In an ongoing effort to improve food and nutrition across aged care, the Maggie Beer Foundation has launched an online training program designed to upskill cooks and chefs in the sector.

Called Aged Care Skills for Cooks and Chefs, the education program is specifically geared toward aged care kitchens. “There’s virtually no specialised training for the complex arena of cooks and chefs in aged care,” Maggie Beer told Australian Ageing Agenda.

To fill the gap, MBF has designed a series of 30-minute training modules to help cooks and chefs from aged care providers across the country to enhance the food experiences of older Australians.

Released on Wednesday 6 April, the digital masterclasses feature Ms Beer accompanied by some of Australia’s leading aged care chefs along with experts in food, nutrition and the dining experience.

The 11 modules cover a smorgasbord of subjects including:

  • cooking techniques with impact
  • feed the eyes: food presentation
  • keep it fresh: kitchen gardens
  • delivering higher protein all day
  • food culture of First Australians
  • maximising flavour and engaging the senses.

“It’s what I’ve seen over the years of working with cooks and chefs in masterclasses all over Australia – the things they most need to know,” said Ms Beer.

Individual modules can be completed at the user’s convenience and include:

  • introduction and cooking demonstrations from Maggie Beer
  • specialist explanations from subject matter experts
  • downloadable learning resources, recipes, and references
  • MBF recognition for successful completion of the module.

The findings of the aged care royal commission – and discussions at MBF’s national congress in February 2021 – identified that the training of cooks and chefs in aged care is a large factor in the quality of meals served, said Ms Beer.

Many of the cooks and chefs currently in aged care have no formal training in hospitality and are expected to learn on the job. To remedy this, MBF has been running face-to-face training courses since its inception in 2014.

This latest online endeavour aims to tackle “the whole issue of a very small band of people without specialist training having to perform miracles,” said Ms Beer. 

Filmed over the course of many weeks in Sydney last year, the modules will be available through the MBF website and Altura Learning – which helped develop the training program.

“We were very excited to partner with the Maggie Beer Foundation to produce this series,” said Steve Iliffe, executive producer at Altura Learning. “Fans of Maggie’s TV shows will be familiar with the format. The video-based training modules show just how cooks and chefs can influence outcomes with the right support from their organisations.”

The development of the masterclasses was funded by a grant from the Department of Health. MBF has plans to extend its digital cookery courses to educate all older Australians on how to eat well.

As for the aged care kitchen program, Ms Beer would like to see every residential home in Australia making use of the education modules. “Because this is the beginning,” she told AAA. “It’s not everything, but it’s a start of real training that talks exactly to the issues that the cooks and chefs want to know.”

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