25 years as a chef has taught Jeremy some valuable lessons. Now he's using them to benefit the residents of a North Somerset retirement community.
You can tell if someone has put love into their food. For me, it’s about making the dish in front of you as best as you possible can every single time... Caring about what you’re doing is so important and that’s how we show care for our residents from the kitchens here. The power of food is love.
Tell us about your background and current role
I’ve been a chef since I left school in 1992. I was an apprentice under Michael Kitts, an award-winning chef, and worked at the Swallow Royal and Bristol Marriott hotels. From there I moved on to some golf and country clubs, plus some outside catering, before working in Bermuda for 3 years on a 33-acre beachfront development across 8 different kitchens.
When I returned home I ran a family business for 13 years then joined the St Monica Trust 3 and half years ago. It’s very different to anything I’ve done before but I love it. My current role is to oversee 2 kitchens catering for residents at Sandford Station retirement village and the Russets and Sherwood care home.
What do you most enjoy about your role?
When a resident appreciates what you do. It’s not always something you see in the other side of the industry and you feel like you’re making a difference to someone’s life, no matter how small that might be. That’s a great feeling.
In what way has your background effected your role in Sandford?
We’ve changed quite a few things during my time and try to create a dining experience for our residents, rather than just ‘lunch’. It’s the small things - where we used to have tray service we now encourage people to order from a menu and we bring it to your table. Not only does this make their work less but we’ve found people are having far more conversation as they wait for their meal and are staying longer afterwards too. It’s just more pleasurable, so why not?
We run monthly pub nights with a selection of mains and desserts, with a happy hour between 5pm - 6pm and discounted drinks. We’ve changed the layout of the restaurant space too, so there’s a nice lounge to have drinks as you wait for your table. We take diners through one table at a time, as you would in a nice restaurant. It’s a bit of theatre but so much of restaurant life is. We also offer quarterly gourmet nights with a three course menu, which are very well attended.
Do residents help shape the menus?
We have regular Menu Forums where we invite our residents to taste some new dishes. It’s great to get that feedback – we’re there to cook for them so they need to have a voice. If you went along to some restaurants and said, ‘I’m not happy with that’ they might say, ‘Well, that’s what we do!’ This is completely different – this is us catering for the needs and tastes of our residents.
Any advice for new chefs?
You need to be honest with yourself. It’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle. It’s a vocation. There are easier jobs out there than becoming a chef. If you love what you do and you’re in the kitchen you’re going to have a great career. You can go wherever you want in life. You need to be focused and, most importantly, consistent. And enjoy it!
What do you think is the power of food?
You can tell if someone has put love into their food. For me, it’s about making the dish in front of you as best as you possible can every single time. You have to be consistent and I hold our team to a high standard – we have two kitchens and if they are producing the same dish across both it should be the same dish, identical. Caring about what you’re doing is so important and that’s how we show care for our residents from the kitchens here. The power of food is love.
Nestling in the Mendip Hills, Sandford Station is a rural retirement village set in extensive grounds right on the edge of the village of Sandford. Boasting a fascinating heritage railway museum on site, this distinctive countryside community offers a special combination of stylish purpose-built accommodation, beautiful scenery and superb facilities.
To download a brochure or speak to a member of our team visit the dedicated retirement village page.