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Tasting Australia challenges the industry to improve food in aged care

Wednesday, Apr 30, 2014

Chefs and industry experts assembled at the Tasting Australia Think Session held on April 29 to raise awareness about food in aged care and how it can be improved.

The session, held in a marquee in Victoria Square in Adelaide’s CBD, also featured a cooking competition Every Dollar Counts - where six aged care chefs competed to create an appealing meal with a budget of $4.

The panel discussed the challenges in providing good food to residents in residential aged care, and how chefs in aged care had to work around budget constraints and strict food safety rules to produce meals.

State Manager (SA, WA) for Medirest, Ellis Wilkinson says that raising the profile of chefs working in aged care facilities was one of the key aims of his organisation. He says that aged care chefs need better training in food safety, a specific curriculum, and a skillset around producing texture modified foods.

Chef Simon Bryant says: “Aged care is not sexy if you’re a chef.” Yet an aged care chef’s role is hugely important for the wellbeing of residents. For a resident in an aged care facility, “a bad meal can make or break your day".

Peter Morgan-Jones, HammondCare's Executive Chef and Food Ambassador, believes that there shouldn’t be a difference between working as a chef in a restaurant than in an aged care facility. “[Food in aged care] needs to be looked at from a hospitality [in the home] perspective,” he says. However, he adds that chefs in aged care kitchens have extra risks to contend with and operate within a stricter framework of food safety legislation.

Maggie Beer agrees: “It’s about caring enough to try and find a safe way of doing things.” She said that the industry needed to challenge the legislation with science and see where changes could be made, in order to make it easier to provide nutritious, tasty and appealing meals for residents.

“This is more about leadership than resources. Show CEOs what can be done and don’t accept the norm.”

“Food needs to provide more than nutrition … good food is everyone’s right,” she says.

Simon Bryant added: “A lot of bad food is really safe.”

Klaus Zimmermann, former Eldercare CEO, says that many people don’t appreciate the types of resident currently living in aged care facilities. Many are frail with medical issues, and often require texture modified foods. He says that the lunch (dining event) is the major social event of the day for residents in aged care.

Klaus says that their meals need to be “individually served, look good and be nutritious.” The dining experience is integral in providing ‘person-centred care,” he adds. Yet food safety legislation can have the ‘unintended consequence’ of preventing residents from making informed choices around food and meals.

There was also a discussion around how current Government nutrition guidelines, primarily aimed at younger people, may not be appropriate for those residents in an aged care setting.

‘Healthy food should not be allowed in aged care,” quipped Peter Morgan-Jones.

The panel agreed that low-fat meals were not always suitable for older people, who needed adequate levels of fat, calories and protein to maintain their physical and mental health.

“If you’ve negated all of life’s risks and make it to 80, you can probably have another teaspoon of butter,” Simon Bryant says.

The $4 Challenge

Medirest chef, Bradley Hoey, who cooks for Eldercare Kirkholme prepared chicken florentine with spinach and ricotta, sweet potato mash, zucchini strips and roasted cherry tomatoes in a creamy basil sauce.

Sheree Maywald, Medirest’s chef at Eldercare Cottage Grove, cooked a feta and spinach stuffed chicken breast with garlic sauce, served on a creamy mash with steamed broccoli.

View the recipes from all the chefs (HeraldSun)

A Good Food Life for All

Later in the day, Maggie Beer launched a foundation to improve the cooking in aged care homes: A Good Food Life for All.

View the news report and watch the chefs in action on Channel Nine News. View the video of the Think Session on YouTube.


Eldercare will continue the work they started in 2013 to improve food in aged care: Eldercare and leading chefs looking at ways to ensure residents enjoy a 'good food life.(Dec 2013)