A Chef’s Journey From The Corporate World To A Caring Home

6th March 2024

As part of National Careers week, we’re sharing stories from our team about their journey at Caring Homes. Graham Hogg explains how he came to join us, and why his role as Sous Chef at The Manor is the perfect fit.

Being A Chef Felt Right For Me

“I was born and raised in Edinburgh and like many kids, sport was more important to me than school when I was growing up! I enjoyed the physical challenge and the camaraderie of rugby, then I became interested in judo and loved it – I even ended up representing the UK when I was 17.

Alongside sport, I looked for a job that suited my skillset. I’ve always been a hard worker and really get stuck into things I’m passionate about, so when I found a part-time role in a kitchen while still at school, it felt right for me.

I left school at 16 and worked full time in kitchens, learning my trade as a chef. It was typically hard graft, but I was young and keen to earn my stripes.

By the time I was 26 I’d been appointed Sous Chef for the Principal Hayley Group in their beautiful hotel, The George, in Edinburgh. Although I worked in the main restaurant and covered all sections in the kitchen, my main responsibility was running the banqueting kitchen. Weddings and large events were my day-to-day focus, which meant long hours planning and delivering menus for special occasions which had to be perfectly executed!

After more than three years, I joined Gather & Gather as Head Chef, a fantastic opportunity to run the catering operation for a big bank in Edinburgh – essentially, top-class workplace catering. It brought a new set of challenges and pressures, but I enjoyed learning a different aspect of hospitality and spent almost 7 years there – until the pandemic hit and business as we know it ground to a halt for everyone.

A Change Of Direction After The Corporate World

I’d started my own cake making company, more as a hobby really as I’ve always loved baking, but the orders stopped coming in. I needed a job!

The only industry that seemed to be recruiting was care and when I really thought about what I wanted next in my career, it was a better work/life balance. Hospitality can be relentless, especially in commercial kitchens, and when you’re eager to climb the ladder it’s easy to take on too much, to the detriment of your own health and wellbeing. I’d definitely fallen into that trap.

​I joined Caring Homes in November 2020 as Sous Chef at The Manor in Edinburgh – an immediate baptism of fire due to the pandemic, but gradually, an environment where I felt I could really make a difference.

Firstly, the care here is completely personalised, so everything’s tailored to match each resident’s individual needs, interests, and preferences - on a clinical level as well as just what they like. This means that I have regular 1-1 chats with all the residents. I get feedback on what we’ve cooked, ask for ideas and most importantly, find out what each person really wants.

Chatting About Food Helps Me Get To Know The Residents

Chatting about food is also a way for me to properly get to know our residents – so yes, food is a common language and being able to prepare something tasty that will bring a little bit of joy is my goal – but having a banter about football, what they’ve watched on TV, or who’s coming to visit, is brilliant. Being part of the team at The Manor also about being flexible, so if someone needs to eat at a different time, or wants me to rustle something up off menu, it’s my pleasure to make that happen.

We celebrate everyone’s birthday here, so I get to show off my baking and cake decorating skills. It’s an opportunity for me to share what I love doing, and if residents’ families want to arrange a celebratory lunch, I’ll create something special and serve them in our private dining room. The Wellbeing team at The Manor also find ways to mark various calendar days, which gives the chefs an excuse to cook themed dishes or try recipes from other countries.

There’s never a dull moment but this is work with a purpose and I’m connecting personally with people I want to try my hardest to please. I’m also leading a far more balanced and fulfilling life outside work. Care homes run like clockwork and routine is important, so my day may start early but it finishes early too – no more cleaning down the kitchen at midnight after a shift of madness and mayhem!

The fact that menus at The Manor are resident led tells you everything about the environment I work in. Residents’ feedback drives what we cook, which is ultimately satisfying for both parties, and very different to the world I came from where the chef tends to dictate what’s on trend!

Volunteering Is Good For The Soul

Back in 2019 I’d become involved in a project called Soul Food which is run as a pop-up in conjunction with my local church. Its purpose is to provide food for the homeless but it’s more than just a meal – it’s a way of bringing people together around a table offering “a place of safety and security where people feel accepted, respected, valued, loved and heard”. I discovered that the meaning of hospitality is literally “the love of a guest” – very much an ethos I live by at Caring Homes.

I still volunteer at Soul Food, taking over the kitchen once a month, and I even found time to enter the Scottish Care Home Awards back in 2022. I was proud to be a finalist and be commended in the Nutrition and Eating Well category. I also have time to show my young son the ropes in the kitchen at home!

For any chef looking for fulfilling work in a calm and stable environment where customer satisfaction can be measured in smiles, I’d say, take a serious look at the care industry, the Caring Homes Group in particular. We’re like a family here, plus, any job where your creativity is also a source of wellbeing has to be right up there with the best!”

To find out more about career opportunities at Caring Homes, and for all our current vacancies, take a look at our careers website.

Discover The Manor Care Home in Edinburgh

The Manor is a beautiful purpose built home located in Edinburgh, providing residential, nursing and dementia care in an elegant, spacious and tailor-made environment. There’s wonderful range of facilities to enjoy including comfortable lounges and a cinema, hair salon and bistro. Numerous activities take place, and the home is set within beautifully landscaped gardens where residents can choose from several different areas to relax and enjoy.

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