Psynergy’s Executive Chef, North Bay combines a flair for management and food
April 27, 2020 - Jason Murchison has been in the food service industry for 26 years. As a signature accomplishment, he once won a prestigious national competition, whose prize included cooking at the James Beard house. He returned the next year and was runner-up, so his talent in the kitchen is certainly no flash in the pan. Murchison has been working behind the scenes for nearly a year at Psynergy Programs, coming to the company from a previous position as executive chef for a 325-bed hospital in Oakland. And while his eventual bailiwick at this growing mental health care company will be overseeing its North Bay properties, for the past year he’s been developing procedures for Psynergy’s kitchens in Greenfield and Morgan Hill as well as in Sacramento.
“One of our priorities was to hire someone with the ability to elevate and standardize our food service at all the properties from a regulatory standpoint,” says founding partner Jean Edwards. “Jason’s first mandate was to develop manuals, policies and procedures for whole departments, while implementing enhanced training for food safety and customer service. In addition to being a classically trained, award-winning chef, Jason has worked as a district manager, operations manager and director, all in food service. His management track record was exactly what we were looking for.”
Murchison sees food service playing an important part in Psynergy’s overall client care philosophy.
“Food service is something that nourishes the mind and allows clients to have a sense of normalcy,” says Murchison. “Here, they are getting gourmet meals as well as correct nutrition to help with their overall treatment. I hope our food can serve as a bridge to being back in the larger world, and doing the things they like to do. We also try to have fun with it – we are really a farm-to-fork company preparing 85-95 percent of our food from scratch, with minimally processed ingredients. We’re serving the clients nutritious, delicious meals made with love.”
Murchison says that the Psynergy mantra of “food as medicine” has an authentic basis in fact. Menus include locally-sourced produce, lean meats, ancient grains and heirloom legumes from the Central Valley. He takes his chef-managers on seasonal field trips to produce houses and orchards in the area to source exotic squash varieties in the winter, and citrus and apples in the fall. He organizes experiments with different types of fruit, and recently enjoyed working with Alabama Black apples with dark pink flesh, and caracara oranges, which are an exotic mix of grapefruit and orange.
“Food is magical in a way,” he says. “It nourishes the body but also the soul in a social environment. People can sit at a table, talk, and interact with each other as they are breaking bread. It’s all part of the healing process.”
Murchison says that the menus he prepares average about 2200 calories a day. He enjoys doing seasonal and holiday meals to change things up. And rather than offering desserts at meals, he prepares “healthy option” snacks instead – ranging from chocolate chia-seed pudding, cakes that include extra fiber (“Yes, we hide kale in the food!”) cookies that feature sunflower butter instead of peanut butter, and zucchini brownies.
One of Murchison’s management evolutions included replacing the sous chef at each property with a chef-manager, qualified to create his or her own staff. He enjoys team-building, and likes the experience of working with people who want to get to the next level.
“It is very important to build a rapport with the people you work with, and allow them to grow,” says Murchison “I like to see how they can evolve. I just keep pushing the envelope to see what they can do best. It keeps me motivated every day.”
And by the way, his James Beard award-winning recipe was chocolate espresso-braised pork over jasmine rice with grilled sweet corn and avocado salad.