Neath Woman Cooks Up a Storm to Reach Awards Final

The mantra “Food is just as important as medicine” has helped to put a Neath cook in line for a prestigious award.

Residents of the Plas Bryn Rhosyn Home in Heol Illtyd are the happy beneficiaries of the work of head cook Sarah Crimmins, but her efforts are also appreciated by her colleagues.

It was Stuart Davies, the home’s registered manager, who nominated her for one of this year’s Wales Care Awards, and she has been shortlisted in the category for Excellence in Catering, sponsored by Harlech Foodservice.

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the awards, which are organized by Care Forum Wales to recognize exceptional practice in the care sector. The Forum itself is also celebrating its 25th anniversary.

This year’s prizegiving ceremony will be held in City Hall, Cardiff, on October 19.

Sarah, 41, trained at Neath Port Talbot College and has worked in the catering industry all her life. She worked in various settings, including pubs, before starting at the Hafod residential Home – Plas Bryn Rhosyn’s predecessor – 15 years ago.

The home has 59 residents, including some with dementia, and Sarah and her team of five has responsibility for ensuring that all their dietary needs are met.

“Catering to everyone’s tastes while maintaining special dietary requirements and preferences within a care home is a difficult task, but one that Sarah has grasped with both hands,” said Stuart.

But Sarah enjoys “going the extra mile” by also making meals as interesting and varied as possible.

In recent months she has devised a new four-week menu which includes tasty vegetarian dishes and regular vegan dishes. As a result the home, whose kitchen was given a 5-star hygiene rating by Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council, has signed up with the charity “Vegetarian For Life” by demonstrating its commitment to providing tasty and nutritious meals.

Stuart said that residents had commented on the revised dishes and how good it is to try new foods.

“They often comment on how spoiled they are and how they look forward to the buffets she lays on for special events,” he added.

Those special events include monthly “theme days” such as a “50s day” with milkshakes, ice-cream and hot dogs on offer. Each time the staff enter into the spirit by dressing up appropriately.

“In September the theme is ‘Back to School”, for which residents recall what they used to eat in their schooldays,” said Sarah.

She takes delight in conjuring up new ideas and menus and in seeing how well they are received.

“If my parents were in a home I would like them to have the best, and that is what I try to do. I have a real passion for what I do and like to give it 100%,” she commented.

A mother-of-two, she was stunned to learn that she had been even nominated for the award, especially as she was unaware that there was a category for those working on the catering side of the care industry.

When she is not at work Sarah, who lives in Seven Sisters, relaxes by taking a busman’s holiday, baking celebration cakes for weddings and other occasions.

She is now looking forward to attending the awards ceremony with her partner Richard Denyer.

Mario Kreft MBE, the Chair of Care Forum Wales, said the Wales Care Awards had gone from strength to strength.

He said: “This year’s ceremony is an even more special occasion because it marks the 15th anniversary of the awards and the 25th anniversary of Care Forum Wales, and the event is now firmly established as one of the highlights in the Welsh social care calendar.

“The aim is to recognize the unstinting and often remarkable dedication of our unsung heroes and heroines across Wales.

“The care sector is full of wonderful people because it’s not just a job, it’s a vocation – these are the people who really do have the X Factor.

“If you don’t recognize the people who do the caring you will never provide the standards that people need and never recognize the value of the people who need the care in society.

“We need to do all we can to raise the profile of the care sector workforce – they deserve to be lauded and applauded,” he added.

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