An Abergavenny care home chef will be delivering silver service all the way after scooping a coveted accolade at the social care ‘Oscars’.
Kyle James was delighted to be presented with a silver accolade at the annual Wales Care Awards held at Cardiff City Hall.
He was rewarded in the Excellence in Catering category, sponsored by Harlech Foodservice, for his work demonstrating how good food contributes to people’s well-being.
The Head Chef at Foxhunters Care Community home, Llanfoist, has made it his mission to provide residents with the best dining experience possible, always catering for individual dietary needs.
After just six months in the job, his person-centred approach led care his bosses to recommend him for national recognition at the awards which celebrate exceptional work.
Kyle was surprised but excited to have made it to the final shortlist from scores of nominees.
Supported by lead sponsor Ontex UK, and organised by care industry champions Care Forum Wales, the awards pay tribute to the often unsung heroes and heroines of social care.
The winners of gold, silver and bronze were revealed at a glittering ceremony to which all those shortlisted were invited to attend. The host for the evening was popular tenor, Wynne Evans, aka Gio Compario from the Go Compare TV advertisements. The whole presentation event was streamed online.
Kyle, 36, is proud to think the work he has put in improving menus has been recognised.
He has been especially determined to help residents who have severe difficulty with swallowing, have strict diets, or are only able to eat puréed food.
He said: “It’s so important to present food which looks as near to the non-pureed versions as possible. It must look appetising and familiar, presented in an inclusive way so affected individuals feel comfortable dining with others on non-puréed meals.
“It’s about dignity and self-esteem. It’s crucial to remember that eating together should be a social experience, remembered fondly, not something to be feared or which leaves people feeling isolated or stigmatised.”
He credits his late mum, Marlene, with inspiring his culinary creativity. She worked as a nurse but was also passionate about cooking.
He said his mum would have been proud to see him receive such a coveted award: “It’s as if it was meant to be. Mum loved cooking and as a family we enjoyed big family meals together. I used to help mum cooking and on leaving school I went to culinary college before working in hospitality for a few years.”
Eventually he changed direction and applied for a job in the care sector, working his way up the ranks.
Cheering Kyle on as he collected his silver honour were Foxhunters Home Director Leah Mort and Helen Davies-Parsons, Chief Executive of Dormy Care Communities which owns Foxhunters..
Helen said: “Kyle has worked hard to create menus to meet all dietary requirements, using locally sourced seasonal produce. He has a real understanding of how different foods, diet and nutrition can help varying health conditions.”
Mario Kreft, chairman of Care Forum Wales, said the ceremony was all the more poignant because of the Covid pandemic and what front line staff had endured.
He said: “I would like to pay a heartfelt tribute to all the wonderful people who work in social care after they rose magnificently and courageously to meet the unprecedented challenges they have faced over the past couple of years.
“We have always recognised their true value and hopefully now the rest of Wales is also aware of how lucky we are as a nation to have them providing care and safeguarding our most vulnerable people.
“Our finalists are the best of the best and are here representing the whole social care workforce who all deserve a big pat on the back.
“There are only winners here tonight so it is only fitting that the finalists will receive a gold, silver or bronze Wales Care Award.
“I trust that they will continue to inspire those around them as role models and encourage others to aspire to even greater heights in the months and years to come.
“In the words of the powerful song, Heroes of our Heart, written by the acclaimed poet Mererid Hopwood and sung by Sir Bryn Terfel, let the Diolch last forever.
“We take our hats off to them.”