Chef who dumped construction to build a career in caring takes bronze major national awards

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A young man who switched from the construction trade to build a highly successful career as head chef at a Cardiff care home has taken bronze in major national awards.

Jamie Farrell is in charge of dedicated kitchen staff of 10 who under his expert supervision cook up over 300 meals a day for 86 residents in four communities at HC-One’s Quarry Hall in St Mellons.

Apart from the everyday fare Jamie also masterminds special events such as a Valentine’s Day dinner for residents and their partners last year which he served up accompanied by soft lights and romantic mood music.

It is this dedication to his caring role that has landed 30-year-old Jamie a bronze in the 2019 Wales Care Awards, organised by Care Forum Wales.

The glittering presentation ceremony was held at City Hall in Cardiff hosted by tenor and radio presenter Wynne Evans, better known as Gio Compario from the Go Compare TV ads.

Jamie, who lives in Old St Mellons with his wife Kerry and their 20-month-old son Dexter, took bronze in the Excellence in Catering Award sponsored by HC-One.

Originally from Solihull in Birmingham, Jamie left a local high school at 16 to begin a construction course at Solihull College.

But when he took a part-time job in a restaurant at Birmingham Airport he became so hooked on the food business that he decided not to go ahead with a life in the building trade.

Jamie had started as a waiter at his first restaurant but within a few months he found himself working in the kitchen area where he’s been ever since.

He said: “They were short of chefs and asked me if I’d like to try it. I decided to give it a go and I suppose I was thrown in at the deep end. But I fell in love with it right away. As I progressed, I eventually got all my catering qualifications.”

It was another type of love affair that brought Jamie out of his native Midlands and into Wales when he met his wife-to-be while on holiday in Spain. They got together and as Kerry is a Cardiff girl decided to move to the city 11 years ago.

Jamie became a kitchen supervisor at a university bar in Roath and later chef de partie at the famous Jamie’s Italian restaurant in Cardiff city centre.

After a couple of years with a pub chain working as head chef at a number of its outlets in the Cardiff area he was appointed head chef at Quarry Hall in 2015. The home supports residents with nursing and residential needs for general and dementia care.

In nominating Jamie for the award HC-One area director Jacqueline Orrells said of him: “He leads his team by example and gives guidance on his expectations of the quality of the food and presentation. He works closely with his chefs to ensure that the high standard is maintained at every meal on every day of the week.

“In the four years he has been at Quarry Hall the standard of the meals has increased significantly.

“Jamie also supports the other 13 HC-One homes in South Wales with inductions for new chefs and provides on-going support for chefs and catering audits.

“He is friendly, approachable and supportive to his team and this enables him to bring out the best in them.

“Jamie spends time daily on the communities to ensure that the residents’ likes, dislikes and needs are met. He also chats to residents to get their feedback on the meals.

“He organises social events which he caters for, such as a Valentine’s evening for residents and their partners. He planned a three-course menu and was supported by the Well Being Team to decorate the room and serve the meals.”

Jamie said: “It was a lovely romantic evening which everyone really enjoyed.

”I like to do things like this for the residents because that’s why we’re here – to make them feel special.

“I love my job and of all the ones I’ve had I know this is the one for me – much more so than construction.”

Mario Kreft, chairman of Care Forum Wales, said the standard of entries was extremely high.

He added: “There are only winners here tonight so it is only fitting that the finalists will receive a gold, silver or bronze Wales Care Award.

“I trust that they will continue to inspire those around them as role models and encourage others to aspire to even greater heights and in the months and years to come.

“This awards ceremony is our opportunity to pay tribute and to celebrate the talent and commitment that is improving the quality of life for thousands and thousands of people throughout Wales.

”We take our hats off to them.”