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4 Professional Chef Secrets for a Big Christmas Dinner for All Ages

  •  Professional chefs at Danforth Care have come together to share their Christmas dinner tips
  •  Please everyone this Christmas, from toddlers to grandparents
  •  The chefs share their insight into preparing meals for those living with dementia this Christmas

For many households, Christmas dinner is the biggest meal gathering to take place within the year. Often involving extended family and friends spanning an age gap of up to 100 years, it’s a wonderful yet inevitably stressful affair.

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To help Britain put on a spread to please everyone at the dinner table this Christmas, the chefs at Danforth Care Homes have put together their top tips, including what to cook for a relative living with dementia. 

1. Keep It Simple

It can be tempting to over complicate a Christmas dinner, under the pressure of making something perfect. This is usually where things start to go wrong. The main goal is to get the family or group together for a wholesome meal, and when cooking for a large group, keeping it simple and hearty is one of the best ways to cater to everyone, old or young.

Dawn Louise Brown, Head Chef at Rossendale House, says: “There will be some aspects of a Christmas dinner that will appeal to everyone. Buttery mashed potatoes, steamed vegetables and nicely seasoned carrot and swede mash will very rarely fail. Some meat could be separated and slow cooked in the gravy for the older and younger generations, making it easier to eat”.

2. Make Sure Everyone Feels Included

With different generations, tastes and requirements at the table, involving everyone is important. Getting people into the kitchen to help, especially any family members living with dementia, can increase their engagement with the dishes, and evoke happy memories of meals gone by.

Dawn shares “It’s very important to allow everyone to feel included and to feel like they are a valued member of the group. I think that the key to success is to not treat a Christmas gathering as homogeneous group of people, but as individuals, who may require a few special touches to make it a meal to remember.”

3. Do Traditional with a Modern Twist

Inevitably, there will be guests at the table who’d like to try new dishes, and people who’d rather just stick with the traditional meal. To keep everyone happy, choose traditional dishes which can be split later in the cooking process, so one stays traditional, and one has a modern twist. This way, you save time by making one base dish that can be tweaked to fulfil the desires of the whole group. 

Greta Hoxha, Head Chef at Heatherton house says “As different age groups or generations have different likes or dislikes, it is important to know and respect these. It’s also important to let people choose what to eat but give them the option to try new dishes”.

4. Stay Clear of Spice and Choking Hazards

With toddlers and very elderly people, small pieces of food can be a concern for choking.

Make sure the dishes you’re preparing (or individual portions you’re serving) for these age groups are free from any potential choking hazards. Sticking to milder flavours is also safest in ensuring everyone from old to young has an enjoyable Christmas meal, the chefs advise.

Dining with Dementia

We asked the chefs at Danforth what type of meals to prepare for those living with dementia, and how to make sure your loved ones have a happy and comfortable Christmas. 

Dawn Louise Brown explains “Traditional recipes are often a hit with older residents as they provide a link to the past. It is an opportunity to reminisce and remember. Taste is often a powerful sense in eliciting strong memories and feeling. Lots of residents will talk about food their mum would make, or food that they would make and enjoyed. We listen and make these dishes for them.”

“When making dinner at home for your loved one living with dementia, allow them as much autonomy as possible and empower them to be involved. This makes it easier for them to be engaged and comfortable. I would prepare a couple of meal options and allow the person to see each option to choose. Keep portions small, with the option for more, and keep the environment calm and not too overstimulating.”

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