When Darren Cadwell started work as a trainee in the kitchen at Blackpool Victoria Hospital’s, he couldn’t even peel an onion
“I really couldn’t, I had to be shown!” he says – but it didn’t stop him rising through the ranks.
“I did so well in the kitchen that I came off the training scheme after six months and was made a salad maker.”
His pay also more than doubled overnight – from £25 a week to a dizzying £54. Darren’s potential had been spotted.
He was sent to college to get his chef’s qualification, later became a supervisor and has now been kitchen manager for 15 years.
Tomorrow (21 Jun) is National Healthcare Estates and Facilities Day and Darren is one of 251,000 such colleagues across the UK. As well chefs and cooks, these roles include housekeeping, buildings management, gardening, cleaning and portering to name just a few.
Kitchen work has changed hugely in Darren’s 41 years. For a start, the kitchen is no bigger but the number of patients has doubled from 550 to 1,000.
Darren’s team serves them three meals a day each on top of 1,500 staff restaurant meals.
His chefs’ menus aim to keep up to date with changing tastes and dietary needs. There are more vegetarian meals and a halal dish most days.
No one makes salads any more like Darren did. Vegetables and salads mostly come in ready prepared to save on labour in the kitchens.
“We still cook everything from scratch but the recipes are more standardised these days so people know exactly what’s in them,” he said.