Food plays such an important part in our everyday life, and even more for those living in a care home. It’s vital that meals are prepared with our residents’ health and nutrition in mind, as well as making sure they’re absolutely delicious. It’s quite a challenge and something that head chef Kerry Gent is discovering, since she arrived at Baycroft Kempston at the end of last year.
Tell us a bit about your background.
“I went to college in Great Yarmouth and from there I began an apprenticeship with Hilton Hotels, where I stayed for 15 years, starting out as a commis chef working all the way up to head chef. Working at Hilton Hotels gave me a really good grounding in hospitality, I managed to work in some amazing Hilton Hotels, including the one in Sydney, and learnt from some amazing executive chefs.
“After becoming head chef with Hilton, I moved around to different hotels and different hotel groups. I’ve mainly worked in hospitality but I wanted more family time, that’s when I moved to agency work which took me to lots of different places, including working at Yarl's Wood detention centre, which was quite the experience, adapting to budget constraints and catering for different nationalities!”
Now, we hear there’s quite a story involving Elton John and Princess Diana! Tell us a bit more about that?
“I was working at The Hempel in London, it was the first minimalist hotel in London, offering Thai and Italian fusion. All the food had to be black, white or green so it was very challenging! We cooked for some really affluent people, including a lot of celebrities, one day I was told that Elton John booked his 50th birthday party in the garden area! We spent around 10 hours making sushi canapes for the event, there were so many famous faces there, the most famous being Princess Diana!”
How long have you been head chef at Kempston?
“I’ve only been at Kempston for 5 months, so for me I’m a new head chef in a new kitchen. I’ve got the luxury of building my own team, I’ve got 3 women working with me at the moment and hopefully another 2 women will be joining us soon, then I’ll be leading an all-female team in a male-dominated industry, which is so exciting.”
What’s a typical day like for you?
“From the minute you get in you’re on a stop clock, it’s breakfast, then cakes for the bistro, then it’s time for lunch, then before you know it it’s tea.
“It’s always regimented because we have to stick to mealtimes, but it keeps you energetic!
“When you’ve got a great team in the kitchen there’s a certain buzz. Even though it’s a care home kitchen it’s still a kitchen, the fun is still there, even though everything is time controlled it’s still exciting.
“For me as a chef, Baycroft food is not care home food, it’s 5-star well-presented cuisine. There’s a certain quality and a standard they want to achieve, it’s not what people would perceive as care home food.”