Knives were sharpened and recipes honed as a chef from a Chester nursing home went into battle to win a prestigious title.
Tony Ray, chef at Care UK’s Pinetum nursing home in Liverpool Road, represented the north in a national competition for the title of Chef of the Year.
After winning through the local rounds of the competition, Tony secured his place, for the second year running, in the national finals of the competition organised by Care UK to find the best residential care home chef.
The Masterchef-style final, which took place on Thursday 17th October at Unilever’s headquarters, saw Tony face three other regional finalists. Two weeks before the event, the chefs received a list of the ingredients available on the day and at the finals, they had two hours to cook a main course and dessert.
Tony, who has worked at Pinetum for 15 years, said: “Working in a nursing home brings a lot of challenges for a chef. We have some very special diets for renal patients that mean we can’t use salt, sugar or certain fats and that poses interesting situations when you are cooking for a number of people, but I have a great team and they love a challenge.”
Tony says that residents’ tastes have changed over the years and now menus include halal options as well as curries and lasagne, although roasts and shepherd’s pie are still very popular.
Manager Tracy Simpson said: “Tony is great. He spends time talking to the residents about what they enjoy and he takes requests. We used to have one man who had a friend who would bring in skinned rabbits and Tony would cook them up for him.
“He is a very caring man and, if he sees someone struggling in the dining room, he will go over and help them with their food and sit chatting to them.
Tony wowed the judges with his filet mignon served on a bed of mustard mash with asparagus tips and a red wine jus, followed by key lime pie served with a raspberry coulis and fresh raspberries.
Iain Stott, Care UK’s hotel services manager, coordinates the competition and is one of the judges. He said: “As people get older, their appetites may become smaller but that makes it even more important to create tempting food that is jam-packed with key nutrients.
“Judges at the cook-off looked at presentation, texture, nutritional value and the use of ingredients and, of course, the flavour. We knew, using the first round as a benchmark, that we would see an exceptionally high standard in this cook-off, and so it proved.”
The winner of the competition will be announced at the Care UK Awards Gala dinner on 14th November.