Knives were sharpened and recipes honed as a chef from a Romford care home went into battle to win a prestigious title.
Pat Hirst, chef at Care UK’s Heatherbrook care home, represented the south in a national competition for the title of Chef of the Year.
After winning through three rounds of the competition, Pat won a place 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 Pat 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.
Pat said: “I was very surprised when I received the letter telling me I was through to the finals. It has been 25 years since I’ve been in a cooking contest and I certainly got a few butterflies as the day got closer!”
The home’s administrator Rene Hazelwood said: “Pat is a great cook. Her cupcakes are legendary and, like Pat herself, are much loved by the residents. She also makes a delicious banoffee pie and she even makes her own toffee to go in it. I can safely say that none of us are as slim as we were, thanks to Pat and her cooking!”
But Pat is also loved in the home for her caring attitude. Rene said: “Pat is the first person to sit down with a new resident and find out their likes and dislikes because she knows that nothing makes you feel happy and at home like your favourite food. She also talks to their families to ensure she has as much information as possible.”
“She works very closely with the care teams so that she can create the residents’ favourite foods, but in a way that meets their own special dietary requirements. She also monitors the residents’ weight and leads the monthly weight loss meeting, creating special menus to build up the weight of residents who have been unwell.”
Iain Stott, Care UK’s Hotel Services Manager, coordinated the competition. 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. Using the first round as a benchmark, we knew that we could expect an exceptionally high standard in this cook-off, and so it proved.”
Pat wowed the judges with pork fillet on an apple cider puree with pommes noisettes, asparagus tips and flute carrots with a red wine jus, followed by her own special winterberry trifle featuring homemade chocolate orange sponge and orange Chantilly cream.
The winner of the competition will be announced at the Care UK Awards Gala dinner on 14th November.