Chefs gathered for a cook-off with a difference this week as the award-winning Balhousie Care Group launched revamped menus for its 25 care homes.

The Ready, Steady, Cook style event saw chefs and care home managers taking over the kitchens of Dundee & Angus College for two days while they tried out new recipes created with direct input from the residents themselves.

The focus of the new menus is “fresh produce and exciting twists to traditional recipes”, said David Blackwood, Hospitality Services Manager at Balhousie Care Group. And its launch has been just as exciting. As well as a friendly ‘battle of the saucepans’ at Dundee College, there have been tasting and scoring sessions with care home residents, who ranked the dishes according to preference.

For David, a renowned name in hospitality and a leading figure in care home catering policy in Scotland, it was crucial to get residents’ input. “We have input over what we cook at home, so why wouldn’t care home residents be involved in what’s on the menus? This is their home, after all, not ours.”

The menu revamp is part of Balhousie Care’s person-centred policy, which sees care plans tailored to individuals and care home activities and policies developed with residents’ and relatives’ input.

David’s extensive hospitality experience includes contract catering, restaurants and hotels. He co-chaired a group with the Care Inspectorate which created nutritional resources and best practice guidance for people working in and experiencing care services in Scotland. He is currently Scottish Secretary of the National Association of Care Caterers.

Catering to residents living with dementia is particularly high on the agenda for Balhousie Care Group, where 80% of residents have dementia. One of the side effects of dementia is dysphagia, which means difficulty swallowing. So launching the new menus during Dementia Awareness Week Scotland wasn’t coincidental.

Says David: “We need to ensure our staff are highly skilled.  Added to dysphagia you’ve got loss of appetite and difficulty concentrating. Our menus have to reflect those challenges, for example changing the texture of the food but presenting it in an attractive and recognisable way. Some residents find it difficult to focus and will often get up during a meal to walk around so the mealtime experience needs to be as exciting and as engaging as possible.”

For further information contact Gillian Drummond on  Tel: 01738 254254 x 223 or 07365 284994

Balhousie Care Group home managers and chefs spent the day in a ‘battle of the saucepans’ at Dundee & Angus College.

Lynn Whyte, home manager at Balhousie Luncarty, with Luncarty chef Ben Haddow.

A representative from Campbells Prime Meats, one of the suppliers to the Balhousie Care Group chef conference.