Behind the scenes as a Roving Chef
When I joined the VfL team as a Roving Chef in September, I had an idea of the work that I would be doing. But I didn’t expect to enjoy it this much!
Now into my fourth month, and the beginning of a new year, my job has taken me around the UK. I’ve met wonderful and inspiring people in the care industry, while helping those who choose to eat a plant-based diet.
Each week is rarely the same. I can be baking and packing muffins at home (172 to be exact) to deliver to care homes across Manchester; filming for webinars; creating and presenting food demos in Scotland; or preparing two-course meals for sheltered-housing residents in Stockport. So, to give you a better understanding of what I’ve been up to, here’s a lowdown of some of the work I’ve been doing since September.
On 1 September I officially joined VfL as their new Northern Roving Chef. Like any new job, it was daunting yet exciting to know that I would be working alongside those in the hospitality industry helping to improve the quality of life for older vegetarians and vegans across the UK. After many meetings, one of my first tasks was to let people know who I was, and how I could help improve their meatless meals. By contacting members of our care home list and centres across the North West, I was able to set up demos and meetings for the upcoming months.
Amanda and I also visited Annika James at Sunrise Senior Living in Wolverhampton to present our Annual Award for Excellence in Vegetarian Care Catering. Annika’s hard work and dedication really did prove her well, and on the day she made a fabulous tea party for guests and ourselves to celebrate.
At the beginning of October, I attended the Vegan Abundance Festival at Hulme Community Garden Centre in Manchester, celebrating all things vegan. This gave me the chance to network with companies and locals. It soon became apparent that the work of VfL really is one of a kind: people were amazed at the work we do and wanted to find out more. I spent time with workers from the centre, local activist groups and food retailers who were more than impressed; even requesting demos for their next event.
On Friday the 14th, I did my first demo for service users and carers at Thicketford Day Centre in Bolton. Although I had presented demos in previous roles, this was something completely different. The session showed people how to create tasty and nutritious plant-based meals using items from the supermarket, while explaining what a vegan and vegetarian diet consists of. I prepared an easy meal of garlicky mushroom bruschetta that they really enjoyed. The demo went so well that I was asked to return!
November was a busy month, with three more demos across Greater Manchester. I attended a Dementia Workshop at Salford Museum & Art Gallery by Liverpool Museum’s ‘House of Memories’; began filming for VfL’s forthcoming care catering training webinar series; and attended the National Association of Care Caterering Conference at Manchester Cycle Centre. On top of that, I designed and tested a three-course vegan Burns Night supper, which will be published later this month.
I also made visits to Droylsden Library at the beginning of the month, and to Stockport Homes on what felt like the coldest day of the year. The snow fell but it didn’t deter visitors attending my cookery class and demo. Here I showed sheltered housing residents how to cook without meat and dairy, asking them to try new ingredients they may never have come across. Some residents had never tried meatless alternatives such as TVP, or soya milk in place of dairy. But it went to show that removing these items from menus doesn’t mean lack of taste!
December was a great month, starting with VfL’s Mature Zone at VegfestUK Scotland. Here I hosted two talks: the importance of reducing food waste and how it can save you money with ‘Waste not want not’, and ‘Creative simple meals’, to help those who may not have the time or energy to create quick and tasty vegan meals. There were lots of tips and hints (and of course tasters). The food demonstration was a full house, where I showed the audience how to create three simple meals-for-one. Meals for one can be quite difficult, especially if you are recently widowed, unable to cook for yourself, or simply stuck for ideas or inspiration.
Finishing the month was a final demo at Brazley Day Care Centre, making edible Christmas decorations, and a run of festive visits to 20 care homes across Manchester. With each visit came home-baked treats of vegan mincemeat muffins to be enjoyed by staff and care home residents.
2016 was certainly a busy year, and I can’t wait to get stuck into all that 2017 has to offer!
Recent posts in VfL News and Events
- A taste of The Good Life at Salford’s Dementia Hub
- Vegan/vegetarian trustee with care management experience wanted
- Food for recovery provides food for thought
- Marketing & Stewardship Executive Wanted, Manchester
- Silver Service from SilverCrest Care
- Hulme locals experience joys of spring with vegan cookery demo
- Easter treats from VfL
- Cooking up a storm at VegfestUK Brighton
- A vegan Valentine’s at Newlands Care Home
- Events in 2017