A CHEF who quit the pub and restaurant trade less than a year ago to take on a role in the care sector has been rewarded for her “life-changing leap of faith” after being named runner-up at a prestigious awards ceremony.
Carys Davies only took up the post of second chef at Cardiff’s Shire Hall Care Home in October 2016, but in that short space of time she has made a huge impression on both her colleagues and the residents, who have been particularly wowed by her home baking skills.
The 30-year-old, who lives in Tonyrefail, Rhondda, has built up a great rapport with the residents and helps some of them bake cakes every week as well as producing tasty treats for the care home’s regular afternoon teas.
Her efforts haven’t gone unnoticed by her new colleagues or the families of the residents, who nominated her for the Excellence in Catering award in the Wales Care Awards, sponsored by Ontex Healthcare and Barchester Jobs.
The prestigious national awards, run by Care Forum Wales and dubbed the “Oscars” of the care industry, acknowledge the hard work and exceptional performances of those in the sector.
Carys, who left college with a Level 3 Catering qualification and has worked as a head chef in a host of pubs and restaurants in Rhondda over the past 12 years, was awarded the silver prize in her category during the awards ceremony at City Hall in Cardiff.
She said: “I was over the moon when I found out I’d been nominated. I was really delighted and obviously very proud.
“I was aware of the care awards because two chefs here have been previous winners including current head chef Gareth Matthews.
“It’s something we take seriously at Shire Hall. Gareth has been helping me a lot since I came here.”
Carys admits she had always been looking for something more from her career and now believes she has finally found it.
She explained: “Until last year I’d always been head chef at pubs and restaurants. I took a leap of faith to come to the care sector.
“I started in October and it’s been fantastic ever since. It’s such a rewarding job. I’m so glad I’ve done it, it’s been life changing.”
“I was always looking for more before. I’m passionate about giving something back and to help people get the best out of their lives.”
Carys added: “It’s a lovely place to work. There is great camaraderie with the team and residents and a real sense of community.
“I worked on the floor for a couple of shifts, serving the residents and it is great interacting with them and reminiscing.
“Baking is a real passion of mine and I enjoy making cakes for the residents. We have a coffee shop and do afternoon teas so I’m always baking.
“It’s mainly traditional stuff like sticky toffee puddings or lemon drizzle cake.
“Once a week I help a small group of residents make cakes which I really enjoy doing and they also get a lot out of it.
“The resident are really enjoying the food and are always talking about it.
“We do a lot of traditional, homely meals. It’s what they know and enjoy. It helps bring back old memories.”
Having found fulfilment in her new role, Carys has ambitions to take her career even further in the care sector.
She said: “It would be nice to be a head chef of a care home one day – that’s the aim for sure.
“But I really enjoy my role at the moment and I’m looking forward to the awards ceremony.
“I’ll have to get my outfit ready and do my hair!”
Karen Grapes, general manager of Shire Hall which is part of Hallmark Care Homes, said both Carys’ colleagues and the families of the residents were involved in putting her name forward for the award, which was sponsored by Harlech Foodservice.
She commented: “Carys was new to the industry having worked in public houses previously.
“She has brought to the home her excellent home baking skills.
“Carys’ cakes and desserts are excellent and she has adapted well to providing nourishing menus for the residents which includes soft and puree diets that are appealing and nutritious.”
Mario Kreft, the Chair 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 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.”
The MC for the awards evening was opera singer Wynne Evans, aka Gio Compario from the well-known television adverts for Go Compare.