Care Home Catering
Tim Ware is the head chef at the award-winning Green Tree Court in Exeter. He was crowned Chef of the Year at the National Care Awards in 2016 and took second place at the National Association of Care Catering (NACC) Chef of the Year competition 2019. Green Tree Court won Care Home of the Year at the National Care Awards 2018 and was shortlisted for the Dementia Care Awards 2018.
Green Tree Court is a luxury care home where residents go to live life to the full. Considered as the beginning of a new chapter in their life, residents are offered a combination of exercise, activities and trips to help nurture and support their body, mind and soul. And one of the most important parts of that experience is food.
“It’s one of the main pleasures that all of us enjoy in life, so our daily aim is to make sure that food still continues to be something the residents look forward to and get excited about when they come to live at Green Tree Court,” says Tim who, from college, worked for five years at The Royal Clarence by Michael Caines, the three AA Rosettes restaurant.
His level of expertise enabled him to create fine-dining quality food, so that residents are given a first-class experience at Green Tree Court. “Most of our residents don’t have the luxury anymore to be able to go out and eat, so my mission when I joined four and a half years ago was to create a menu that was to the same high standards as a five star hotel,” explains Tim. “That way, they don’t feel like they are missing out.”
And with the range of food residents are offered at Green Tree Court it feels more like an all-inclusive hotel than a care home! Fresh, local ingredients are used to create innovative dishes and traditional favourites.
Breakfast, served from 7am, includes the traditional full English, poached haddock or any eggs you like, plus cereal, toast and pancakes. Lunch is the main food event of the day and the focus is fine dining. Tim’s menu of modern British food includes a choice of three starters, three mains and three desserts which changes every day on a three week rotation.
An example of dishes available include home-cured beef with buffalo mozzarella, and prosciutto-wrapped chicken Ballotine with asparagus, broad bean and chive butter sauce. A catch of the day, caught locally that morning, is also offered as well as daily specials. Residents are also offered a choice of wine, local beer or even Champagne.
“Our ethos is that the residents can have whatever they want as long as they ask for it, and I can get it,” says Tim. “We had one resident who wanted lobster and crab, so it was on the menu the next day!”
For those residents who want a lighter lunch, an option of salads and sandwiches is offered too. Afternoon tea is served daily – all cakes, pastries and scones are made in house and for those who can manage it, dinner is served from 5pm! The evening menu is focused on traditional favourites and comfort foods like lasagne, cottage pie and toad in the hole, or they can even have something as basic as egg and chips.
“Residents need choice and variety in their diet and I believe our menus reflect that, so everyone is happy,” says Tim. Tim is passionate about the food he serves, but he is more passionate that the residents have a healthy appetite and enjoy the food.
“When some residents first join us they get anxious and worried about what they’ll be eating so just stick to soup. As a consequence, they lose weight and become frail,” explains Tim. “Therefore, I take the time to sit and talk to them to try and encourage and inspire their appetite by asking them what foods they enjoyed as a child and I make those especially for them. In time, they open up and begin to trust me.”
Residents can eat in their room, however, they are encouraged to visit one of the five light and airy dining rooms which are all waiter service. Because the dining experience is so enjoyable more residents are likely to socialise and make friends more easily in this special setting.
Residents’ families can also join them for a meal anytime they wish. Due to the high standard of food and service, families feel like they are in a fancy restaurant with their loved ones. Last Christmas Day, 28 family members joined residents for the festive meal.
The dietary needs and allergens of residents are top priority at Green Tree Court. The home has a bespoke system whereby when a resident’s order is taken (either at the table or from their room) the kitchen receives a ticket which is individually tailored to a resident’s needs. And one floor of the home is dedicated solely to those residents living with dementia. All their food is plated up on colour-coded plates – never white or black – and Tim and his team of four strive to make the pureed food as appealing as possible.
Tim believes the secret to great food is using the best raw ingredients you can. He and his staff carefully select the freshest produce from their trusted local suppliers. From their favourite local ales brewed just down the road to fish landed at Brixham and Exmouth, they make the most of their location in the bountiful foodie-haven county of Devon.
Tim’s two course menu of sous-vide pork tenderloin, toasted hazelnut crust, Hasselback potato, roast cauliflower puree and honey-glazed heritage carrots followed by rum-roast banana espuma, candied pecan nuts and dark chocolate won him second place at this year’s 20th NACC Care Chef of the Year competition. He believes chefs in the care sector are still not fully recognised within the industry.
“When I left the restaurant to work in the care sector there was a lot of snobbery around it,” he admitted. “We are serving the public but because they are residents it’s not seen in the same light as serving customers in a restaurant; despite the fact that every single day we are evolving and trying new things. Hopefully that attitude will soon change and we will be given credit for the impressive work we produce.”
See the recipe Plum & Almond Tart