, one administrative. Both allowed her to put into practice what she was learning in the classroom. While working at a nursing home, Elaine recognized that food temperatures during mealtimes were not being measured in a systematic manner, leaving residents vulnerable to illness. She conducted an audit of kitchen-to-dining room food transfer, and then created new policies to ensure food safety.
“I was able to identify what was wrong in that situation because what I was seeing was not in line with what I was learning at George Brown,” she says. “The placements really help you understand and experience what it is like to be a food and nutrition manager.”
For the past five years, Elaine has worked as the Food and Nutrition Manager at the Wellington Nursing and Retirement Home in Hamilton, Ontario. She oversees the supervision of 30 staff members, dietary aids and cooks, and 180 residents. Her days are rarely identical or even similar. She spends a lot of time with residents learning about their food likes and dislikes, even what type of cutlery they prefer. No detail is too small. And best of all, the position offers many opportunities to solve problems on a daily basis.
In May of 2010, Elaine was nominated by her staff for a regional Service Award for Geriatric Excellence for “her excellent management and communications skills, and for remaining on the cutting edge of her industry”. Currently, she is serving on George Brown’s Food and Nutrition Management Program Advisory Council.
“My experience as a student was unbelievable. Not only was it educational, but it also opened doors to new areas of my industry. I am very happy with my line of work. By remaining involved with the program, I can continue learning and keep my professional networks strong,” she says.