My Job at SATS: I help patients heal by cooking nourishing hospital meals
A hospital kitchen is not your typical culinary space. Here, every meal is not just food for sustenance, but a carefully crafted recipe to help a patient feel better. This is the world Mohammad Lokman Bin Salleh willingly entered in 2018 when he joined SATS, following a 15-year stint in hotels and restaurants.
Mohammad Lokman Bin Salleh, Senior Cook, SATS Food Services
Fast forward five years, including navigating the challenges of a pandemic, and Lokman confidently declares that he has no regrets. “I do an important job cooking for patients who need to get better,” he proudly says.
A custodian of nutrition
As Head of the Halal kitchen, he oversees the preparation of 1,500 meals daily across the Western, Indian, and Malay sections.
His day begins with a menu review. In a hospital kitchen, breakfast isn’t just flipping pancakes; its strictly following meals formulated by chefs and dietitians. “We use alternative ingredients that are healthier and suitable for their diets, but we try our best to infuse the familiar flavours patients know,” Lokman explains.
Beyond leading the halal kitchen, Lokman takes on the critical role of a Lead Checker, ensuring every meal is safe and accurate, especially for patients with difficulties in swallowing food. “Textures are crucial,” he emphasises. “Chopped, minced, and pureed food have to follow strict requirements from dietitians and therapists.” As the final gatekeeper, Lokman makes sure meals meet standards before being transported to the wards by automatic guided vehicles.
Automatic guided vehicles that transport meals from the kitchen to the wards
Dispelling myths about hospital food
Hospital food often carries the stereotype of being bland or tasteless. Even Lokman had the same perception when he first came to the hospital kitchen. But after countless meals he has whipped up, he’s here to set the record straight.
Cooking, for Lokman, is not just about throwing ingredients together; it’s about putting a piece of your heart into every dish, especially when those meals are for people in a hospital. He muses, “If I like what I’m cooking, other people will like it, too.”
Lokman beams with pride as he shares the rave reviews the hospital kitchen team receives from patients. “Our food gets Instagrammed, with patients claiming it’s better than what they can find outside.” For Lokman, each hospital meal shouldn’t be just about filling stomachs but about offering a gourmet experience, enticing patients to indulge and hasten their recovery.
Hospital kitchen during the pandemic
Amidst culinary victories celebrated by Lokman and his team, there’s a chapter that stands out – the Covid-19 pandemic. This period brought unprecedented challenges to their hospital kitchen, testing their resilience in ways unimaginable.
When borders closed, many of Lokman’s team couldn’t come back to Singapore, leaving the hospital kitchen team short-staffed. But they didn’t pause. “We were tired, but we knew patients needed their meals,” Lokman recounts. It’s a testament to the team’s dedication that keeps the hospital kitchens going even when the world turns upside down.
While healthcare workers are rightly lauded for their frontline efforts during the pandemic, individuals like Lokman and his team deserve equal recognition. Their commitment extends beyond the traditional boundaries of healthcare, highlighting that good food is an important part of healing.
A half-decade journey
Lokman whipping up halal meals for patients' lunch
Five years in a hospital have been a breeze, says Lokman. Despite the inherent challenge of cooking meals for dietary restrictions, they still get opportunities to infuse creativity into the dishes. But what keeps him rooted in this kitchen for half a decade is the people he works with.
Lokman lauds his supervisors for fostering a culture of creative thinking in the highly structured environment of a hospital kitchen. “They value our talents and ideas,” he says, sharing how they recently planned and created a Deepavali-themed meal, a creative deviation from the usual hospital menu.
Yet, what truly makes Lokman’s years at SATS extraordinary is the teamwork woven into their daily grind. They seamlessly collaborate, covering for each other and working towards the same goal each day – to prepare safe, delicious, and precise meals for every patient.
What’s next for Lokman? Well, he hopes to keep doing what he does best: making hospital food that’s equivalent to healing served on a plate.