We chat to Head Chef at Westall House, Residential Care Home to find out more about his role and how cooking in care homes is a fulfilling job for any aspiring chef.
When did you discover that you wanted to become a chef?
I was about 10 years old when I found my mum’s collection of cookbooks and recipes. I became fixated with them and started testing them out, and that’s where my passion for cooking began. I think I was destined from that point on to have a career in food.
What was it that attracted you to Westall House?
I was blown away by the high standard of recent refurbishment throughout Westall House. It is clear they care about the residents and their staff, and it told me that this was somewhere I wanted to work.
It’s also important that my work means something more than just cooking following my passion. Eating high-quality and nutritious meals is extremely important for older people’s health and wellbeing, so I feel I am making a real positive difference to their lives.
What is a typical day like for you at Westall House?
I start by preparing breakfast and then move on to lunch, which is the main meal of the day. We use local suppliers and local produce as much as possible, and everything is made fresh on the day.
Fresh cakes for tea-time, of course, extremely important, so that’s my next job, before starting on supper. I finish with my orders for the next day and no chef’s day is complete without a good clean of the kitchen.
What’s the best thing about your job?
Without a doubt, seeing empty plates at the end of mealtimes is extremely gratifying! It’s also important to hear the residents’ feedback (fortunately it’s been mostly positive so far).
Although I’ve only been in my job for a short time, I’ve also had the lucky experience of being able to have longer chats with some of the residents. They are very well travelled and have tried many different cuisines, so they have plenty of suggestions for the menu. They challenge me to explore ingredients and techniques I am less familiar with.
What’s next for you to try?
Diversity and sourcing the best ingredients is getting more difficult with the rising cost of everything, including food. I keep a close watch on how much we spend to ensure we can provide the highest quality meals for the lowest price.
However, I am planning to introduce regular themed days, including a ‘culinary cruise’. HMS Westall will set sail and dock in a different country each month so that residents can disembark to taste some of the local specialties. I hope I can live up to their high standards!
What’s your favourite experience in the kitchen?
A few years ago I was asked to help with cooking Christmas lunch at a prestigious private school for 600 hungry guests. After peeling thousands of sprouts and carving vast quantities of turkey, I was told by one of the waiters that all the chefs had been summoned to the dining room as there was someone who wanted to say thank you. You can imagine my surprise when I walked out of the kitchen doors only to be greeted by Prince Charles and his entourage who had been guests of honour at the lunch, but none of the staff knew he was coming! So my claim to fame is I have cooked Christmas lunch for the future king!