What is your role here?
I am the Catering Supervisor. I work with my team to pick, pack and deliver every meal ordered by patients throughout the day. In hospital catering there is a front of house and a back of house; I’m very much in the back of house. Orders are received electronically from patients in the wards and then we put them together. The front of house team then deliver these throughout the ward. It’s my job to make sure we have the right amounts of foods, that the staff know what they are doing and that hygiene standards are kept in the food preparation areas.
Why did you want to do this for a living?
I’d previously worked as a domestic cleaner but was interested in the catering side so when a position came up a couple of years ago I went for it. I’m an ordered person and I enjoy it when a process runs smoothly. I like making sure there is a good system in place and keeping everything smooth-running, so given that we can be asked to provide up to 1,500 hot meals, salads and sandwiches every lunch time, there is a lot of satisfaction when it all goes to plan.
What do you like about working at Derby Teaching Hospitals in particular?
Hospital food has really changed over the years. The range we offer is phenomenal. We have 23 main hot meals alone – that’s without all the cold choices and snacks. You can be here for three weeks and never have the same meal twice. I like being able to provide this and change the perception of hospital food, which I think has been negative in the past. I like working within the team, as well. We have a good group of people who get on well and look after each other. And there is a good deal of recognition. There are surveys being carried out to get people’s opinion of the food and we get to hear the results of those. Patients themselves often write letters – unprompted – about how much they enjoyed the food. That’s really good to hear.
If you are interested in a career with our Catering team, please contact the ISS HR Office on 01332 789577.
Why did you decide to take part in the programme?
When we first heard about it at the back of house, we were under the impression that all the roles were already filled. But when we actually met the crew from The Garden Productions, people around me were saying, ”Oh, you’re looking for characters? Here’s a character for you,” meaning me.
But I was happy to do it, really. I want to show people more about hospital catering. Some people think the food is bland; well, we can’t have too much salt or fat because we are trying to make people better and more healthy. We deliver a really broad range of food, lots of different world cuisines and we do it healthily. It will be good for people to see all this.
And the funny thing is, at home, I have three daughters. My eldest is into theatre, she loves to see West End Shows. My middle daughter, she works as a nurse here at the hospital but she’s been on stage here in Derby, doing amateur dramatics; and my youngest, she teaches dance to children. But then I come home and tell them I’m going to be on prime time ITV. You should’ve seen their faces.
How was it working with the camera and crew?
It was funny, really. One of the first times the producer came downstairs to where we work, it was lunch time and during lunch times we’re sending food out to forty-plus wards. Each host and hostess should come down and pick up the food before going back off to the wards. So it’s really busy down there and I’d told the producer this but she came in with the camera crew and the whole place went silent. People were practically whispering. I just shook my head, said it wasn’t normally like this.
But gradually people got more used to the crew. They wanted to follow me about, capture me at work but I move about fast through a lot of places; I have to for time. And they struggled to keep up with me, so we ended up doing more direct pieces to camera.
How do you think viewers will react to the programme – especially the parts you appear in?
The producers seemed really interested in getting to know about the hospital in a different way. It’s like a swan on the water really: looks graceful on top but there’s a lot of hard work going on beneath. I hope that the programme will show hospitals in a better light. We are all caring people no matter what we are doing. Everybody is a small cog in a big wheel but if you take one cog out, the machine stops working.
What are the moments you’ll remember from the experience?
We had a good rapport with the film crew and they were patient. I was closing a fridge door to put some parsley pots away and they wanted me to do it a few times, to get the right sound. It seemed crazy but they wanted it to sound right. I said, ”Hey, it’s not a VW Golf, this,” and they laughed. There was a really exciting feel when they were working with us, definitely.