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Cooking school's innovation opens doors to customers with dietary requirements

Business

A well-known Adelaide cooking school has rolled out a training and certification program to help food service businesses cater for diners with specific dietary requirements.

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The Dietary Hawk trademark has recently been certified by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, allowing qualified businesses to market themselves as able to safely cater for all.

Dietary Hawk was this year spun out of Adelaide-based healthy cooking school Sprout, which was started by dietitian Themis Chryssidis and Australian Masterchef reality TV series runner-up Callum Hann in 2011.

Sprout now also hosts dinners, provides nutrition services and runs cooking demonstrations at major events. Many of the company’s 35 staff were among the first to complete the Dietary Hawk training.

Sprout and Dietary Hawk Managing Director Themis Chryssidis said the recent certification was the springboard for Dietary Hawk to begin seriously targeting clients, specifically childcare centres and schools in the first instance.

He said the online training portal could cater for up to 5000 users a month and could be quickly scaled to accommodate many more customers.

The Sprout training and demonstration kitchen.

“We’ve got a comprehensive online training program created by a team of experienced dietitians and chefs, which offers an affordable solution to a growing concern. The best part is we have a team constantly working on product creation and innovation ensuring all of our products services will always be relevant, practical and up to date,” Chryssidis said.

“We’re focusing on childcare centres initially but we’re very aware and able to start moving into traditional hospitality settings very quickly as well.

“We’ve also had some conversations with a couple of private schools with boarding houses looking to get certified – Prince Alfred College (in Adelaide) is about to take it up and hopefully they can be certified by the start of next year.

“They said ‘we’ve got students coming from all over and it makes absolute sense for us to have this because the kids spend 40 weeks a year with us and their parents need to know their needs are being met’.”

Some of the most common food allergies in Australia are cow’s milk, egg, nuts, wheat, shellfish and soy while an increasing number of people who eat out require vegan and halal meals.

The online training mirrors Australian Government laws around alcohol service through the creation of a Dietary Hawk Responsible Person qualification for supervisors and managers and a Dietary Hawk Responsible Service qualification for general staff.

The Dietary Hawk Responsible Person online course takes about 10 hours to complete and is aimed at head chefs, front of house managers and anyone who is in charge of a venue serving food. The Responsible Service course takes two to three hours and targets staff who have less responsibility but still complete important food service tasks.

“The idea is to have a Dietary Hawk Responsible Person with that core knowledge on the premises at all times and every other staff member has to have completed the Dietary Hawk Responsible Service course,” Chryssidis said.

“The Responsible Person course takes people through how to create dietary requirement management plans and how to implement systems in the business from the ordering through to the serving – all facets of the food service and it’s about them being able to communicate this with the team.

Themis Chryssidis (left) and Callum Hann started Sprout together in 2011.

“The Responsible Service course is about these people understanding the terminology and knowing what to do and why they’re doing it.

The training and certification covers allergies, intolerances including coeliac disease and religious and personal preferences such as vegan and halal.

Participating businesses will be regularly audited to ensure standards are maintained.

Chryssidis said there were no similar certified training courses in Australia despite one in four people now having a dietary requirement when they go out to eat.

“It’s becoming a serious issue worldwide and we know that if we nail it here in South Australia there’s already interest interstate, which we can easily accommodate because the certification is national and the training packages can also go overseas very easily,” he said.

“The idea isn’t just to help consumers decide where to eat, it is also to help food businesses become more efficient and more confident in their ability to deal with these dietary requirements.

“The reason we’re starting with childcare centres is because this has been identified as a critical market and also because we can’t spread ourselves too thin too early. There are a lot of people this course applies to, however we want the Dietary Hawk brand to be well respected and highly regarded within all sectors, so controlled growth is important.

“Childcare centres, schools, boarding houses and early learning centres are all in the one cluster for us and then after that we’ll be moving into cafés, restaurants, hotels and airlines where we’ve already had a lot of interest.”

Certified venues will be able to display Dietary Hawk certification signs and will be listed on the Dietary Hawk website and eventually mapped on a free app.

“We will be the dietary requirement hub for anyone who cooks, handles or serves food. Dietary Hawk will offer a centralised and credible source of dietary requirement information for all food services.”

This article was first published by The Lead South Australia.

Themis Chryissidis was named in InDaily’s 2019 40 Under 40 – a program that recognises young South Australian entrepreneurs and business leaders.

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