A Week in the Life of… Tajun Ali, Chef and Catering Manager
Tajun Ali is the chef and catering manager at North London Hospice in North Finchley. Here she talks about her role and of the important opportunity she and her team have to bring families together in the moment through food.
Day-to-day, I manage the kitchen and my team of cooks. My main priority is to make sure that the patients in our 18-bed In-patient Unit are served breakfast, lunch and dinner, and that we provide freshly prepared meals for family members too.
I always chat to patients and families about their meals to learn about their dietary requirements, likes and dislikes and physical limitations. I understand how anxious families can become when their loved ones refuse to eat so I try to do as much as possible to allay their fears.
The portions, colour, taste and texture of food can look so different to someone who is unwell and finding it difficult to face food at all. I am always trying different ideas to improve our patients’ quality of life; whether that is by developing nutritious smoothies to help patients who find it difficult to face solid food or by giving a someone who is reluctant to eat a little of what they fancy.
We serve afternoon tea at 3pm everyday and prepare freshly baked cakes for patients, families and visitors to enjoy in our Living Room.
We cater for family celebrations like weddings, birthdays and anniversaries as well as the many and varied functions here at the hospice and external fundraising events. And of course we feed our staff in the dining room. It’s always busy!
Food is an opportunity to bring patients and families together in the moment. My whole team and I take great pride in every plate of food we send out because we only have one chance to get it right.
My day begins bright and early at 5.30am and I arrive at work for a 6.15am start. There’s a lot of preparation in those first couple of hours to make sure the day runs smoothly. The first job is usually to prepare the sandwiches for the coffee shop in our Living Room area and the tea trolleys for meetings and functions. This might include platters, fruit and cakes.
By around 10am we are preparing lunch for the Hospice. In-patients lunches are served at 12.30pm and staff service is from 12.30-2pm.
On Wednesdays and Thursdays we also cater for the Come and Connect Programme serving snacks at 10.30 and a variety of lunch options and smoothies.
After so much activity in the morning the kitchen needs to be cleaned and returned to order so whilst the lunch is being served we make sure everything is ready for the afternoon.
Cakes are baked and ready for service at 3pm for patients and visitors.
Around 2.30pm I visit the new patients that have come into the Hospice, introduce myself and discuss any requirements they may have.
Menus have to be prepared and food orders placed and I try to finish around 4pm and head home.
I’ve got a big family; four children and four grandchildren so when I get home to Kingsbury I love to cook for them in the evening. It’s usually two courses – sometimes Chinese or Indian food. And I particularly like making puddings. It’s not really a chore when you’re doing something you love.
Like everyone, I need to recharge my batteries sometimes, so I’ll treat myself to a spa break or a trip to get my nails done!