Walterboro native is new chef at Colleton Medical Center | News | The Press and Standard

by | January 30, 2016 5:00 am

Last Updated: January 31, 2016 at 10:52 pm

Tina Groves is on a mission in her new position as executive chef at Colleton Medical Center. She wants to give patients a good meal.

“I know what it’s like to be in the hospital, because I have Crohn’s disease and I’ve been in the hospital a lot,” Groves said. “And I know what it’s like to finally be able to eat and not get a good meal. I love food and being able to give a good meal to someone who’s sick, it’s a big deal.”

Since Groves has been a chef for nearly 10 years, she knows what a good meal is. She’s worked as an executive chef and sous chef at several Charleston area restaurants, as well as The Blarney Stone and Dogwood Hills Country Club in Walterboro and executive chef for the Beaufort County School System. And she’d been catering for years, starting while traveling around the country with her ex-husband who was in the Air Force.

Although Groves loved being a chef, the Walterboro native said she reached a point in her life when it was time to slow down and come back home. Being a restaurant chef is great fun, but totally consumes your life, she said. Because she had to work at night, “I had no life,” she said. “My daughter Kaitlyn is 11 and I’ve never been able to put her to bed at night because I was always working. I needed to be in Walterboro more.” So when the job at CMC became available, she jumped at the chance.

“I thought maybe this would be like a regular job, but I’m still working 6-to-6,” she said. But she does get to go home at night, and once she gets the kitchen structured the way she wants, she hopes the hours will improve. “I’m pretty strict in the way I like things done,” she said.

She’s really enjoying the change. “I love being out there cooking every day with my ladies because it’s my passion. I like to teach and it’s fun to teach them new things. A couple of the cooks have been here 25 years, and it’s fun to teach them something new and see them be excited about it,” she said.

One of changes she’s implemented is making the hospital food look appetizing. “People eat with their eyes first. They want it to look pretty. We try to garnish the plates and make them pretty, not so much like hospital food. But then it also has to taste good. If it doesn’t taste good, we’ve failed at our job.”

Succeeding is no small feat, considering the hospital serves about 75 meals, three times a day. But that doesn’t faze Groves. “Bulk cooking is no big deal. I’ve been catering for years,” she said.

Working at the hospital is “the best of both worlds,” she said. “I get to do catering there as well.”

But she’s still adjusting. “Being off on weekends is so weird. Maybe now I can get a life. It’s nice to be home and be with people I’ve known my whole life,” she said. “I like to be in the back of the house, doing what I love. I like making people happy and food makes people happy.”

The daughter of Harold and Brenda Groves of Walterboro, she graduated from Walterboro High School in 1992 and got her associate degree in business from USC Salkehatchie before graduating from the Culinary Institute of Charleston. She has three children: Kaitlyn, 11; Kristopher, 19; and Bailey, 14.

She started cooking with her grandmother, Mary Pellum, who she describes as an amazing cook. Her grandmother taught Groves what she still considers the most important thing about cooking: “You’ve got to put love in it.”

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