Saanich chef cooks up innovative ideas to keep the menu fresh

Victoria Chef Ken Waterman experienced a full-circle moment as he handed his fourth Red Seal apprentices their certificates.

“I started at Berwick Retirement Communities in 1997 as a dishwasher and the Executive Chef at that time encouraged me to start an apprenticeship,” says the executive chef, entering his 27th year with the family-owned seniors’ residence. “I got my own Red Seal at Camosun while apprenticing at Berwick and it turned out Berwick is the perfect learning environment.”

As it became harder to find Red Seal chefs, Ken’s solution was to create them himself – an approach that has since found success in other Berwick communities, too.

“Students join us as part-time staff, unsure where to go after school and receive the exposure they need to ask questions and get involved. Many of our servers have since gone on to become nurses. Early exposure to these industries has not only benefited Berwick but the broader community as well, through the creation of more skilled workers.”

Aside from helping train the next generation of Red Seal chefs, another favourite part of working at Berwick is their ‘Cooking with …’ program.

Executive Chef Ken Waterman serves some delicious treats to residents at Berwick House.

Executive Chef Ken Waterman serves some delicious treats to residents at Berwick House.

“‘Cooking with …’ involves one of our residents teaching me and the kitchen staff one of their family’s favourite recipes, including where the recipe came from, its history and so on. Then we cook enough of the meal to offer each resident a small sample at a presentation,” Ken says, noting the sessions have had the best turnout of any of their culinary programs.

“And the best part is getting one-on-one time with residents and learning about them on a deeper level.”

Though all have been delicious, a favourite recipe has been an authentic samosa recipe, Ken says.

“There are so many steps involved and we’re not overly exposed to ethnic foods at culinary school, so learning this recipe from someone who has made samosas hundreds of times before was an amazing experience.”

Keeping things fresh, delicious and nutritious

Part of Ken’s role at Berwick involves rewriting the menus every six months, overseeing all kitchen activities and sometimes dispelling misconceptions – including that meals in seniors’ communities are made off-site.

“Here is the thing though, you can’t fake homemade food and 90 per cent of everything we serve residents is made from scratch right here in the kitchens,” Ken notes.

Over his 27 years at Berwick, Ken has found a unique way to prevent any such rumours: inviting residents into the kitchen to see some of the process and offering ‘observation dinners.’

“We’ll invite five or so residents once a month for tours, and for our observation dinners, two diners join us for a behind-the-scenes look at what exactly takes place during meal service. They witness an extremely well-oiled machine and gain a new appreciation for what happens in the kitchen and then share that with their friends,” Ken says. “Residents then have it on good authority that nearly everything is indeed made from scratch –hence why it tastes as amazing as it does!”

Similarly at Berwick Royal Oak, Executive Chef David O’Neill, regularly invites Berwick Royal Oak residents in for kitchen tours as well. With Royal Oak residents having the added bonus of their very own in-house pub, with a new creative menu that still features old favourites such as fresh fish and chips, burgers and chicken pot pies that they can enjoy with their friends and family!

Learn more at or follow them on Instagram. To book a tour of Berwick House, contact Linda McDonald at 250-853-5492 or book online here. For Berwick Royal Oak, contact Kathy McAree at 250-419-4012.


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