“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” – Virginia Woolf
Green Tree Court’s Kitchen Manager Jon Wartnaby is responsible (along with Head Chef Tim Ware) for changing perceptions of what food in a care home is like. Forget about bland or tasteless dishes! For him, food is all about balancing the changing nutritional needs of growing older with the desire to create something that looks and tastes delicious and is served in a pleasing and comfortable environment. The result: appealing, restaurant style food that has earned Green Tree Court a prestigious gong at the National Care Awards 2016. We ask him why food is so important at Green Tree Court.
Q: Green Tree Court offers a great choice and an incredible quality of food. It’s gained a reputation for some of the finest care home food in the country. Why are the quality, taste and presentation of food so important to you?
Jon: We feel that just because we are a care home we shouldn’t be held back by people’s perceptions of the kinds of food provided in this environment. We want every resident to thoroughly enjoy every dining experience they have here. From their breakfast through to their evening meal, we aim to provide our residents (and their guests) with the highest level of cooking. The food we provide needs to be high quality, needs to taste good and it needs to look great so everyone has the best dining experience possible, every day.
Q: When choosing ingredients, what’s important to you and what do you look for?
Jon: We always look for the best quality produce. We work closely with all of our suppliers, so we always have access to the freshest and the best of the local markets. Provenance, seasonality and sustainability are also very important to us. We speak daily to our fishmongers in Brixham about the seafood markets, so we can provide the freshest selection of seafood. All of our poultry is free range and comes from a higher welfare farm less than 15 miles away. All of our red meats and game come through the team at Greendale farm shop on the edge of Woodbury less than seven miles away. All of our free range eggs come from literally the other side of the hill in Poltimore. And we have a trusty fruit and veg man, who knows all the ins and outs of the local veg scene and major markets. He has been supplying most of Exeter and Topsham’s top restaurants for years, so he really knows his business. Without top quality ingredients to start with it would be impossible to cook to the standards we cook to.
Q: How do you ensure your residents get a balanced diet? Is there a particular approach to nutrition you follow?
Jon: There is always a selection on our menus, so ultimately it’s the residents’ choice of what they want to eat – but it will always be honest, good quality food. Almost every meal we offer can be tailored to meet certain dietary requirements and our fully trained front of house team are always there to provide our residents with help and advice with meal selections to ensure people meet their dietary goals.
Q: How do you approach menu planning to ensure a good variation and healthy options?
Jon: We always offer a varied menu, and we always have a dialogue with our residents to make sure we are offering what they want. We aim for there to always be something on the menu for everyone, and if for some reason there isn’t we will try our best to accommodate them. It’s up to us to keep it fresh and keep it changing all year round to keep the residents interested in the food we are offering.
We know that if the food is good people will want to eat it. Too many care homes fall into the routine of residents not enjoying the food and refusing to eat, so they end up in a constant cycle of being fed nutritional supplements and special shakes, and they never get back into eating real fresh food. In our opinion, food and wellbeing go hand in hand and a healthy balanced diet is a foundation for a healthy lifestyle or recovery.
Q: What’s the most satisfying thing for you about working at Green Tree Court?
Jon: Just hearing the feedback from all of the residents and their guests. Most of them cannot believe the standard of food we are providing on a daily basis. We believe food is a vital part of daily life and should never be an afterthought. Unfortunately, this seems to be the case in many care homes and we are aiming to set new standards across the whole industry. Other care homes need to take note that residents shouldn’t have to put up with a substandard food offering. We really strive to be the benchmark that other care homes look up to, and aspire to be like. For all of us here in the Green Tree Court kitchen, we are proud to be a part of that.
You are what you eat. But, just as food is essential for health, strength and well-being, eating should also be a sociable and enjoyable occasion. To find out more about the meals and other Care Quality Commission (CQC) rated “outstanding” facilities and care at Green Tree Court, please call us on 01392 240400.