22nd February 2011
Alder Hey challenged Michelin Star Chef Heston Blumenthal to provide healthy meals for our patients that they will eat. Did he succeed...?
What do YOU want to see on the menu? Let us know what you think about Heston’s menu and some of his dishes! Do you like the sound of real worm pizza or would it turn you right off your food?!
Tell us what you want see on the menu at Alder Hey by clicking here and taking part in this short survey!
Celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal recently joined forces with Alder Hey’s catering team to develop a new, healthier menu for our patients. Merseyside’s famous children’s hospital hoped that the innovative chef could help to encourage our children and young people to eat healthy food, reduce waste and enhance the patient experience.
Every day at Alder Hey, a team of chefs and catering assistants prepare food for approximately 100+ patients across 16 inpatient wards. Although the catering team work closely with experienced nutritionists to develop healthy options on the menu, ‘chips’ are often the number one choice for many of our children and young people.
Executive Nurse Moya Sutton, who oversees patient experience at Alder Hey, explains: “Our catering team have an incredibly difficult task to produce dishes that are healthy but that our patients want to eat. We know from past experience that giving them healthy options does not mean that they will necessarily choose those options over for instance pizza and chips. We also know that, as many of our children and young people are very poorly indeed, it is better for their recovery that they are eating something rather than nothing at all. Added to this are the different dietary needs of our children and problems with logistics, including patient meals taking a ¼ mile journey from the kitchen to the ward! This was definitely going to be a challenge even for someone with the culinary skills and imagination of Heston Blumenthal!”
Heston began his mission by spending time with some of our patients, families and staff to find out what they felt about the menu. He worked closely with chefs and members of our catering team as they together came up with creative dishes for a new menu.
Moya continues: “It was fantastic to see how our chefs got involved and it was immediately obvious that their priority was to make things better for our patients. Their input into the menu was great and they had some really fun and exciting ideas!”
These ideas included a Flying Saucer sandwich, Kenny’s Stuffed Tomato (a beef tomato stuffed with mince) and Elaine’s Mint- Aliano Feast ( layers of peppermint custard, cream, lime jelly, chocolate sponge and mint chocolate sprinkled on the top). Together Heston and the chefs proposed a menu of a cold buffet lunch with greater focus on the dinner time meal. Their proposal was to serve patients sandwiches with healthy fillings for lunch, made at the bedside by a member of the catering team. To encourage children to choose a healthier option, the evening menu would also include an “I Bet You Can’t Eat This Challenge” which dares patients to try a dish with a risky name or ingredient. Some of Heston’s dishes included a Caterpillar Pizza (pizza with real worms), Vomit Soup (chicken and sweetcorn soup) and Snot Shake (apple and kiwi fruit smoothie). Heston’s menu was rolled out across a couple of wards during filming for a documentary called “Heston’s Mission Impossible” which will be featured on Channel 4 at 9pm on 22 nd February 2011.
Moya explains: “I think Heston had some great ideas but they perhaps weren’t always realistic for sick children. Sometimes our chefs needed to bring him back down to earth a bit! But some of his ideas and the things he did on the wards were fantastic and I’m sure our children and young people enjoyed his magic tricks!
“At the roll out, the lunch menu was a big success. The children definitely enjoyed being able to pick their choice of sandwich there and then and there were plenty of clean plates at the end! However Heston’s dinner menu wasn’t quite as successful so we may need to rethink this one! Although some children took up his challenge and enjoyed dishes like the real worm pizza, others were not so impressed! We also received feedback from some staff and families that some of the names of Heston’s dishes went a little too far. They certainly wouldn’t be appropriate on our ENT or Gastro wards for instance! So our plan is to go back to our patients, families and staff and involve them in taking Heston’s concept forward.”
Since the filming took place, Alder Hey has already begun making changes to its patient menu and the delivery of its food service.
Interim Catering Manager Joanne McGrane explains: “Alder Hey is such a large hospital that it was never going to be possible to change everything straight away. Our focus has begun with the lunch offering and we have already implemented a cold lunch of made to order sandwiches on many of our wards. We are unable to make sandwiches for over 100 children at the bedside on 16 separate wards. However, we hope to initially roll out the menu across all wards and if the feedback from our patients is positive, we may consider the option of purchasing purpose built trolleys that might help to make this possible.
“We have also started to consider more carefully how mealtimes can be more fun for our patients including bringing in colouring placemats and lunchboxes. Later this month we will be opening our new family area in our restaurant to encourage any patients who can leave the ward to come down to the restaurant and eat meals with their family.
“Once we get the lunch menu right, the next step will be to involve our patients and chefs in developing a new dinner menu. There are definitely elements we can take from Heston’s ideas and I’m sure our children and young people will also have plenty to say on what they want to eat!”