Meet #anovagivingnerd and Meals on Wheels San Francisco's Executive Chef David

Meet #anovagivingnerd and Meals on Wheels San Francisco's Executive Chef David


Since October, Anova has been proud to partner with Meals on Wheels San Francisco (MOWSF), delivering over 620 meals to seniors in our community through their Adopt-A-Building program. Meals on Wheels SF is the only organization in the Bay that delivers two meals a day, seven days a week - providing a crucial service for the city's residents.

What many people may not know is that 68% of Meals on Wheels seniors in San Francisco live alone, without the support of family or friends. 74% of their clients live below the federal poverty line (just $900/ month). Many seniors struggle with underlying medical conditions that make them more vulnerable to many diseases. MOWSF is hard at work to ensure protocols are in place so that the delivery of meals continues uninterrupted, no matter the circumstances.

We know that now more than ever, it is hugely important to shine a light on the crucial work their team is doing. Anova was lucky enough to tour the MOW kitchen and sit down with Executive Chef David Hernandez to learn more about daily operations. Chef David is extremely passionate about making the best meal possible for the thousands that rely on MOW. He leads an all-star team that helps cook, assemble and distribute 10,000 meals per day.

Join us as we take a virtual tour of a day in the MOW kitchen with #anovagivingnerd and Executive Chef David.

Q&A with Chef David

Q: It's incredible that your team is able to produce enough meals to feed 10,000 people in the SF Bay area. Could you take us through a typical (crazy) day in the Meals on Wheels kitchen?

A: I’ll start by saying it takes an incredible team and a LOT of organization to keep things running as smoothly as possible. Myself, our packaging manager and shipping manager run the kitchen with the help of 35 staff members. I’m in charge of all food production including protein, sauces, starches, soups and everything in between. We also have separate menus for seniors with dietary restrictions. Everything we serve is calculated down to the ounce to make sure seniors are receiving the nutrients they need for a balanced diet.

As the prepared food runs down the line of production, it hits the packaging team’s hands who make sure everything is properly sealed, labeled and packaged - no easy undertaking. Our shipping manager then makes sure that everything is prepared for delivery in the right order and in the right quantities. Things have to stay incredibly organized because if one section falls behind, it affects the other two.

Q: I know that MOW is opening a mega industrial kitchen later this year, which is hugely exciting! Can you tell us a bit about how it will make an impact?

A: This has been a dream project years in the making and I can not wait to see it come to fruition. We will finally have a test kitchen where we can play around with different combinations of food, which we don’t have the ability to do right now. We will also have all brand new equipment - something we have desperately needed for the past decade. The freezer itself will be so big, we will be able to fit forklifts inside.

One thing I’m particularly excited about is the new “cook/chill” equipment. The new machine takes care of everything from cooking to filling and draining the vat with water to cooling to portioning quantities of food out. This is just one of the many ways we are using innovation and technology to increase our output from 10,000 meals to 20,000 meals per day, meaning we will have the ability to expand our program and deliver meals to even more seniors. The new kitchen and food production facility is scheduled to be in operation by the end of 2020. If you'd like to learn more about the new facility, visit our site here!

Q: We’re very excited to have been able to contribute three devices to the new kitchen! Could you tell us a bit about how you will use sous vide to help prep 20,000 meals per day?

A: Although it might not be the first thing that comes to mind, I’m most excited to use sous vide to develop flavors for meats, chicken and fish. When you cook in such large quantities (think 750 pounds of beef at one time), you are making things so quickly you can’t follow a traditional cooking method. You don’t have the luxury to be able to let things saute or simmer. That means flavor is often compromised.

However, with sous vide I can create and prep batches of flavors. I’m excited to experiment with things like sofrito - a base used in Caribbean dishes made mainly of bell peppers. In France, they use a base called mirepoix which mixes carrots, onions and celery. These are very simple to create and pack a huge punch of flavor. If I could get those beginning processes down in the sous vide, then I can add those creations to other parts of the meal, enhancing overall taste. This would be a huge win!

Q: Any closing thoughts?

A: I think it’s just so important for people to understand how much work, preparation, and love goes into making these meals. Meals on Wheels is truly making a difference for thousands of people in our community who depend on us. Every donation makes a huge difference. The more we can share this message, the more large scale impact we can create.

Over the next year, Anova will be working alongside Meals on Wheels America to figure out how to bring sous vide to kitchens nationwide.To continue to receive updates about the partnership, join the #anovagivingnerd community by signing up below or email [email protected]

Until next time!

- Anastasia Plotnikova, CSR Manager
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