A care home catering boss hailed by Radio Wales presenter Roy Noble as making the best pancakes in the world is in the running for a national award.
Catherine Williams, of Ponypridd, who is catering manager at Bryn Ivor Care Home, Castleton, Cardiff, was ‘speechless’ but delighted on hearing her name had been put forward to receive an accolade at the 2016 Wales Care Awards organised by Care Forum Wales.
Catherine, 45, said it was ‘unbelievable’ that she should be among those set to take centre stage at a glittering prize-giving ceremony at Cardiff City Hall on October 21. But it came as no surprise to those who have sampled her delicious food.
Catherine went to catering college as soon as she left school and even from the start it was evident she had a natural talent for cooking up the tastiest of feasts.
While on a college work experience placement at the BBC studios in Cardiff she was tasked with the challenge of making Shrove Tuesday pancakes, much to the delight of all who turned up at the BBC canteen.
Among the diners was popular radio presenter, author and TV broadcaster Roy Noble, who later proclaimed on his morning radio show that they were the best pancakes he’d ever eaten.
“I was thrilled, I was on cloud nine, to think that someone so well-known had praised my food,” said Catherine, whose recipes have since won fans throughout her career.
Her boss at Bryn Ivor Care Home, general manager, Michelle Willett said: “Catherine’s standard of food is outstanding and everyone adores her shortbread. Some of our residents’ families call in specially to have a coffee and one of her biscuits.”
Michelle had no hesitation nominating Catherine in the leadership and management in residential or nursing care category of the Wales Care Awards for her services to catering in care. The award is sponsored by Harlech Foodservices.
She said: “Catherine is the catering manager in our new purpose built home which has only been open since July 2015. It was evident from the start that she was going to be an asset to our team.
“She has dealt with all the teething problems you get with a new building and she has been involved with the recruitment of her staff, ensuring she chooses the correct people. She has had to organise many functions, including some for up to 100 people.
“She recently organised a cake decorating session and made a Victoria Sandwich for each of the residents to decorate. She will also go out of her way to meet residents’ special requests when it comes to meal choices.”
Lately Catherine has been learning Caribbean cooking because Bryn Ivor has a Caribbean couple among its residents.
She said: “Their daughter said what their mum misses most is the good home Caribbean cooking she was brought up with, so I decided to give it a whirl. The family brought in a book of traditional recipes and I have been trying to incorporate them in our menus.”
Catherine always makes time to have a chat with the care home residents and her compassion for the people she cooks for is another reason her bosses put her name forward for recognition at the event which has become a highlight of the social care calendar.
Mario Kreft MBE, the Chair of Care Forum Wales, said the Wales Care Awards had gone from strength to strength, adding: “The aim is to recognise the unstinting and often remarkable dedication of our unsung heroes and heroines across Wales.
“The care sector is full of wonderful people because it’s not just a job it’s a vocation – these are the people who really do have the X Factor.
“If you don’t recognise the people who do the caring you will never provide the standards that people need and never recognise the value of the people who need the care in society. We need to do all we can to raise the profile of the care sector workforce – they deserve to be lauded and applauded.”
Catherine, of 13 Debarri Street, Rhydyfeln, Pontypridd, can’t wait to join her peers on the big night, but stressed that the award nomination is as much a credit to her catering team as it is to herself.
She said: “They are all excellent and if it were not for their outstanding support we would not be able to achieve the high standards of catering provision we offer here at Bryn Ivor. I’m very proud of them all.”
She plans to take her sous chef, Carl Fisher, to the awards night, adding: “I really couldn’t do without him. Any accolade I receive is as much his as it is mine.”
She also hopes her mum, Marion, and maybe her partner, Rhodri, will be able to attend the ceremony.
She said: “Rhod and I have a long distance relationship at the moment as he lives and works in Devon. I’m actually living back at home now to help care for mum as she has become partially sighted. They and my sister, Ann, are all so pleased for me. We lost my dad, John, a couple of years ago, but mum took me on one side the other night and told me how very proud he would have been.
“What makes it all even more unbelievable is that I was the most shy student you ever did see when I first started out, so shy that I never wanted to leave home. If you’d have seen me you’d never have said I’d be doing this now.
“After I finished catering college, aged 18, I went for an interview in Cumbria and was offered the job, but I was so shy I refused to go and ended up turning it down. Instead I took a post at our local hospital in Pontypridd.”
But Catherine fought to conquer her nerves and a few years later she applied again for the same job in Cumbria and accepted it. Not only did she eventually pluck up the courage to leave her home town, but she went on to work in Christian Guild hotels all over the UK. As well as Cumbria, she has also worked in Eastbourne, Devon and the Wye Valley.
Wales Care Award nominees will receive a gold, silver or bronze award, to be announced on the night.