Gloria is the Head Chef at Sue Ryder Neurological Care Centre The Chantry. In her blog, she talks about how inspiring The Chantry's person-centred approach is, the everyday rewards of bringing joy through the meals she creates and seeing the wellbeing benefits of letting people get creative with their food.
Turning my passion for food into my career
My career prior to joining Sue Ryder Neurological Care Centre The Chantry was a varied one. I worked in marketing, events and construction before I decided to turn my passion for food and cooking into my career. In my previous workplace, I quickly rose from Commis to Head Chef and now, as Head Chef at The Chantry, I have the opportunity to make people happy with my food every day.
I had never worked in a centre like this one before, but it didn’t take me long to realise this was the place for me. My line manager is so inspiring and right from the start I was encouraged to be really hands on with other staff members and residents. The management team here are all supportive, and I have learnt a lot from them about how to behave and interact with the people we care for.
Adapting to each individual's needs
Everything we do is focussed around the needs of the individual we care for and that includes the food. Every time a new resident arrives, I meet them to find out their food likes and dislikes and whether there is anything they are craving. Sometimes people have come from another care setting where they didn’t have the opportunity to ask for the sort of food they wanted. I am very flexible with what I cook, catering to all sorts of dietary requirements.
It is essential that all our menus can be adapted to suite everyone’s needs depending on each individual’s situation. There is guidance, which we follow strictly, from the International Dysphagia Diet Standardization Initiative (IDDSI). This is a global standard with terminology and definitions to describe and prepare texture modified foods and thickened liquids used for individuals with dysphasia of all ages, in all care settings and for all cultures. Some people can eat food as it comes, some need it to be a finer consistency and we do have some people who need it to be completely pureed.
I want to make sure everyone is having as positive an experience as possible with food, no matter what, and my team work hard every day to achieve this.
When I first arrived there was one particular resident who only wanted to eat the same thing and never wanted to join the others in the dining hall. Working with him and the people who care for him, I trialled various new foods over a period of time. This worked really well and they now have a varied diet and regularly come to the dining hall for mealtimes. This was a real success and something I was really proud of.
Helping residents relearn skills they have lost
Food is such a key part of everyone’s lives here, and not just as part of the regular mealtimes. We have a rehabilitation kitchen that the Occupational Therapists use to help people relearn skills they have lost due to their neurological condition. It is up to me to make sure they have all of the ingredients that they need. I also work closely with the activities team, helping to plan events.
We recently held a cheese and wine evening, which was a lot of fun. An activity we have coming up that is sure to be popular is our film afternoon. A trip to the cinema is off the cards at the moment for obvious reasons, so we will create an ‘in-centre’ cinema experience complete with slush puppies and popcorn – classic cinema snacks. There will be plenty going on in our ‘summer season’ as well, strawberries and cream for Wimbledon are a must!
Giving people the opportunity to get creative with food is important too – we decorated biscuits for Easter and Mother’s Day and we are also planning to do some cooking workshops, such as making your own pizza. These sorts of events are something that everyone enjoys and it is easy to see the sense of wellbeing they give to those taking part.
Brightening up people's days
A particularly great initiative that we have here is our ‘resident of the day’. When it is someone’s special day they can have a say in what activities take place and also get to choose their favourite food - I always enjoy creating this as it is something that has been specially chosen for the occasion.
The Coronavirus pandemic has naturally thrown up its own set of challenges and we have all had to adapt. One thing that has stayed the same is the weekly ‘foodie treat’ I come up with. I like to do something extra special for staff and residents; one week it might be homemade croissants, the next week a large cake. It definitely brightens up people’s days when they find there are slices of cake available in the staff room.
I’m so happy my work is making a difference to the residents. I love what I do and I love working here, I’m so proud to be part of the Sue Ryder family.
Gloria leads on creating menus for residents at The Chantry, making sure that the food they eat is enjoyable and meets their individual dietary requirements. She also works with the Occupational Therapy team to help residents relearn skills in their rehabilitation kitchen and helps organise events.