Gracewell Healthcare prides itself on the industry-leading and personalised services it provides to all of its care home residents across the UK. A vital aspect of the care the organisation provides and one of its key priorities is the exceptional health and nutrition of its community. To understand the people behind Gracewell Healthcare’s expertise, we spoke to Darwin Serrano who is Head of Hospitality at Gracewell of Church Crookham.
Prior to joining Gracewell Healthcare, Darwin had an esteemed career as a Chef across numerous critically acclaimed restaurants, 5 star hotels. Notably, he worked as a Sous Chef at the famous Dorchester Hotel in Mayfair, London. We kicked off our conversation by asking him about his time at the Dorchester.
“I started my journey at the Dorchester in the room service team before being moved to the main kitchen and working for six years as a Sous Chef. I later moved to Plated Banqueting where I managed a team catering for an average of over two thousand people a day. While doing this role I cooked for the Queen, Tony Blair, Nelson Mandela, Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman and many other royalty from around the world.
“Every 2 years, there is a Chef Conference where all the famous chefs from around the world would come together and cook for guests to raise money for charities. I have attended this conference three times now with Gordon Ramsey attending the last one I went to. He made starters from scallops which needed frying off seconds before service. It would have been easier to prepare them ahead of time but Gordon, being a perfectionist, insisted he wanted it to be done the right way. In the end, myself and all the other chefs were there together frying these scallops off just before service. After we had finished cooking, we all get changed and go out with the customers and toast with them.”
Next, we asked Darwin why he wanted to become a Chef.
“When I was 17, I applied to work in my cousin’s hotel in the Philippines as a room boy, but they hired me as a kitchen helper instead. While I worked there, I developed my love for cooking. I would finish my chores and then ask the Head Chef to teach me to cook and after 3 months I was promoted to Chef.
“After I was promoted, I thought to myself 'I want to learn everything about being a Chef” so I moved to a three-star hotel after six months to build my knowledge. Once I had learnt what I could from there, I moved on to a four-star hotel in Manila to continue building experience. After 2 years in Manila I went back to the three-star hotel working as the Head Chef.”
Darwin worked in 5 star hotels in the Philippines for more than five years as an Executive Sous Chef. At the time, he was sent to do cross training in Hong Kong at the Holiday Inn golden mile, Peak Café and Mandarin Hong Kong hotel. This this is when he was offered the opportunity to work in England.
We then asked why he decided to become a Chef at a care home.
“After leaving the Dorchester Hotel, I worked at the Royal Surrey County Hospital for nine years. However, it started feeling like I was doing the same thing every day so I put my name online to see if I could find any new opportunities. I started getting calls from care homes with one of them being Racquel who was the General Manager of Gracewell of Camberley. She completely sold me the role that they were hiring for and I started at Gracewell not long after.”
We then asked Darwin what he enjoys most about working in a care home.
“I love cooking, I love when people enjoy my food and I love getting to know the residents. It’s true that life doesn’t stop when you move into a care home so the team are committed to giving residents the best quality of life possible.
“I also love cooking dishes from all over the world and giving residents the opportunity to travel the world through their food. Some of the residents can’t get out into the community so it is important we bring the community to them. Before Covid-19, we loved throwing functions where they can invite their friends and family and also local schools, entertainers to celebrate with them. The main goal is balanced nutrition, we aim to give the maximum nutrition to all of our residents by having dietary meetings with the residents every week to find out what they enjoy eating, every food recipe is sent to our Head of Nutrition and Hydration to create a balanced diet.”
Finally, we asked what his favourite meal to cook for residents is.
“At Gracewell of Church Crookham, we have started an event called “The Captain’s Table” which takes place on the first Wednesday of every month. We asked all the residents, if they could go on a cruise, where they would like to go around the world. Then at the event, we put on a banquet of food from each of the locations that residents have chosen. All residents who have a birthday on that month are invited to dine with our General Manager in our private dining facility, “The Captain’s Table”.
For more information on Gracewell of Church Crookham care home, click here: www.gracewellchurchcrookham.co.uk/.