It was once said:
Cooking requires confident guesswork and improvisation – experimentation and substitution, dealing with failure and uncertainty in a creative way.
Add a pandemic into that mix and you’ll perhaps understand why Tyler Horton, chef at Aria Court Care Home, part of Athena Care Homes, has been nominated for a Great British Care Awards, Covid Hero Award…
Thrown into lockdown barely a couple of months into the job, not only did he face the huge issue of sourcing reliable suppliers but also the challenge of meeting the needs of residents who might be losing the fundamentals of taste and smell and therefore not eating and drinking as much. So, Tyler spent a few weeks of total focus in the kitchen and invented Jelly Gummies. Each sweet holds 10mls of fluid and by residents sucking on them throughout the day, fluid intake has been dramatically increased.
Highly scientific plus creative, I suggested:
“Yes, I felt like the Heston Blumenthal of the care world, creating shapes like love hearts and clovers and little houses in fruit, sherbert and licorice flavours while also focussing on the importance of colours for those with dementia.”
No scientist by heart, Tyler has his own formidable provenance: his grandad used to be the
Queen’s chef for 13 years working at Buckingham Palace catering the garden parties. As a youngster Tyler announced that he wanted to be a chef so his grandad trained him. From
the age of 9, he was making roast dinners. To this day, he still has the worn copy of exactly the same recipe for coronation chicken as used at the palace.
It’s pretty clear Tyler doesn’t take a problem or a No lying down: so when Boris Johnson announced a ban on travel, he decided it could be done and would be done…on a plate!
Having qualifications in European, Asian and African cuisine alongside Classical English, Tyler ‘flew’ his residents to 24 countries in four months which raised both appetites and spirits for all at Aria Court.
“To this day, it remains one of my biggest achievements that one of my ladies – at 101 years of age – ate Thai food for the first time and enjoyed it. That’s just amazing for me.”
Given such a world tour in the middle of the pandemic, the biggest challenge was originally with suppliers but now they’ve proven to be some of the best Tyler has ever dealt with and impressively all local – the furthest supplier being only 45 minutes away.
And yet these challenges have morphed into unforeseen positives: “relationships have
become stronger in many ways – us and the residents…us and the relatives…us and local suppliers.”
It’s hard to believe that Tyler has never worked in care before but he is keen to acknowledge that it has been the best of moves:
“It has paid off big time as I’ve never been happier. I’ve fallen in love with care. It’s an amazing industry especially elderly care because it’s a generation that’s really overlooked. I see them as the more knowledgeable generation.”
Ultimately, for Tyler, what the pandemic has really gone on to prove is how far the family can extend. It’s no longer just back at the house but where you work, too.
And what about the Covid Hero Award nomination?
“It feels wonderful to be nominated. We get constant recognition from the company and it feels like an investment in me to be up for this award. It’s just lovely – I can’t believe it!”
That said, it can’t come as a surprise to anyone at Aria Court currently sucking on a lime gummy and readying themselves for a culinary twirl of Sri Lanka…