Meet our Chefs: Our long-serving Chef Manager David

Meet David McCartney our Chef Manager at Summer Lane Care & Nursing Home in Weston-super-mare. David’s catering career began in 1970 when he joined the RAF straight from school at the tender age of fifteen as an apprentice.

David served for twenty-five years, leaving in 1997. His RAF career took him to RAF Watisham, RAF Upwood, RAF Brampton and RAF Binbrook in the UK as well as Cyprus, Germany, Gibraltar, Northern Ireland and The Falkland Islands.  He has long-service medals and General Service Medals for Northern Ireland and the Falkland’s campaign.

We asked David about his time in the RAF how it compares to working in a care home.

How is catering in care home different from catering in the RAF?

When I was in the RAF one week I’d be working in a kitchen and the next catering for 600 in the middle of a field! In the Falklands we were based in tents which was freezing, at least now there is more consistency I know I’ll be in a warm kitchen every day. In the RAF your job can change from day to day, catering one minute then guard duty the next or you could suddenly get posted Cyprus for two months. Care homes probably have the best working hours in the hospitality business, we don’t have late nights or busy weekends, it’s consistent throughout the week.

How have you found the changes since the COVID-19 pandemic?

In the RAF we were ALWAYS told that anything you didn’t like or anything you didn’t want to do was ‘Character Building’.  A lot of people complain about having to wear a mask for a few hours during the current pandemic.  While serving in Germany we had a lot of exercises that we had to wear MBC (microbial, biological & Chemical) suits with gas masks for days at a time – Character Building!! So, a few hours at work isn’t much of a problem!

As you and your team cater for Country Court’s biggest care home with up to 103 residents to feed every day, what challenges do you face and how do you ensure that everyone’s dietary needs are catered for?

Communication is key, we ensure we keep talking to people, residents are always very willing to let us know what they want. At the moment, we are introducing our winter menus, so a few weeks ago we put together sheets of suggestions for residents to give feedback on. It’s important to involve residents’ menu creation and get feedback on menus early on.

You must need a lot of people and a lot of food to cater for so many residents?

As well as myself, we have two chefs, four kitchen porters and eight front of house staff. We all get on really well, we’re like one big family. We get through a lot of supplies as you can image, we usually order 175kg of potatoes each week and use over 4000 tea bags!

You’ve worked at Summer Lane for 15 years, what do you like about working in a care home?

I love coming to work, I get up in the morning and look forward to my day. We’re a great team here and have been working together for a long time, Sally, one of the kitchen porters has also been at Summer Lane for fifteen years, we look after each other and all pitch in together.

How do you think catering in a care home will change over the next few years?

Change is slow but over the next 5-10 years, I think we’ll see residents who have been used to higher standards of food and presentation. People who are 85 or 90 now rarely went out for meals, they expect more homecooked food. Over time I think people will want more of the fine-dining style which we are already implementing. I also think people will want their main meal in the evening, not at lunchtime.

I’ve also noticed that residents are not staying with us for as long as they used to. In the past, we’d often have people living with us for six or eight years, but now with financial constraints and council policy keeping people in their homes for longer, we see more people at the end of their life. Their dietary needs change at end of life, I’ve definitely noticed a preference for sweet dishes such as ice creams, milkshakes and puddings.

For more information about working in our care homes see our Careers Page.

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