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A culinary first: Belgian hospital wins prestigious Gault&Millau restaurant award

09:22 09/03/2023

A hospital in Kortrijk has received a prestigious designation from Gault&Millau, responsible for giving out awards to restaurants and chefs including chocolatiers.

Never before has a hospital been the recipient of such noteworthy recognition, but AZ Groeninge is now being recognised for the quality of meals served to its patients.

“For some years now, Gault&Millau has been active in Belgium in consulting and auditing meals in the restaurant sector – this is the case in company restaurants as well as in hospital restaurants and other communities,” said Marc Declerck, chief executive of Gault&Millau.

“The recognition of the high quality of the meals served to patients at the AZ Groeninge is the result of a greatly increased commitment in the hospital sector to put that important aspect in healthcare provision literally at the top of the agenda three times a day.”

The process of investigating and inspecting hospital food across Belgium has been ongoing since early 2022, with a number of trial analyses. Gault&Millau inspectors tasted 16 meals and their dietary variants at eight different times each. The meals consisted of hot dishes served to patients for lunch.

AZ Groeninge was proud to receive recognition for their hard work when it comes to preparing patient meals.

“Besides medical care provision, we consider the quality of our meals as crucial in the healing process of our patients,” said Tino Gabriel, director of finance and administration for the hospital.

“Hence, we’ve been highly committed to this for many years. We are particularly pleased with the quality recognition by an institute such as Gault&Millau. This affirms our approach to develop that part of our care provision even more than before.”

Meals were systematically analysed and evaluated against a dozen criteria, including taste, aroma, texture, consistency of the meal components (main ingredient, vegetable garnish, starch component and sauce), flavour balance and consistency.

The Gault&Millau inspection team also paid attention to criteria such as serving temperature of the meals, freshness and seasonality of the ingredients used, as well as final finish and presentation of the meal and conformity between description on the menu and reality on the plate.

“Our patients were also involved in the whole process because their voice is very important to us,” AZ Groeninge’s Philip Dupont said.

“Between the various audits, they were questioned several times. This was across all departments, from geriatrics to maternity.”

Meals were also evaluated in terms of their nutritional values. In addition to its kitchen staff, AZ Groeninge has a team of about 10 dieticians who, in consultation with doctors and nurses, are responsible for the nutritional composition of patient meals.

The quality award from Gault&Millau is valid for one year, after which it becomes subject to periodic checks over time to ensure the quality label is still applicable.

“In its quest for continuous quality control and improvement, AZ Groeninge has been questioning its patients about the level of meals served for several years,” Dupont said.

“We want to be the first hospital in Belgium to take steps, on the basis of this external audit, not only to maintain the quality of patient meals, but above all to improve it even further. This tastes like more.”

Written by Helen Lyons