On first meeting our Executive Chef at Stretton Hall, Chris Matthews, one thing leaps out loud and clear – his passionate belief in the positive power of good food.
“Delicious food, well served should be a highlight in everyone’s day” Chris says.
“It’s not simply about using good quality and locally sourced ingredients, it’s the little touches that make all the difference.”
These are things Chris includes in his training for the team of Head Chefs and Deputy Chefs, setting the standard across the family run nursing home group.
“Our residents deserve a genuine restaurant dining experience so that means serving nutritionally balanced meals that look good, taste great and are served in a way that makes dining something to look forward to each day” Chris adds.
As Executive Chef, Chris brings over 25 years’ experience with him (plus a number of catering awards) having qualified at catering college to join the RAF as a young chef at just 21, followed by happy years spend as Head Chef at a girls’ boarding school before returning to work at RAF Cosford. His experience, therefore, ranges from masterminding mobile catering units deployed all over the world to staging Leavers’ Ball banquets for 500 guests. So culinary expertise, timing, practicality and aesthetics all play a part in the skills he is instilling at Morris Care.
In his role, Chris is charged with upskilling the young team and sharing his knowledge and passion for working with the team of Head Chefs. New Development Days have been introduced by the company where all the kitchen team gather for masterclasses to grow their knowledge and experience.
Chris has a genuinely creative energy about him and this is born out in the ideas he has brought to play ensuring residents who require specialist pureed foods are still able to enjoy every mealtime.
“One of the things I have introduced is to pipe our pureed foods onto the plate so it looks appetising. Just the other day I was thinking how to ensure the vegetables looked good to eat despite being pureed. So, I piped the carrot into a conical shape on the plate then the lovely bright green pureed broccoli became the leaves on the top of the carrot. It looked so colourful and fun on the plate and the resident loved it” he added.
Encouraging all the Home Chefs to be inventive is something Chris is also passionate about. He continued: “A great way to see how you are doing is to turn the tables and sit and eat in your own dining room.
“I regularly sit with my diners asking them what they like and if there is something new that they remember and would love to taste again.”
Chris sees his role in overseeing and the delivering the best culinary experience as integral to the holistic care offered by all Morris Homes.
“I don’t just want to see our Chefs in the kitchen – our residents love to see us, share their views and they always enjoy our cookery demonstrations in particular.”
Chris recently held a bread-making mini masterclass at Stretton Hall to demonstrate how he bakes fresh bread each week with residents enjoying the sensory experience of rolling and kneading the dough as part of the demonstration. Add to this the wafts of just-cooked loaves an everyone was in a happy place.
Understanding the dietary needs of residents is, Chris believes, fundamental to Morris Care’s ability to balance nutrition with practicality and enjoyment for every resident.
Mid-morning cake and coffee or afternoon tea is a daily pleasure to be looked forward to, but for some, the texture of cake can be hard to swallow. Chris has worked to create a delicious soft consistency using the cake ingredients and serves it in appetising small dishes to ensure these residents can be part of that same experience.
It is this attention to detail which stands Chris out and which is helping ensure that the dining experience goes from strength to strength at Morris Care.
“In this job I believe you should never stop learning. I remember years ago I won a place on the ‘Gordon Ramsay Experience for young chefs which saw me working for three days in London’s Savoy Hotel with the professional team. Meeting Marcus Wareing and watching those Michelin trained chefs at work was such an inspiration. I learnt so much."
Chris finishes: “We may not be serving quite at that Michelin level, but the fundamental principles remain the same. The freshest ingredients, locally sourced wherever possible and cooked with love makes for memorable mealtimes. Something we strive for every day for every resident.