Catering team cook up feasts fit for royalty
CHEF Ray Hamilton has cooked for the Queen so it is hardly surprising he likes to treat patients at East Cheshire Hospice like royalty.
It was nine years ago that Ray made afternoon tea for Her Majesty and Prince Philip on their visit to Staffordshire University, where he was executive chef.
Today, he is part of the catering team at East Cheshire Hospice which sets such high culinary standards that the food is considered fit for a queen.
Every meal is made especially to suit the dietary and medical requirements of each inpatient with a menu the envy of a top restaurant.
A sample Sunday lunch is roasted fillet of pork with cider cream sauce, Lyonnaise potatoes and a medley of vegetables – a far cry from the horror stories of some hospital food but then again hospices are proud of their unique care and service, all of which is provided free of charge.
The hospice’s six-strong catering team, led by hospitality manager Rob Kind, serve breakfast, lunch, and afternoon tea/ dinner every day of the year.
A five-week cycle of seasonal menus are posted on the kitchen wall near the names of patients with specific needs.
Ray said: “We talk to patients on a daily basis to find out what they want. Some are diabetics, others on soft diets, while some may have stents so food may be liquidised. It might mean mashed potatoes rather than roast potatoes.
“We have a younger chap who has a larger appetite so he eats more, whereas older patients with abdominal cancers might not eat as much so we don’t want to over-face them.
“Some patients might not have eaten before they were admitted but we try to get them back on to good wholesome food again and when we see this change that’s nice.
“We go with the flow and find our patients usually prefer more traditional type foods and don’t want dishes that are too fancy. We try to keep it interesting though, so each meal time feels like a cause for celebration.”
Ray and fellow chef Tony Wheeler, catering assistants Diane Eastwood and Lynn Ledbury, and catering apprentice Becky Tomlinson offer the same menu choices to day care patients at the Sunflower Centre, while families wishing to eat at the hospice receive a discount.
A drinks trolley with a wide range of choices tours the wards five times a day, with drinks available at all times upon request.
Diane said: “It’s fantastic working here because you feel you’re doing something to help people and the patients and relatives are so grateful.
“Of course it can be upsetting at times because of patients’ conditions but you have to walk away and take a five-minute break to pull yourself together. I’ve worked in a fish and chip shop, greengrocers, a pub and estate agents and the job satisfaction here is enormous.”
Ray has been a chef for 35 years, starting in the Merchant Navy before working in restaurants, golf clubs and hotels with wife Jane. He said: “The catering team plays a very big part in the running of the hospice. I must admit I felt under a bit of pressure making cakes and sandwiches for the Queen and I was lucky enough to be introduced to her and Prince Philip.”
●● Caterers (from left) Lynn Ledbury, Tony Wheeler, Ray Hamilton and Becky Tomlinson