Hospice UK’s ehospice editor Leila Hawkins writes about filming two great chefs cooking together in a hospice kitchen.
Last week Hospice UK’s web editor Jamie Hill and I travelled to the Hospice of St Francis in Berkhamsted to film one of Britain’s top chefs, Lawrence Keogh, cooking alongside the hospice’s award-winning chef Chris Took.
Chris and his team won the NHS Dignity in Care award in 2009 for transforming meal times for hundreds of patients who had lost their appetites, but thanks to his efforts were able to enjoy eating again. He also runs Cooking with Chris, cookery classes for bereaved family members, teenagers and carers.
Lawrence has devised menus for some of London’s best restaurants, among them Quo Vadis and The Wolseley, and has made regular appearances on BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen Live and on Radio 2 with Chris Evans. As a Patron of the National Kidney Federation and the author of two cookbooks for people with kidney ailments he knows a thing or two about cooking for patients, however when he arrived at the hospice he had plenty to ask Chris about how he runs his kitchen.
To celebrate Hospice Care Week the chefs selected two appropriately hued yellow dishes chosen from Hospice UK’s very own cookbook Taste – a zucchini slice to be prepared by Chris, and an upside down pineapple cake for Lawrence to make.
As they began to chop and stir the chefs talked about how Chris became involved with the hospice movement, how he provides patients with tasty meals after they have lost their appetite, and what he says when someone asks for steak or lobster as a special treat. “Usually it’s help!” he says.
Over the course of the afternoon we learnt just how much care Chris puts into his meals, which are always freshly cooked on the premises. He writes all the menus, however these are in fact just a starting point as patients can order what they want. Then there are special occasions like birthdays, weddings, and family visits to cater to . “It’s almost a la carte.”
Lawrence wanted to find out how Chris handles becoming close to the patients knowing they are so close to the end of their lives. “It is hard sometimes. I have done this for a long time and know they are going to die, but giving the best I can while they are still with us is what I try and achieve every day. Some get to you, you can’t help it. If a patient didn’t get to me I wouldn’t be doing this job.”
“I always say that food is love” he adds, “because you love to go out to a restaurant, you talk about it, and then you go to work and go “oh that was great.” You get together with your family, you talk about how your mum used to cook Yorkshire puddings and you can’t make them the same way. I think with the patients food is love because their relatives want them to eat, because that is what you do, from nurturing your children right through to adulthood, you eat to stay alive and when you stop eating people get worried.”
To find out about their biggest kitchen disasters and how they prepared Taste’s indulgent pineapple cake, keep your eyes peeled for Hospice UK’s short film, coming very soon.
Hospice Care Week runs till Sunday 14 October.