Tamahere retirement village chef creating realistic moulded meals for residents

Stuff article on food innovation

Kay Butler is allowed to play with her food – and it’s benefiting those who struggle to eat.

Butler is the head chef at Tamahere Eventide, a retirement village 3km out of Hamilton that has adopted the process of moulding food.

Fifteen residents at the village are on texture modified diets, meaning it is not safe for them to eat normal textured food due to having some form of dysphagia or eating difficulty.

But rather than serving up “slop on a plate,” Butler moulds the food into gourmet-looking dishes.

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An Auckland University dietetic study found that 30 per cent of people in residential care are on texture modified diets. Tamahere Eventide hope to cater to those residents.
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/STUFFAn Auckland University dietetic study found that 30 per cent of people in residential care are on texture modified diets. Tamahere Eventide hope to cater to those residents.

A pork chop resembles a pork chop and broccoli has the appearance of broccoli, and residents are able to believe they are eating the real deal.

“We’re finding that we’ve got some residents gaining weight, which is really good,” Butler said.

“Because we’re moulding the food, they are eating it and actually enjoying it because they think they are eating real food.”

Four of the residents are on what Butler calls a “mouli​” meat diet – meaning they need to eat softened meat and desserts, but can consume normal vegetables. The rest are on a full mouli​ diet.

The Pure Food Co supply the product Tamahere Eventide mould into dishes. 

“It is very exciting because you can take the product and do a lot with it,” Butler said.

“People used to have a thing about it being slop on a plate, but now you’re not putting the additives into it and you’re finding you can mould with it, you can pipe with it.

“It’s opened up a whole new world for people in the food industry.”

Butler said moulded food added a bit of normality into the lives of those with difficulty eating.

Issues some residents face can range from tooth extraction, difficulty swallowing and bowel issues.

Tamahere Eventide have seen such positive results that they’ve recently adopted moulded food at their other site, Atawhai Assisi Home and Hospital.

General manager support services David McGeorge said Tamahere had been wanting to incorporate moulded soft food into their menu for some time.

“We think the quality of food in the industry has improved overall, and we need to keep up with what’s happening.

“We were pretty leading-edge for a while but I think we’ve dropped back a bit,” he said.

“At the end of the day, people eat with their eyes and if your older, food can be one of the highlights of your day.”

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