Food revolution hits aged care

Ashwin Chetty is the Hotel and Services Manager

Christadelphian Aged Care will undergo a food revolution to improve nutrition and create sensory and memorable dining experiences.

Food plays a powerful role in our everyday lives, and as we age what we eat becomes even more important to our health and happiness.

Food can evoke memories, change your mood and provide time to share our lives with family and friends.

This year Christadelphian Aged Care began improving its dining experiences by recruiting a food and hotel specialist to oversee all its hotel services.

Hotel Services Manager, Ashwin Chetty, formerly worked at the Intercontinental Hotels group overseeing all their food and beverages across Australasia.

Ashwin sees his role as similar to working in the hotel industry, only with different clientele.

His passion for food led him to work as an apprentice chef, and he eventually made his way up to executive chef before moving into more managerial roles.

“I think growing up, food allowed us all to stop and gather together to share our day and connect around the dinner table as a family,” he said.

“The look, feel and taste of food can bring back memories, and create positive experiences which stay with you after you leave the table.”

Ashwin moved from large hotels into the aged care sector because he wanted to work with an organisation that provided a meaningful service to the community, and where he could make a real difference.

“I wanted to work with an outlet that looks after the community and is involved with the community,” he said.

“My aim is to bring happiness to our residents by delivering a product that is high quality and feels like a hotel experience from the minute you enter – from the food, to the bedding and layout of the dining rooms.”

Ashwin will be managing menu engineering and taking into account the likes and dislikes of residents by providing more meal choices.

“All the ingredients we use are fresh, and we want to continue doing that. We use very limited frozen food,” he said.

“We’re trying to use more fresh herbs in our produce as well, which is especially important for residents with dementia, as it’s smell that stimulates their appetite.”

Christadelphian Aged Care aims to make dining experiences enjoyable to improve nutrition and reduce waste.

This year Ridgeview Aged Care in Albion Park introduced buffet lunches and dinners to give residents more choice in what they are eating, and how much they want on their plate.

This has not only improved the well-being of residents and created excitement around meals, but also reduced the amount of uneaten food.

As part of the food revolution Ashwin is also going to provide more training to the chefs at each Home to achieve a consistent standard across the organisation.

He is working with them to create new recipes that can be used at each Home, as well as improving food presentation and the look and feel of the dining rooms.

A significant proportion of aged care residents have difficulty chewing and swallowing, and so require pureed food.

Christadelphian Aged Care is trialling molds that make the pureed food look like the original vegetable or meat product to make it more appetising.

This helped improve the nutrition of the residents and their overall health, Ashwin said.

“So a zucchini will look like a zucchini, a lamb cutlet would look like a lamb cutlet, steak will look like a steak, but it would be puree,” Ashwin said.

“Molded food improves the visual experience, which is especially important for residents with dementia who may find it difficult to identify what they are eating.”

Maranatha Aged Care at Kallangur has already started using this technique for its desserts.

“So they can make a lemon meringue pie look like a lemon merinage pie,” Ashwin said.

Looking for new and innovative ways to cook and prepare food will ultimately lead to a more enjoyable experience for residents, and improved nutrition and health outcomes, he said.