How did you get into catering and what inspired you?
I joined catering in 2010, wanting to challenge myself and to do something totally new. I didn’t know it was such a complex job, but I’d always admired those who were doing it and I really wanted to get myself in their shoes. I was surprised to discover a fascinating world, where Ramona, one of my mentors once said ‘The sky is the limit!’
How would you describe your team and what are the best aspects of your role?
My colleagues are great and I am lucky to work with an ambitious team. Because we sometimes spend more time at work than at home, we try to maintain a good mood and enjoy our work every day; this isn’t difficult to achieve when you have passion for your job. The reward for my work behind-the-scenes are those magical moments when I meet smiling residents, family members or guests who share their appreciation and joy for my food and thank me for contributing to a better quality of life.
What do you enjoy about care catering?
The Care Catering sector is a special one; the main difference to other sectors is that you really have to open your heart to the people you’re cooking for.
What special qualities do you need to be a Chef in your Nellsar Home?
Besides the formal qualifications, I consider empathy needs to be an essential quality as a starting point. Until you put yourself in someone else’s shoes, you can’t have a reflective attitude towards your work which will make you perform at your best.
How do you work with residents to ensure they enjoy the best possible dining experience?
Human nature is extremely complex where variables are changing and this is why we are developing a working system in which each individual’s requirements are satisfied. We offer a variety of choices in terms of main courses of the day, modified food texture diets, desserts and drinks.
What are your most popular lunches and desserts?
Our range of pies is very popular – steak and kidney, shepherd’s, cottage, chicken, fish, cheese and tomato and liver and bacon. Cauliflower cheese also goes down very well, as does fish and chips on Fridays….and roast dinners on Sundays of course! Trifles and fruit crumbles are our most popular desserts.
What do you most enjoy making? Do you have favourite ingredients and flavours?
I love to be creative but there are some limits and boundaries to consider when it comes to a Chef’s favourite flavours; taste buds have a certain education in time, and they have some expectations. If a Chef over steps those limits (trying to impress his guests!) he can ruin all those expectations and lose his reputation.
A dish must be simple, tasty and appealing. My personal concept about a dish is that it must be alive, colourful and have at least one raw element, even if it is simply the garnish.
What type of feedback do you get from your residents?
Residents are so polite, gentle and they love to surprise you, in a nice way! I have received some wonderful feedback in different formats – electronically, letters, verbal, on small pieces of papers and even napkins! I keep all of them proudly as they are precious and give me energy, strength and fuel to continue my mission.
How do you work with seasonal ingredients to keep your menus interesting and varied?
Eating fresh fruits and vegetables in their season is beneficial for us because they contain the nutrients, minerals and trace elements that our bodies need at particular times of the year, so we ensure we use plenty in our cooking.
Do you source a lot of your ingredients locally?
Our butcher and fruit and vegetable suppliers are local. I am so happy to work with them and we have built up a very good relationship as part of the community. They provide fresh and great quality produce and they all have a customer-oriented policy, so they are always there for you.
What type of special diets do you cater for and what skills do you need for this?
Care Catering is a special discipline and different to commercial cooking, where you can provide certain social, cultural or psychological needs and impress your guests with your signature food. In a care setting, you are challenged with all those aspects, but need to take into account residents’ physical needs and be mindful of safety concerns, where knowledge of nutrition and hydration is very important.
How have you worked with Leni to develop the nutritional aspects of your catering?
Nutritional Therapist Leni and I work together very well. We have different qualifications and different roles, but we complete each other and we make a perfect team aiming to achieve the same goals. We are in that stage of our work where we are focusing on individual special needs, in terms of nutrition and hydration.
What’s new in Care Catering? Are there any new skills you would like to learn?
As a National Association on Care Catering member, I have the chance to attend all national events regarding Care Catering and to be updated with all the latest news and developments. I bring this knowledge back to discuss with our extended management team and make action plans as a result.
At the moment, I’m carrying out research on modified food texture presentation, working closely with Leni and different specialists including speech and language therapists, environmental health officers and food technology suppliers, as well as our residents and family members. This is going well and we have recently created an Instagram page for puréed diets, which you can follow at: ‘welovepuree’.
Are there any new dishes that you’re working on?
I am now happy to offer a completely puréed menu, starting with puréed cooked full English breakfast, continuing with a choice of main meals of the day (lunch, supper and desserts), puréed biscuits and cakes, and ending with puréed fresh fruits for a balanced diet.