Martin Strange has been with Altogether Care for over 15 years as part of a catering career that spans 40 years. Today, he is the Head Chef at the Weymouth Care Home. Early in his career, he learned French and British cuisine and added other styles of cooking to his repertoire over the years to reflect the changing tastes of the population.
Over the years, Martin has earned an excellent reputation at Weymouth Care Home, with Altogether Care staff and residents giving nothing but positive feedback.
Stephen Knell, Chief Executive Officer at Altogether Care, said the following about the work Martin does on a daily basis.
“We feel very privileged to have such a skilled chef within the Altogether Care family at Weymouth Care Home. I always enjoy seeing Martin’s meals and desserts come out of his kitchen and the eyes light up on residents’ faces. I also notice the empty plates coming back, which is always a good sign and shows that the residents also approve. Meal times really are something extra to look forward to for them. Martin is such a valued individual, a very talented chef, and key member of our team. We are really proud of Martin – well done and thank you for your hard work.”
We decided to catch up with Martin to gain insight into what drives his passion for food, and how he succeeds in catering for a wide range of individual requirements and to the highest standard.
How has Martin’s experience enabled him to cater for care home residents with unique dietary requirements?
“I achieved a good standard and won gold and silver awards as I worked my way up to becoming Head Chef at various hotels and restaurants,” said Martin.
“The catering and menu planning challenges are different in care homes compared to hotels and resturants. There’s a greater focus on nutrition and balance and I need to know about special diets, allergens and how to work around challenging situations. But the basic objective is the same: to come up with tempting, delicious meals that are prepared to a consistently high standard.”
Martin became interested in care some years ago after he started working in residential care homes on a part-time basis. He eventually joined the Altogether Care team full-time. What does he see as the priorities?
“In a care home, it’s important to tailor food in terms of taste, colour and texture according to each client’s needs. You have to really know the individual and get everything right for them so that they feel safe. If they’re happy then their families are happy.”
For many people, food is one of life’s great pleasures and keeping the meals interesting and enjoyable is an essential part of the job. How does the team at Weymouth Care Home achieve this?
“We cook all of our main meals fresh every day. We do a wide range of cuisines. We’ve had Chinese nights for example, we do regular cake days, we’ve done St. Patrick’s Day. Guests can expect dishes like salmon and prawn sauce, steak and red wine sauce – a wide range of things according to their dietary needs.”
A large part of the task is to ensure that clients’ individual needs and preferences are taken care of, which is about more than just the style of food on offer.
“We keep an eye on clients with dementia especially to help them maintain their diet. For example, we give them the same coloured plates each time they eat for familiarity and comfort. Things are a little unusual at the moment with some clients isolating within their rooms. Normally, we have a full schedule of activities and themed nights, which we’re looking forward to getting going again after the pandemic.”
Martin is clearly enjoying his time at Weymouth Care Home for many reasons. What can residents expect in the future?
“You get the opportunity to express your skills. For example at Christmas, you can really push the boat out. People do tend to eat with their eyes. It’s rewarding to be able to deliver fantastic meals that are pleasing to the eye and to get such positive feedback from everyone at the care home.
We currently have a Wishing Tree, where clients can hang requests for what they would like to eat, among other wishes, upon the tree. And everything that a client wants, I’ve prepared, such as bakewell tart and coffee and walnut cake. If it puts a smile on one person’s face, then you’ve done your job.”