As a result of its excellent work to provide nutritious, delicious food for all residents, tailored to a range of individual needs, Sunrise of Cardiff’s dining team have had a chef reach the national finals of the National Association of Care Catering (NACC) Chef of the Year competition in three out of the last four years.
Here the three talented chefs describe their experiences at Sunrise of Cardiff, and explain the most rewarding and challenging parts of their job.
Stuart Pelham, Dining Services Co-ordinator
Having previously worked in a number of hotels, I joined Sunrise of Cardiff just over 10 years ago to become Dining Services Co-ordinator. In my job, I like to get in early and bring my team together at the start of every day, to talk about what we have on, and what challenges we might face. Every meal is important at Sunrise of Cardiff – first up is breakfast, which must be fresh and hot to kick-start the day for our residents!
All our food is cooked to a very high standard, and everything is fresh, from bread rolls right through to all kinds of meat. As chefs, our exciting and varied menus certainly push us to the limit, but everything is worth it to see the food looking great on the plate, and the beaming smiles that our residents wear when they enjoy our food. This is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job – getting positive feedback from residents about meals, and helping to resolve any health issues through a balanced diet and good hydration.
Something that also fills me with great fulfilment is seeing the development our chefs are able to achieve here. All the chefs in my team have worked with me for at least six years, showing incredible dedication and passion. I am so proud that three of our team have reached the national finals of the NACC Care Chef of the Year competition, and am really excited about taking part in this year’s final myself – undoubtedly my biggest personal achievement at Sunrise of Cardiff!
Gareth O’Hara, Head Chef
I started working at Sunrise of Cardiff in 2008, and am fast approaching my ten year anniversary here. During this time, I have worked my way up to the Head Chef role, reporting to our excellent Dining Services Co-ordinator, Stuart. After discussing daily tasks and new ideas with Stuart first thing in the morning, I lead the team to go through our menu for the day and cook different dishes. After serving lunch, I start daily ordering and invoicing, before preparing for our excellent evening service, and writing menus for the following days.
What I love most about my job is the close-knit team we have here – I know I can rely on them to help if any difficult situations arise. Also very rewarding is the positive comments we receive from residents about food, as our ultimate aim is to provide food and dining services which brings them happiness. There are challenges associated with ensuring new and exciting menus for our residents, particularly when they require special diets, but meeting their individual needs through tasty, healthy food is what we are all so passionate about doing. And we all love cooking our personal favourite dishes – my own is a simple chicken and chorizo paella.
Like Stuart, I am immensely proud of the team for doing so well in the NACC Care Chef of the Year competition. I was delighted to come third in the national final of the 2015 competition, though my proudest moment would have to be winning the 2016 Care Catering Hero award at the NACC’s 2016 awards. After I won the award, I was interviewed by The Guardian newspaper in Sunrise of Cardiff’s bistro. Something I also take great pride in is being one of only 12 chefs in the UK to hold an NVQ Level 2 Award in health and social care catering.
Craig Handley, Chef
I feel extremely fortunate to have spent six and half great years at Sunrise of Cardiff so far, during which time I have had the opportunity to work with fantastic individuals on a daily basis. The team here are like a second family to me. The most rewarding part of my job is the fact that I always receive some form of praise or reward for any outstanding contribution that I make to the community, in my efforts to help meet the high standard that all residents deserve.
That’s not to say that there aren’t challenges involved in my job – I often have to find the confidence to keep pushing myself to improve, and the belief in my ability to raise the bar when needed, and meet the expectations that others demand. But the hard work is all worth it – for the happiness that it brings to residents, and for the pride I experienced in reaching the NACC Care Chef of the Year final, demonstrating how far I have come since starting as a catering assistant. The journey to the final was such a fun experience, and showed me that the future of catering and hospitality is certainly in safe hands!
If I had to pick one recipe that I love preparing the most, it would be Crème Brulee! It’s a personal favourite dessert of mine, and you can do so much with it flavour-wise. Residents love it just as much as I do!