Julie Warlow, a chef at Friends of the Elderly’s Redcot care home in Surrey
With the pandemic in mind, how have you found the last year and a half as a care home chef?
Friends of the Elderly has very stringent infection control protocols in place that we always adhere to, but I have felt lucky that overall day to day routines remained relatively the same for us. Many people were obviously not so lucky and had to contend with isolation and financial worries.
What elements of your job do you most enjoy?
It’s lovely when residents appreciate what you do for them. I also love working for an organisation like Friends of the Elderly, where we are providing a worthwhile service. The charity and all the staff always have the health and well-being of residents at the heart of everything we do.
What are the biggest challenges?
It can be difficult to please everyone! It is also a challenge to work within a budget.
How do you encourage residents to stay hydrated?
We use Oranka Juice Solutions and have also recently introduced our own homemade water jelly sweets, which are a combination of water and natural flavourings. The residents are very keen on the strawberry variety and have them at least three times a week, but I make sure they are available at any time should the residents want them.
Please give an example of a feeding or drinking issue that you managed to find a solution for.
We have been very fortunate in that we have had few problems with feeding or drinking, though we are always actively considering nutrition and hydration in what we provide. We try to listen to what the residents would like and, where possible, we always provide what they want.
What are your main goals when writing a new menu?
Nutrition foremost, but we also try to introduce something a little different, though not too intimidating, to residents. They like what they know and they know what they like, but sometimes change can be a fun and beneficial surprise! A new dish can work, and sometimes not. It can be good for residents to try something new and sometimes I think they’re surprised at what they do like.
What key piece of information would you give to a chef who is new to the care home industry?
Keep things relatively simple and listen to the residents. They tend not to have filters, so will tell you what they think, and it is important to listen and apply what they say where possible. Also, I think it’s important to accept that you can’t please everyone all the time. Sometimes things just don’t work but you shouldn’t be afraid to try a new dish here and there. You never know, you may discover a resident’s new favourite meal.
This article is also featured in the autumn issue of Care Home Catering.