Head Chef at a Gloucestershire hospice opens the door to her kitchen

Categories: Care and Featured.

During Hospice Care Week the Head Chef at a Gloucestershire hospice opened the door to her kitchen to show people what goes on to provide a home from home for patients.

While many chefs over the past 18 months were forced into furlough during multiple lockdowns, Joan Smith and the catering team at Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice have been working around the clock providing nutritious meals to patients receiving Sue Ryder’s expert and compassionate palliative care.

Joan Smith, 53 from Cirencester, joined Sue Ryder in September 2012 after working in the restaurant and hotel business.

“I first started working in the kitchen at the hospice through an agency and it really opened eyes to what amazing places hospices are.

“I didn’t know a lot about hospices and I didn’t know what to expect. At first I was daunted and I thought it might be sad but I immediately saw the huge relief people felt when they were admitted here – a place where they are surrounded by love.

Working as part of a catering team of six, Joan takes pride in preparing home cooked meals for patients.

“We cook fresh quality food with the best quality ingredients,” shares Joan.

“Our meals are not out of a packet. We put as much care into preparing our food as our Sue Ryder Nurses put into the care for our patients.”

“We really get to know the people we care for. We get to know if they want smaller portions or if they need a bigger meal because the medication they’re are on gives them a bigger appetite. We know if they have no veg with their meals or if they want extra gravy or if they need a soft diet

Joan says working at the hospice is like being part of one big family, working together to give the best care possible to patients.

“There are so many different people and roles and teams here at the hospice involved in delivering care to make sure our patient’s quality of life is the best it can be.”

“From clinical staff to back of house staff, where I am, we work together as one team with the patient at the very centre of everything we do.”

“Hospices are not like hospitals. We are a home from home for people at a very difficult time. We make the hospice as comfortable as possible, and that includes preparing home cooked food. People are cared for personally and in such beautiful surroundings.”

One of the things Joan likes best about working in catering in a hospice is the individual care and attention that goes into planning and making meals.

“The catering team at the hospice speak to patients personally, so get to know our patients and we get to know what they want when it comes to food.”

“We have had patients who are Muslim, so we sourced halal food for them in our local supermarket so we were able to cook something that we knew would meet their religious beliefs.

“We also work to people’s dietary requirements, with input from the clinical team. For example if patients can’t eat gluten, or if they need a low fibre diet or if they are dairy-intolerant we will tailor our menu especially for them, making it separately to the rest.”

“At Christmas we make Christmas cake, homemade mince pies and offer families with us a Christmas lunch with a glass of Prosecco. At Easter we bake Easter cakes and we go around on Good Friday with hot cross buns. During Wimbledon we offer patients a strawberry cream tea. And if it is a patient’s birthday, we make them a home-made birthday cake to enjoy.

“Recently it was a special birthday for one of our patients, so we created an afternoon tea for them to enjoy with their partner. We did all we could to make it really special for them.”

The menu offered by Joan and the catering team at Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice is varied and based on what patients want to eat.

“We offer a real variety here and aim to cook food everyone likes. We prepare food people recognise and love, from traditional food like Shepherd’s Pie and sausage and mash. However we’re finding people’s diets and taste buds are changing so we offer more varied meals like Moroccan Chicken with couscous too.

“Our patients want to eat food that they know and food that brings them comfort. A lot of people love our cooked breakfast; bacon and eggs – the Full English! A lot of people enjoy Cottage Pie too as it easy to eat and it real comfort food. And our most popular pudding is a Crumble. Everyone loves a crumble!”

Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice’s food is supplied locally by Creed Food Service in Cheltenham and all their meat are British Farmers. However, Joan says local vegetables and fruit from the hospice’s own gardens regularly feature on the menu too.

“We’ve recently planted some leeks just outside the hospice kitchen window. We made a leek and potato soup with leeks pulled straight out of the ground recently, which was really tasty!”

“We’ve enjoyed lovely plums from the hospice grounds already this summer and we’re expecting apples from the trees in our fruit orchard soon, so we will be busy making lots of apple crumbles and apple pies.”

Joan hopes by giving in insight into the work of the hospice kitchen she can help dispel myths about hospices.

“When I tell people I am a chef at a hospice people say it must be a sad place to work. I tell them no it’s not. I never go to work thinking I am in a sad place. I go to work every day and I am in a happy environment, working alongside happy people who all have the shared intention of giving people the best possible care we can.

 “When I see our patients enjoying their food it is so nice to know we’re doing a good job. You feel you have done something to help them and it’s an amazing feeling when the food they have enjoyed helps make them feel better in themselves or has encouraged them to eat.

“When I see the smiles on families’ faces as they see loved ones enjoying what they’re eating that is what it is all about.”

Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice is currently recruiting for a new member of the catering team. For more information visit the catering assistant job description.

Interested in working in palliative care with Sue Ryder? Find out more at sueryder.org/palliativecareers 

For more information on Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice visit sueryder.org/leckhampton



Pictured: Head Chef, Joan Smith, at work in the Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice kitchen. This Hospice Care Week Joan is opening the kitchen door to share her story to show what happens to make the hospice a home for patients it cares for.


About Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice:

Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice is the only palliative care inpatient unit in Gloucestershire and provides expert palliative care and support for people who are living with a life-limiting condition, as well as supporting their families.

Our 16-bed hospice is surrounded by beautiful, tranquil countryside which complements the specialist care and support we give to those with life-limiting conditions and their families.

In addition to our inpatient unit, our virtual day hospice service helps people living with long term conditions and our Hospice at Home service provides care for people in the local community who prefer to receive palliative care at home.

Our expert team includes doctors, nurses, care assistants, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and family support team. They all work seamlessly together to support people through the most difficult times of their lives.

Whether somebody is dealing with a terminal illness or the loss of a loved one, we’re there when it matters. Sue Ryder staff and volunteers provide people with the compassion and expert care they need, to help them live the best life they can.


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