Steve Harding Head Chef at Dormy House

Making a difference you can feel everyday

When Steve joined Dormy House in Sunningdale he had no prior experience or exposure to this type of service sector, but his moral, ethical and professional integrity told him, there was a very real opportunity to improve every aspect of the dining experience for residents.

Long-term dementia and dysphagia (D&D) can be a challenging environment for a chef. When Steve came to Dormy, he turned the catering for D&D on its head, for the better.

To be able to respond to and understand the challenges faced by residents, Steve researched, studied and qualified in areas of dementia and dysphagia above and beyond the requirements for a chef.

Steve  is now delighted to say he won the Care Chef of the Year title at the 20th National Care Awards.

He drives the quality, nutritional value and presentation of cuisine for residents living with dementia and those experiencing dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) through applying research, knowledge and passion creating daily menus.

Steve is a hugely passionate chef and the leader of Caring Homes’ Chef Development Training programme which has recently achieved City and Guilds status for the extension of Caring Homes ‘My World’ Dementia Training. The training will feature Steve’s ground-breaking work on producing dysphagia foods which truly meet the needs of many of our residents.

Food in My World will upskill colleagues across the hospitality team to stimulate senses and increase creativity in the cooking and presentation of food providing a much-improved dining experience for residents living with Dementia and or Dysphagia.

Steve’s competition menu for the National Care Awards was made up of dysphagia dishes consisting of smoked haddock scotch egg, cloaked lamb cannon and a banana, parsley, walnut and lemon tart to finish.

The judges praised Steve’s initiative and creative approach to providing food for people living with dementia saying, “Steven displayed the knowledge required for working in these care homes. Steven’s innovative approach to catering for dysphagia was creatively displayed in his dynamic approach to addressing the needs of the residents.”

Steve said: “I am surprised and delighted to win this prestigious award. I was the only chef cooking dysphagia food in the cook-off and it is fantastic that this is being recognized within the industry as the best way forward for care home cuisine.”

Steve consistently demonstrates his culinary craftsmanship at Dormy House, with attention to detail and technical ability in delivering and producing high quality food and drinks, that not only meet the nutritional requirements but which also meet the needs and expectations of his residents. His food is balanced, colourful, and extremely tasty. A lot of consideration goes into its appropriateness for each resident, for example contrasts, textures, spacing, flavours, density, temperatures, consistencies, size and shape.

Using his passion, creativity and total commitment to our team and residents he undertook a large amount of research regarding the needs of our residents and the experiences that change over time and began developing a larger variety of highly quality nutritious food, well presented.

Steve explains; “Food is such a big part of everyone’s lives, from our early years forming a focal point in many family and community get togethers. That shouldn’t stop as we age and I strive to ensure this for our residents. My motto is, I don’t want to just make a difference, I want to see a difference”

“It’s not just about the taste of the food either. There’s the obvious safety aspects that need to be paramount, but smell, variety and choice, nutrition, presentation, crockery, ambiance and accessibility all need consideration to ensure a dining experience that every one of our residents can look forward to.”

Steve has passed all three of Caring Homes Group Dementia training standards ‘Living in my World’ which has enabled him to understand how his food has the potential to positively impact on the lives of our residents at Dormy House.

It is his core belief in the six Cs – Care/ Compassion/ Competence/ Courage/ Communication/ Commitment – and the value of person centred care that has driven Steve to implement:

  • Weekly nutritional meetings to identify any issues with resident’s food uptake and adapt to the changing needs of individual residents.
  • Relatives/resident/staff forum – all stakeholders can have a say on how the kitchen can provide better catering service to the residents.
  • Chefs beyond the kitchen door programme – chefs are encouraged to dine with the residents, engage in food related activities and involve themselves in the resident daily routines wherever possible.
  • Wellbeing initiative- He says food binds us all in many ways, it not all about healthy eating, it’s about being happy, comfortable, independent, memories, inclusion, friends/family, identity and enjoyment.
  • Designing dementia friendly finger foods
  • Developing – a cutting-edge dysphagia diet production food delivery system.
  • Developing – a training programme for catering

Steve likes to give as much choice and variety as possible and will accommodate any request. He uses his creativity, ‘thinking outside of the box’ and helping residents to re-engage with food and drink.

Steve is acutely aware of the importance of good food, the role that it plays in people’s lives and works hard to maintain that relationship for the residents by individualising meals across the home.

Steve is a mentor, coach and inspiration to his team and is progressing many innovative projects both at Dormy House and across Caring Homes. Steve also ensures that anniversaries, celebrations and important dates are met, working closely with the activities team in providing themes, events and food related activities.

Dormy House offers the highest level of support for all types of short or long term care including residential, nursing and dementia care, end of life and palliative care, specialist and intermediate care.

If you would like to find out more about life at Dormy House, please contact us on 0808 223 5424 or via email to