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Staff: Kevin Smith's story

Kevin Smith, Barchester's Chef of the Year 2016

Kevin Smith, Head Chef at South View, is amazing at what he does but he would be the first to admit that when he left the army and started working at a care unit for people with complex care needs he didn’t think he was up to the challenge.

“When I first started I literally thought, ‘I can’t do it’. People knew I had been cooking for 20 odd years in the army and thought I was this top chef but actually I found it really hard.

“In the army, you don’t have the fork-mashable diets. You make, say, a cottage pie, a big one. You put it on hot plate and the boys come through. You might be feeding 500 people.

“Being at South View is more like working in Sergeant’s mess in terms of number of people but there are so many different diets – and that’s the biggest challenge.”

Many of the people living at South View have complex care needs, such as dementia, which affect what they are able to eat and make mealtimes far more complicated than in other catering environments.

“On a typical day at lunchtime you might have a table of four of residents who like sitting down and having a bit of company. You might have another table of two support workers and two residents, who need more assistance at mealtimes. Then maybe someone else likes to have a quiet meal by himself and so he’ll be on a table on his own with a support worker going up every couple of minutes asking if he’s ok.”

Despite the challenges of catering for people with such a wide variety of likes, dislikes and care needs, Kevin quickly grew to love it and finds it to be extremely rewarding. He even went on to win a national award in the Barchester Care Awards 2016.

Speaking about the awards, for which he had to organise a party at South View as well as compete in a cook-off competition, Kevin said: “It was quite a long, hard process. When you went down and did the cook off with the CEO and all the cameras, that was nerve-wracking.

“When I was at the awards and they said the winner was me I was like, whaaaat!”