LONDON - Tasty and hospital food don't usually feature in the same sentence. But one hospital in the United Kingdom is challenging that and a Pinoy is at its center.
Francis dela Cruz is the chef manager at the West Berkshire Community Hospital in Newbury, around 60 miles west of London.
Dela Cruz, originally from Angeles City, Pampanga, leads a team that prepares fresh and nutritious food served with a dash of love.
The grub is so good it even drew praise from a Member of Parliament during a government debate on hospital care.
Earlier this month, MP Andrew Smith of East Oxford visited the hospital to personally thank the staff who cared for his elderly mother during her recent stay.
He was greeted in the restaurant by a decoration that had everybody's mouths watering.
On offer were a variety of fruit, vegetables, meats and homemade pastries.
"I think Francis and his team here is doing a fantastic job and it's really important for the recovery of patients that they enjoy the food, that it's nutritious and that helps them get better," said Smith.
“The food is excellent. You can't fault it in any way. I've enjoyed every meal I've had. Find it nice and hot as well,” said patient Brenda Batstone.
"I have eaten a lot of the food here and it has been superb. I wouldn't mind paying for it if I had to pay for it, I would pay for it. The food that has been put in front of me has been better than most restaurants you'd find in the area. This is like a 5-star hotel," said another patient, Andy Myers.
Dela Cruz is an employee of SGP Property and Facilities Management Ltd., which provides catering services to the hospital.
The 39-year old Pinoy has been at the hospital for eight years. He sources the best quality, cost-effective food and liaises with hospital staff to ensure the dietary needs of each patient are met, and sets the standard for everything served.
Dela Cruz began his catering career at fast food outlet Jollibee in the Philippines.
He has since gained experience in a number of hotels and works part-time under a chef that was trained by Michelin star celebrity chef Raymond Blanc.
Dela Cruz goes that extra mile for all of his dishes which sometimes even contains free range ingredients.
"We're doing a much better presentation and quality ng mga pagkain natin, para masayihan ang mga pasyente. Lahat ng pumupunta dito ay hindi para magsaya, nandito sila para magpagaling, meron dinaramdam kaya yun lang maitutulong namin, bigyan silang magandang pagkain, na magpapalakas sa kanila," Dela Cruz said.
He is also touched by the praise from the Member of Parliament and the hospital's patients.
"I'm really proud of that because at least, ang mga paghihirap or hard work natin na ginagawa ay may kinapupuntahan. Whether they will appreciate it or not it will benefit us anyway because we'll know that ginagawa namin trabaho natin para makatulong din sa kanila at the same time," he said.