You Are What You Eat: Chef With Michelin-Star Experience Embeds Person-Centred Meal Times In Care Home

By Ross Baxter, Chef at Exemplar Health Care (www.exemplarhc.com)

For many of us, mealtimes are an important part of daily routine. They’re often much more than satisfying our appetite – they give us the chance to sit down with loves ones and catch up on the day’s events. And that’s no different for people who live in care homes. A good dining experience helps to increase nutritional intake and enhance social interaction.

Ross Baxter is the head chef at Exemplar Health Care’s Tyne Grange care home in Newcastle- upon-Tyne. He joined the home at the start of 2021, switching from a role in the hospitality sector.

Ross’s previous experience at a luxury resort has helped him to embed a person-centred approach to meal times in the home.

His commitment to promoting choice and providing nutritious meals that meet people’s dietary needs, earned Ross a win in the ‘Care Home Chef’ category at the 2021 North East Great British Care Awards regional finals.

Here, Ross explains his journey from the hospitality industry to the care sector and how he’s changed meal times at the care home to promote choice and independence which leads to overall improved health and well-being for the residents.

A FRESH START

I joined the team at Tyne Grange in 2021 after seven years as a chef in the hospitality industry.

I was inspired to make the move from the hospitality sector to the care sector because of my mother, who lived in care home.

When I visited her, I saw the impact that food has on those living in care homes, and it struck me that I had the capabilities to make a difference in people’s lives with my cooking. I’ve always wanted to do something meaningful with my skills, so this was an extremely important factor for me to consider when making such a move.

My past experience saw me working under the guidance of a head chef who had experience in Michelin star restaurants. I am always grateful to him for his mentorship and for teaching me my current skillset.

Through working at luxury resorts and hotels, I have gained experience of creating delicious and luxurious meals, based on what customers want.

When starting at Tyne Grange, I thought that the meals should be no different to the top-tier quality that I had been producing in my previous role. While I knew that working in the care sector would be different than working in a restaurant, I wanted to provide a restaurant-style experience for residents, and this is what I have done at Tyne Grange.

IMPORTANCE OF CHOICE

Tyne Grange supports 20 adults living with complex care needs. Our approach to care focuses on supporting people to maximise their independence, build their everyday living skills and live their best life! In the catering team, we promote choice and independence at meal times, as much as possible.

We have set up our mealtimes to replicate a restaurant-style environment. Our meal times span an hour and a half which gives people ample time to come and enjoy their meal without feeling they’re stuck to a regimented schedule. This makes the environment and experience more relaxing.

Our colleagues provide hostess service, taking people’s orders and serving their meals and drinks – just as would be done in a restaurant. The menu consists of two choices and a third ‘weekly special’ which is chosen by our residents. We develop our menu based on feedback

from weekly meetings. We have an open and transparent culture in which we listen to people’s thoughts and feedback, and use it to make meaningful change. This ensures that our menu is based on what people like and enjoy!

We have designed menus on each table, as well as a menu board, so people know their choices. We also produce menus in different formats, such as using coloured graphics and images, to meet people’s communication needs.

We make all the food fresh to order and have a choice of handmade desserts to follow.

If someone doesn’t want what’s on the menu that day, we ask them what they’d like and do our best to accommodate their request.

We’re proud that our approach to meal times has people at the heart of it. I take great pride in cooking healthy and comfortable food that people love! I’m so glad that I chose to start a career in social care. It’s extremely rewarding and I’m glad that I can use my skills to make a difference to people’s lives.

WANT TO FIND OUT MORE?

Exemplar Health Care is a leading provider of specialist nursing care in England.

It has over 35 specialist care homes across England, and growing. For more information visit www.exemplarhc.com.

The company is recruiting for several roles across its homes including Kitchen Assistants, Chefs and Catering Managers. Visit the careers section of the website to find out more: www.exemplarhc.com/careers/job-search

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