Despite never completing any formal training as a chef, Maggie Beer is one of Australia’s best-known celebrity chefs, appearing on shows such as MasterChef, The Great Australian Bake Off and The Cook and The Chef. After being named Senior Australian of the Year in 2011, Maggie was invited to a wide variety of speaking engagements, one of which was with a group of 1,000 aged care executives.
It was during her preparation for this speaking engagement that Maggie first began researching food and nutrition in aged care and she was alarmed by some of what she found. While it could have been easy to focus on the negative aspects of aged care food, she decided instead to focus on the positive. By establishing the Maggie Beer Foundation, she hopes to highlight the opportunity in aged care for cooks and chefs to celebrate food and provide great dining experiences for aged care clients.
Unfortunately, the challenge that cooks and chefs face in aged care is the same across every industry and it comes down to a lack of resources. This is where Maggie says aged care providers need to start thinking differently. She believes by distributing funding in a way that promotes the preparation of good fresh food, with pleasure and nutrition side-by-side, aged care providers can empower cooks and chefs within aged care facilities to rediscover their passion for food.
The Maggie Beer Foundation also tackles its mission to ensure residents in aged care are provided with fresh food with flavour by engaging with cooks, chefs and kitchen hands in the aged care sector to inspire them and create advocates for organisation’s mission. Her education programs offer an opportunity for selected chefs and cooks from residential aged care homes to participate in workshops with Maggie and aged care industry experts. These programs are designed to help these aged care professionals make a real difference starting in their kitchens and by influencing those who control food budgets, supplier relationships, menus and dining room management.
As well as these direct education and engagement programs, the Maggie Beer Foundation also undertakes a wide range of initiatives that are designed to promote life-altering change to the well-being of the elderly by having access to food full of flavour and nutrients. While Maggie realises her foundation’s ultimate goal is a lofty one, she can offer some simple advice to aged care cooks and chefs to start making small changes in the way they prepare food in the kitchen.
Maggie Beer’s top tips for aged care homes were:
- Always use fresh vegetables in season (no frozen vegetables)
- Get rid of boosters from the pantry and make your own stock
- Always use butter (not margarine)
- Throw out anything low-fat or diet
- Don’t use preservatives and processed foods (make everything from scratch)
- Plant a herb garden.
To find out more about the Maggie Beer Foundation please visit www.maggiebeerfoundation.org.au