“Food should always be a celebration.”
This philosophy has been the recipe to Weary Dunlop Retirement Village head chef Marcus Gildon’s nearly 30 year career.
“It should always be a celebration, so it’s not coming to work to slop food on a plate. Good food is a bit like a warm hug,” he says.
From starting as a butcher by day and working for free in fine dining restaurants at night, to serving hundreds of diners at international hotels, luxury lodges and wineries, passion has fuelled his cooking.
But it was while working as the executive chef for a different aged care provider that Marcus realised he was no longer able to feel a sense of celebration while cooking.
“I was talking to someone about the things I didn’t like, having to skimp on the quality and quantity of things, and they said ‘you’d love Ryman, they share the same philosophy and values as you do’,” Marcus says.
The proof is in the pudding, and just months after landing his role at Weary Dunlop, he says his passion for winning over bellies and hearts is back.
“Ryman does have the best philosophy,” he says.
“I’m serving meals where with other providers the cost of the meal would be just about that resident’s daily food budget.
“Here we don’t skimp, there’s plenty of it, it’s good quality, there’s a healthy budget, it’s about making the residents happy, which is great.”
And the way to make residents happy is not only in the kitchen, but also in the village centre, where Marcus has wasted no time in asking for feedback about what will tickle taste buds.
“The way I can do my job to the best of my ability is to listen to what the residents are saying to me.”
Food is about memories as well as taste and nutrition, he says.
“I’m from Whakatāne, in New Zealand, and growing up we used to go camping and cook crayfish. We’d put a big pot of water on the fire, we’d go diving, come back, drop the crayfish in the water.
“Years later, eating crayfish again, I realised it’s not so much the food, it’s the memory of it that I love, and I think that’s important with cooking in aged care.
“What we want to do is take people back and make those memories fresh again.”
With “a great company, good suppliers” and a passionate chef in the kitchen, all of the ingredients are there to make the dining experiences of Weary Dunlop residents a celebration.