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Food conversations shape menus

Written by Margot Taylor
on July 08, 2024

A group of Monash Dietetic students have discovered while the taste buds of Ryman residents may not have changed since childhood their feelings about cooking certainly have.

More than 30 Masters of Nutrition and Dietetics students conducted food conversations with residents at Ryman’s Nellie Melba, Weary Dunlop, and John Flynn retirement villages to investigate how a residents’ background shaped their relationship with food.

Ryman Healthcare Hotel Services Support Manager Maura George said findings gathered by the first-year students in March and April were “surprising”.


“What was particularly surprising was nobody seemed keen on cooking anymore,” Maura said.

“It was very much ‘I’ve had my time with cooking, and it is lovely that other people cook for me now’.”

The students interviewed residents from Ryman’s care centres as well as people in serviced apartments and independent living.

“The students documented their interviews and captured wonderful food-associated memories held by residents,” Maura said.

Memories included family trips to the beach to enjoy fish and chips, Sunday roasts and Irish stew for St Patrick’s Day.

“The accounts captured by the students provide invaluable insights into how meals provide not only an opportunity for sustenance, but reminiscence,” Maura said.

“The findings will inform our menu planning, providing an opportunity to tailor menu selections to Australian resident preferences, and in some cases, different localities and tastes.”

Lamb shanks served for the main course (1) (1)

Lamb shanks plated ahead of a Fine Dining event at John Flynn Retirement Village.


Eastern Health Adjunct Lecturer Mina Berlandier said the project gave dietetic students invaluable experience in menu creation which would inform a later assignment.

“Students reported increased confidence in talking to residents, and how a residents’ background shaped their relationship with food,” Mina said.

“They saw how meals are produced and served, if textured modified meals are served and why these are required and how meals are enjoyed within the dining room experience.”

Chef Mark Taylor prepares the soupo entree (1) (1)

John Flynn chef Mark garnishes a dish for Fine Dining.


The Monash project coincided with Ryman Hotel Services Australia’s new Resident and Relative Food Forums and Australian Lead Chefs menu planning days.

“While some residents may no longer be doing the cooking, these initiatives ensure meal choice remains for residents,” Maura said.

Findings from the food forum would guide future menu planning, while some changes had already been implemented.

“The head chefs will meet again and go over the menu with a fine-tooth comb, but simple changes requested by residents, including replacing morning tea cakes with fruit two days a week and replacing vegetables native to New Zealand with more green leafy vegetables have already been implemented.”

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