The journey of a Chef is a diverse landscape of cooking experiments and experiences as motley as the kitchens they cook in.
Hailing from Glasgow, Scotland, Stewart McTavish came to Canada in 1968, with a merchant marine background and acquiring a Canadian Culinary Institute certification as a Chef de Cuisine (CCC), he quickly rose through the ranks of noteworthy kitchens. Starting with the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto, he continued through various Ontario resorts such as the Killarney Mountain Lodge and Muskoka Sands Resort. Transitioning westward to Calgary, after another short stint in the Toronto hotel scene, he took the helm of kitchens for several country clubs and catering for high-level events (it was during this time he honed his ice sculpting skills on these platforms, specializing in NHL team logos). Wanting to slow down his pace of life, McTavish landed on Vancouver Island, continuing as an Executive Chef to various lodges and resorts but also taking on a culinary professor position at Vancouver Island University (VIU) and stepping into the role of restaurant owner and caterer with his own venture. It was during this time that he was approached by the Arrowsmith Health Care Society for guidance and direction in their Hospitality department.
Truth be told, “It was the kitchen as much as the cause that drew me”, said McTavish. Regardless of the impetus, the positive impact of his approach to food matched the commitment to quality care Arrowsmith Lodge and Cokely Manor strive to deliver. Care facilities at that time were resigned to food service plans that met budgets and staff abilities by utilizing pre-made frozen and powdered food options. The changeover to cooking with more fresh ingredients, enhancing taste and nutrition, yet staying cost-effective, came about through the filter of McTavish’s illustrious career and vast experience. Added to this was a new tier of requirements he needed to navigate, such as specific food textures, restrictions, intolerances, portions, and personal preferences. This new approach was pivotal, delivering home cooking on a grand scale, and helping to de-institutionalize long-term care food service. The consensus from the staff at Arrowsmith Lodge is summed up in one comment, “Stewart laid down great principles and taught us proper technique, creativity, and improvisation to get away from using processed food.” When talking with a few of the elders during lunchtime, the consensus was that ‘the soup is always delicious’ and ‘the muffins and cookies are really good’. One elder said, “It tastes like they know what they’re doing”.
For the past 9 years, McTavish has been solely focused as the Hospitality Manager for the Arrowsmith Health Care Society, making fundamental changes to the food service at Arrowsmith Lodge (long-term care), Cokely Manor (assisted living residences), and for Parksville’s Meals on Wheels program for seniors ageing in place. McTavish is working hard on succession planning to ensure this model of care not only continues but expands as a primary directive for long-term care facilities on a national level.
We believe not-for-profit care models are vital in the ongoing investment in long-term care and assisted living. A not-for-profit care model does not answer to financial stakeholders and supports the view that social care is the responsibility of society rather than for-profit businesses. It is the mission focus that grounds our organization, where every person is supported in living their best life, in a home-like atmosphere, where they continue to be connected to their community.
Highly qualified and caring staff is at the center of our organization. We want to acknowledge and celebrate Chef Stewart and the Hospitality team for their efforts in delivering wonderful meals, outstanding housekeeping services, an integral piece of delivering long-term care and assisted living at an exemplary level.