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With so many special dietary requirements to consider, catering for people in the care sector can be a challenging undertaking. Yet, for one chef, meeting these challenges head-on is a task he conducts with relish, ensuring that it is not just his food that leaves a lasting impression.
For the past 18 months, John Brereton has been Head Chef at Alexandra Court care home in Glasgow. The softly spoken Scot makes it his job to know the exact requirements of the 50 people he cooks for daily, ensuring he speaks personally or to the families of each and every one about their individual likes and dislikes, knowing intrinsically that good food can enhance their stay.
“Everything we do is geared around the people who live here” says John, “I’ll personally go to visit them in their rooms to find out their individual needs. We have two menus but if they want something else, they get something else. It really helps to bring you closer to them – and for me, brings a great deal of satisfaction.”
As a highly trained pastry chef, working in some of Scotland’s best hotels you could be fooled onto thinking the rigours of the professional care kitchen would be very different, but John insists that this isn’t necessarily the case. “From morning to night my job is professionally demanding and my food has got to be the best all the time – that means good quality ingredients, created on-site.”
With such a stoic focus on quality, an insistence on cooking from scratch and a variety of individual needs, there is one kitchen ingredient that John confesses he couldn’t be without – Pritchitts premium dairy cream alternative, Millac Gold.
“As a chef in the care sector, the benefits of using Millac Gold are widespread – firstly, it’s a great product, really stable and so versatile you can use it in savoury or sweet dishes.”
John’s menus regularly contain a number of soups, quiches and desserts such as mousses and cheesecakes – all made with Millac Gold and all firm favourites. “I’ve worked out that I get about a 30% saving using Millac Gold compared to whipping or double cream. The versatility really helps me to cater more effectively for each individual who lives here at Alexandra Court. As a pastry chef, I have dessert recipes that say to use whipping cream, double cream, you name it – with Millac Gold you only have to use the one product and because of this we get a lot of usage out of it. Also, because it whips up to three times its own volume you don’t need to use as much when you’re adding it into food – you gain volume and you gain a saving.”
With so many mouths to feed throughout the day, John must ensure his time and budgeting are optimised and not spent or wasted on re-making recipes. “You have to be very careful when adding cream to a dish as if it’s cooked too quickly or if you over whip it, it could split. With Millac Gold you can add it to heat, use it straight from cold, and you’re guaranteed for it not to split.” John has also found that Millac Gold is perfect for fortifying the food already on offer.
“In Alexandra Court there are various dietary requirements and sometimes food needs to be modified to produce pureed meals that are tasty, attractively presented and fully nutritional so I use Millac Gold in potato, porridge and vegetables, for example. We don’t add water we enhance it with Millac Gold. It provides nourishment and I can’t recommend it highly enough for giving you that safety net.”
As John clears down from another service he talks candidly about the activities laid on at Alexandra Court – dances, afternoon tea with his own homemade cakes – yet the subject that gets him most enthusiastic is when he speaks about the weekly cookery classes he conducts: “In my classes we might make some scones, then after we sit, have a cup of tea, reminisce, even have a sing-song, it’s absolutely great for everyone involved.”
So, does John have advice for other chefs in the care sector?
“Know your people, know who you’re cooking for and try to use the best products you can alongside brands you trust. Pritchitts Millac Gold is one of those products that I can trust and I would definitely recommend it to anybody catering for the care sector.”
View John's recipes by clicking below: