Meet our GBCA finalists: Gary Wilson, Chef Manager at Neale Court Care Home

Gary joined Country Court in April 2019 having had a varied catering career. From managing the café in Tesco, working for a contract catering company and working in a school. His career began at catering college aged 16. Having completed his training, Gary joined the Royal Airforce at RAF Waddington, where he stayed for twenty-two years.

Catering in care homes

I’d never thought about working in a care home, but it’s a very friendly working atmosphere. I feel part of a good team, and that I’m doing something positive for people. I think it’s important that people’s last few years are enjoyed peacefully and with good food. It’s good to know that we’re giving something back to the older generation.

How do you ensure residents are well-nourished and hydrated?

I work closely with the home manager and the care team to ensure my team are aware of everyone’s dietary requirements. We hold regular resident meetings to ask what people like and what they’d like to see added to the menu.

This week is Nutrition and Hydration week, so we’ve been trying different flavoured waters each day. Yesterday we tried mint and pear and strawberry flavours; some were more popular than others! Later in the week, we’ll be trying infused teas and doing a fresh fruit tasting session.

How do you ensure care home residents have a balanced diet?

I’ve found food tasting sessions to be a great way of introducing new products that people hadn’t previously asked for. Each day we provide a fruit basket, but it’s often the same fruit that goes every day. By having a tasting session, you can encourage people to try all sorts of different fruits and discover that they like things that hadn’t told you about.

I work closely with the activity team and get involved in any theme days or special days that they are holding. This is a great opportunity to get people to try something new. We have special menus for Valentine’s Day or Chinese New Year, for example.

We vary our menu regularly and use one-to-one profiles that staff create for our resident of the day to get more detailed information about each person’s dietary needs.

What initiatives do you have in place to monitor people’s weight?

We work closely with the Senior care team to create an individual plan for each person with tailored menus and dishes to support any goals they are working towards. Sometimes we are supporting work to increase a resident’s weight, so we’ll increase sugar content, use full-fat creams for milkshakes, increase the milk content in drinks and increase portion size.

For those who are trying to lose weight, we encourage smaller portions, lighter options and healthy alternatives. Sometimes it’s about encouraging a change of mindset.

What are you doing for Nutrition and Hydration week?

We had a sensory herb and fruit session today. I demonstrated how to prepare fruit by cutting up a pineapple, mango, melon and kiwi. We discussed how to check if they are ripe. I asked residents to name the fruits and to taste a small portion, some were more popular than others!  We discussed how fruit can be used in smoothies and milkshakes and how it’s important for digestion and hydration.

I got the residents to smell a selection of herbs by rubbing the leaves to release the scent. We discussed using herbs to enhance the flavour of dishes without adding salt. I prepared some root ginger too, which was probably their least favourite smell, but many remembered having crystallized ginger in dark chocolate at Christmas time. It’s amazing to see how the smell of different foods and spark memories for people.

We grow our own herbs. This year they are in pots just outside the kitchen door, so I can pop out when I need anything. The residents enjoyed cod in parsley sauce this week and I will be using basil in our pizza making activity tomorrow. We’ve also got some veg in larger pots, but the home is currently being refurbished, so we’ve had to be a bit creative with what we can grow!

Thank you to Gary for giving us an insight into life as a Care Home chef. Gary has been nominated for a Care Home Chef Award at the East Midlands Regional Great British Care Awards. Good luck Gary.

To find out more about life at Neale Court Care Home, contact Home Manager Becky Exton on 01522 682201 or email To find out more about becoming a Chef in a care home visit

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