Point of View: Neel Radia, NACC chair

Neel Radia, NACC chair
02/07/2018 - 07:00
Neel Radia, chair of the National Association of Care Catering, discusses the role of care chefs and asks the pivotal question: 'Who cares?' about them in the UK.

It’s frustrating that, historically, the talent and contribution of care chefs have been overlooked in the wider industry.

They are incredibly talented and knowledgeable professionals and it’s long been the mission of the National Association of Care Catering (NACC) to raise their profile and ensure they get the recognition they deserve in the catering and hospitality industry and beyond.

Instrumental in achieving this has been our annual Care Chef of the Year competition, which took place recently.

Thankfully, we’re changing perceptions all the time, and this is reflected in how the competition has evolved over the years.

The standard of competition entries has continually risen and the change of name in 2017 – from Care Cook of the Year – is significant. The dishes produced in this year’s final, for example, were inspirational and something you’d expect to see in a top restaurant.

We’ve also seen the menus develop in line with the changing demands of the care sector. Brilliantly executed dishes that have been texture-modified for those with dysphagia, together with creative ideas to stimulate the senses of those with a dementia, now feature in the final.

Nutrition is also a vital part of the judging process, as care chefs must understand how to support those with, or at risk of, malnutrition.

It almost goes without saying that the individual benefits from entering the NACC Care Chef of the Year competition. It gives them the opportunity to explore new ideas, push themselves to develop skills and raise personal profiles. It also allows them to meet like-minded care chefs and learn from each other. I know for a fact that many chefs practice their dishes on their residents – so it’s a win for them too.

The care sector itself also benefits, though. Year on year, we’ve seen the number of entrants grow as more and more chefs are inspired to showcase their talents and get involved.

In fact, in 2014 we doubled the size of the national final to 12 chefs. The competition is helping to push boundaries and build skill sets across the board. It also helps us in our work to raise awareness of the care sector as a dynamic, diverse and rewarding career choice for chefs.

The role of care chef is becoming both more challenging and more rewarding. From ensuring meals are nutritionally balanced and beneficial, through to meeting individual needs such as special diets, cultural requirements, reduced appetites and eating difficulties caused by conditions such as dementia and dysphagia, there’s a lot to learn and consider.

And, we must never forget that mealtimes are often the highlight of the day for people in care settings, so it’s important that they’re positive and enjoyable nutritionally, socially and emotionally.

Every day, care chefs improve the quality of people’s lives through delicious, stimulating and appropriate food experiences.

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