Bringing Life Through Food in Hospice

From flowers to birds and whales, chefs are adding something special to every plate.

Chef proves amazing food is possible in care facilities

Long-term care homes aren’t often known for their culinary forte.

But the chefs at Oceanfront Village in Courtenay are proving a little effort can make a big difference to people in the most vulnerable times of their lives.

Chef Don Bailey started working there this fall with one goal in mind. To create a Five Star standard of dining for residents.

“My grandfather was in a long-term care facility in Thunder Bay, Ontario. About 25 years ago, he asked me if I could ever in my life, to do something about the food in long-term care. He just hated it.”

Then, it was very low quality, greasy and fatty, said Don.

Far from an enjoyable dining experience.

“So what I did was I went and worked for five-star operations, got my papers and then probably the last 15 years, I’ve thrown it into health care.”

Don and the rest of his team go above and beyond to give residents food that stands out to both their eyes and tastebuds.

“I’ve actually been notified by some of the nursing staff on the hospice care that people have been saving their garnishes on their side tables because they love them so much, and it brings a smile to their day,” Bailey said.

The team will carve everything from flowers, to birds and whales from fruit and vegetables to accompany the resident’s plates, and it’s been hugely appreciated.

“The meals have gone from okay to FANTASTIC with a red seal Chef who has joined the team. The meals Don puts out are so good it feels like dining in the finest restaurant every night.” said resident Joan Coax.

It may seem like a simple change, but it has a big impact.

Don recounted one experience a few weeks into his employment with a woman who’s father had been staying in hospice for the last few days of his life before passing.

“She told me that he always loved and waited every day to get his food to see what we were going to do as a garnish. And it really made his stay enjoyable if it could be and she was very emotional…it helps everybody, even though it’s probably the worst time in their lives.”

Sometimes the small things make the biggest difference, and Don emphasized that the extra work shouldn’t be seen as out of the norm.

“Everybody says that we’re raising the bar, but I would prefer that we’re just putting out the proper standard.”

It’s a collaborative effort on behalf of the whole kitchen to bring residents the quality experiences they deserve.

Don is primarily focusing on working with the younger chefs so they can bring the level of care to other establishments when they move on.

“I’m at the point in my career now where I’ve cooked wherever I wanted to cook and now I’m just wanting to teach the younger people… I just want everybody to be great at it. So that these people that are in the end years of their lives are getting exactly what they deserve.”

Don’s wife Laura just put together an instagram to showcase the team’s cooking. So, if you want to follow along for some wholesome content and see what they’re creating daily, you can check it out @donbaileyrse