Food is much more than fuel! At the very least, mealtimes are the punctuation by which our days flow smoothly. At their best they can be a combination of social interaction and sensory enjoyment which brings diners together and satisfies needs other than just hunger. We’re well aware of the need for high quality, healthy, appetizing meals as a basic requirement of providing luxury care, and since our founding in 2005 we’ve been developing, improving and striving for best-in-class expertise and innovation.

During 2019, we were delighted to begin working with an inspiring and well-loved chef with a wealth of experience, none other than the winner of 2016’s Masterchef champion: Jane Devonshire. Jane’s experience includes working with some of the country’s finest and most respected chefs (such as Marcus Wareing, Jason Atherton and Michel Roux Jr.), drawing inspiration and further refining her already impressive talent. Jane has attended events both in and out of our homes, imparting her skills, instilling her knowledge and sharing her wisdom with our chefs and residents alike. Jane also judged our annual Masterchef competition, along with our Head of Food and Beverages, Chris Burdett. After some fantastic inter-home competition, a finalist from each home was selected to compete for the title. The Master Chef herself gave special recognition to the incredible dishes which were produced by all, designed on the day alongside Jane.

Top-quality food and comfortable dining should be available to all, and we now have our own dysphagia training chef: Mike Oatridge. Dysphagia is defined as difficulty or discomfort in swallowing, and we are committed to offering a varied, balanced and attractive menu for residents who suffer from this condition. In April 2019, the IDDSI (International Dysphagia Diet Standardisation Initiative) was launched: a huge undertaking for all catering and care teams which has been proven to improve quality of life, health and mental wellbeing for many people not usually able to enjoy typical menus. 2019 saw the delivery of two dining and nutrition development workshops, organised by Jane Devonshire and focused around developing and perfecting our own dysphagia friendly food programme, focused around the careful preparation of pureed meals made with fresh ingredients, with each elements of the meal being presented in a form which is as visually close to the original as possible.

With the right planning and preparation, texture-modified food can be as inspired – both aesthetically and in terms of flavour – as typically-prepared food. A day’s menu could include toast with jam, sausage, beans, and hash browns and roast chicken with vegetables. Even afternoon snacks and biscuits are entirely achievable with the right training. Many of our chefs have become so accomplished with this method of preparation that they have come to see pureed food as a different form of cooking rather than simply a medical need.

Jane will continue to attend our homes in 2020, continuing both to teach and to learn; gaining a better understanding of the needs of our residents and working alongside regional and home-level catering teams to further refine our offerings, providing the very best in quality and choice. This will be one of our main objectives for the coming year: a company best practice menu is currently under development, endorsed by Jane and focused on the acquisition and use of the very best produce and techniques. Innovation and the development of new practices aimed at creating a more varied and complete menu for residents will be just as important as the perfection of tried-and-tested recipes and methods. We will be running quarterly chef training sessions centred around devising new recipes and ultimately menus for the coming season, using as much fresh, seasonal British produce as possible.

A meal is only as good as the ingredients which are used to prepare it, and in the coming year we will be working closely with our suppliers to create specific training sessions on butchery, fishmongery, and street walks to examine and explore current food trends. We invite all of our suppliers to our homes to experience the level of service we deliver. Many of our suppliers have reached the level of not only applying their decades of knowledge and expertise, but also teaching; our wine supplier, for example, provides sommelier training and our cheese supplier a free course in becoming a cheese master. The knowledge and experience of our suppliers ensures that all our meals start with the very best ingredients, and the careful planning that goes into our produce selection process is a central part of our commitment to consistent excellence and constant improvement.

Signature would like to say a huge thankyou to all involved in our food and beverages program in 2019, and we are looking forward to an inspiring and successful 2020!