A chef talent-spotted as a teenager and later chosen by his bosses to cook for Sir Paul McCartney at an exclusive hotel has been shortlisted for a top award.
Jamie Parker-Evans was entered by his school into a cookery competition to find a future star chef of Wales. Aged 14 he reached the Wales finals of the contest where he was pipped to the post by just half a point.
But all was not lost as young Jamie so impressed the training manager at five-star Celtic Manor Resort Hotel, in Newport, that he immediately offered him an apprenticeship.
Jamie will forever be grateful to that training manager, Mark Jamieson, who approached him after the competition and paved the way for his dream career.
He said: “A week after I finished school I was working at Celtic Manor in a team which included some of the best chefs in Britain. I couldn’t have wished for a better start, in the thick of the action learning amazing skills.”
Jamie was later selected to chef for music superstar Sir Paul McCartney and his family when they stayed in the hotel’s presidential suite for a weekend.
He eventually decided to broaden his skills by working abroad, including at a beach hotel in Corsica and an alpine ski resort in Tignes, France.
Now 33, Jamie is a much respected Head Chef at Capel Grange Nursing Home, Newport.
Again, his dedication and culinary prowess have impressed, to the extent that the home’s owners Linc Cymru have recommended him for a top accolade at the 2022 Wales Care Awards.
Supported by lead sponsor Ontex UK, and organised by care industry champions Care Forum Wales, the awards celebrate exceptional work of those in the care sector.
Jamie is shortlisted in the Excellence in Catering category, sponsored by Harlech Foodservice
The winners of gold, silver and bronze will be announced at a glittering ceremony which all nominees are invited to attend at Cardiff City Hall on Friday, October 21. The host for the evening will be popular tenor, Wynne Evans, aka Gio Compario from the Go Compare TV advertisements.
Jamie is delighted to be shortlisted and looking forward to the grand occasion.
He said working in the care sector has been a revelation after spending his early career in hospitality.
He said: “Hotels and restaurants are a constant bustle of activity, but what I love about Capel Grange is really getting to know the people I’m cooking for. I like to chat with residents and their families, discover their likes and dislikes.
“When I arrived there was an emphasis on traditional dishes like cottage pie. We still do those but I’ve tried to introduce new flavours, always consulting residents.
“One fun thing we do is blindfold tasting sessions. I’ll prepare dishes and they’ll wear blindfolds to sample them. We get some honest feedback. They pull no punches when it comes to telling me what they think of dishes.”
Jamie is much liked by colleagues and residents and was nominated for a Wales Care Award by Edgar Bautista, Linc’s Head of Nursing.
Edgar said since starting at Capel Grange Jamie has completely overhauled the way fresh food is sourced, only buying in fresh meat and vegetables, never frozen.
“He and his team now make everything from scratch, including purees and liquid meals, to keep the vitamin and nutrient content high and ensure all residents are eating the same, high-quality food.
“Getting to know who he’s cooking for is also paramount for Jamie. A couple of weeks after a resident has moved in, he meets with them and their family, to find out about their likes and dislikes. He also notes any cultural differences. For example, one lady has an Italian background, so Jamie tweaked his four-week rolling menu to include some Italian dishes.
“On top of this, every resident is presented with a special, homemade cake on their birthday, which Jamie likes to decorate according to their interests.”
Jamie said: “I try to make them as wacky as possible. One resident liked ducks, so I made a green cake, piped blue buttercream on it for a pond, added buttercream trees and made ducks and a little bench out of chocolate.”
Mario Kreft MBE, Chair of Care Forum Wales, said the aim of the Wales Care Awards was to recognise the unstinting and remarkable dedication of unsung heroes and heroines across Wales.
He said: “The social care sector is full of wonderful people because it’s not just a job, it’s a vocation – these are people who go the extra mile for others.
“During the Covid crisis, this fantastic workforce rose magnificently to the challenge, putting their own lives on the line to do everything they possibly could to safeguard the people for whom they provide care.
“Unfortunately, it has taken a global pandemic for many other people to realise how important and how significant our social care workforce is.
“Their incredible contribution was summed up best in the powerful and emotive words of the song, Heroes of our Heart, written by the acclaimed poet Mererid Hopwood and sung by Sir Bryn Terfel, which was set to the famous tune of Men of Harlech. The message that the diolch should last forever is one that we should never forget.
“If you don’t recognise the people who do the caring you will never provide the standards people need and never recognise the value of people who need care in society.
“All the nominees deserve to be lauded and applauded and it’s a real pleasure to honour the contribution of all the finalists.
“I congratulate all the individuals who have shown outstanding dedication and professionalism. Every one of them should be proud of their achievement.
“They are Wales’s finest.”