Months of head-to-head heats and a showdown final have seen residential care home provider Care UK crown Graham Watson Care Home Chef of the Year.
Catering sector experts joined a panel of judges to name the champion, in a multi-stage competition open to the hundreds of chefs from across Care UK’s 119 homes.
The trophy was lifted, at the Residential Care Services (RCS) Stars awards ceremony, by Graham, the head chef at Lauder Lodge, in Edinburgh.
Having worked in the hotel and leisure industry for much of his career, Graham has cooked for an impressive array of people, including wildlife campaigner and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough and Anne, Princess Royal.
But judges say it was his willingness to challenge himself and set a new standard in the care home sector which truly tilted the balance in his favour in the hard-fought contest.
Contestants were given a box of 15 ingredients to create a two course menu. Graham’s menu consisted of chicken supreme stuffed with chorizo and chili rice cracker powder, classic fondant potato, butternut puree and a fig and red wine jus followed by and Oreo crumb and chocolate torte with brittle sugar and pineapple salsa.
Graham said: “I love working in care homes, it presents a unique set of challenges to a chef. We work in what is our residents’ home and there is nothing more personal than food – it allows people to express their preference, their past and their individuality and it is our job to cater to all of that. The favourite dishes of residents at Lauder Lodge are slow cooked. They love stews and roast dinners, with all the trimmings, and our homemade Yorkshire pudding. They also have a sweet-tooth and they love all the fresh cakes and desserts me and my team make for them.”
Graham enjoys the challenges of supporting residents’ health and wellbeing. He said: “We work with care and nursing colleagues to ensure that all our residents nutritional and dietary needs are met, and we have developed excellent relations with local suppliers to ensure we use the best, seasonal produce available. Food is also an excellent way to promote reminiscence and help people keep up their life skills. Our home uses Activity Based Care to engage residents in activities that benefit their wellbeing and foster their interests and hobbies.”
During the awards ceremony the team at Ferndown Manor, in Poole, were also presented with an award to mark their commitment to creating an excellent daily dining experience for their 75 residents.
A recent CQC inspection report praised the home that is known for its five-star dining experience. Inspectors praised the attractive table settings, which take into account individual requirements, and the great attention to detail that ensures each residents has not just a choice but also a dignified choice.