Executive Chef Jakob Fatica joined GA Foods in 2019. Chef "Jake"' has over 20 years of professional culinary arts experience. He is experienced in high-volume catering, and has worked in the healthcare, higher education, and hospitality sectors. Prior to joining GA Foods, he provided culinary direction at The Johns Hopkins Hospital System in Baltimore.
I had the pleasure of talking to him to learn a bit about his background and philosophy of cooking.
What inspired you to become a Chef?
My mother inspired me to become a chef! From my early childhood, my mother was my inspiration and guided me to develop my passion for food. I grew up on a farm with herb and vegetable gardens, fruit trees; we raised chickens for eggs and goats for milk. My mother taught me to cook from the heart – using the fresh ingredients we grew and raised on the farm. I learned the importance of using every part of an ingredient and cross-utilizing throughout dishes to eliminate waste. Reducing food waste and increasing sustainability helps our planet and future generations. Ma’s inspiration and the satisfaction food brings to others is why I wanted to become, and I am proud to be a chef!
How do you use your hospital experience to create tasty meals for older adults?
Working in healthcare has taught me many lessons, particularly around the importance of nutrition, allergens, and the multitude of complicated diets. Having a thorough knowledge in these areas has allowed me to successfully develop tasty recipes, while serving a diverse population, with eye-appealing and nutritious meals that are enjoyable to eat. It’s equally important to build and train your staff to ensure quality and maintain consistency.
How do you create meals to appeal to baby boomers?
I create meals with healthy, fresh options that offer nutritious delights through an array of ethnic cuisines. The baby boomer generation has heavily influenced food consumption and menus across restaurants in the United States. Older adults expect to eat nutritious, eye-appealing, local, organic foods that have changed the way they feed and cook for their families. Only high-quality foods are acceptable by this generation. I plan recipes around critical feedback provided by these individuals.
Any secrets you’d like to share?
When you cook with love, people can taste it—it’s no secret! A chef’s attitude shows in their food. If cooking, creating new dishes, and serving guests doesn’t excite you, get out of the way and open the door for the next chef who has passion and fire! I’m 100% committed to leading the way for chefs who display the same passion for the culinary craft.
What can older adults do to make meal preparation easier?
Meal preparation can be exhausting and time-consuming. When preparing meals, make multiple servings at a time to be frozen for later consumption. Freezing food will save you time later. Keep a rotation of frozen leftovers in the freezer that you enjoy eating. Plan to eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day. I am proud to create a wide variety of home-delivered meals to that nourish older adults, yet meet their expectations for flavor. Malnutrition can be a serious issue for those returning home after a hospitalization and it's important for them to eat healthy meals.
How do you enhance the flavors of your meals while keeping them healthy?
Flavor enhancement is achieved in several ways, using preparation techniques, ingredients, and finishing flavorings. I concentrate on different cooking methods and techniques to extract optimal flavors from ingredients during the cooking process. I use fresh ingredients, cook vegetables slowly over low temperatures infusing spices, seasonings, and herbs to enhance flavor instead of too much salt. Also, using cooking techniques such as sous vide and braising develops complex flavors in a recipe. While creating a dish, I tend to incorporate “5 S’s” into every dish. These are Sweet, Sour, Salty, Spicy, and Savory. The combination of incorporating these five flavors make for a well-balanced palate profile.
How do you collaborate with the Registered Dietitians at GA Foods on meal planning?
Collaboration is crucial between the chefs and the dietary team to develop menus and recipes. Our Product Development Committee meet often to brainstorm and share ideas. I enjoying pairing my creativity of using unique flavors and ingredients with the nutritional targets from the dietitians. Teaching each other from a culinary and nutrition standpoint leads to creating delicious and nutrition-appropriate meals.
To learn more about how GA Foods provides meals for older adults, contact an expert, or download our Made With Love brochure below.