Talented chef Mark tastes success at social care Oscars

A chef who opened a pop-up pub restaurant style carvery in his care home has scooped a top award at the social care Oscars.

Mark Hearne was honoured with a bronze accolade at the prestigious Wales Care Awards  at Cardiff City Hall.

It comes after his bosses were so impressed by the innovative ideas Mark has demonstrated in his role as Head Chef at Ty Cwm Gwendraeth nursing home, Llanelli. run by Fieldbay, part of the Envivo Group.

Mark’s carvery has been a huge success, which he is proud to have overseen from idea stage to reality.

It is run in a resource centre which is on site but separate to the home. It is designed to look exactly like a pub restaurant with attractive décor, nice cutlery and crockery, an alcohol-free bar and weekly carvery.

He said the setting makes it amenable to a social event, much like someone would experience if they went out to eat in any pub restaurant. To enhance the feeling of it being a separate venue Mark is keen that service users’ families and friends also join in with meals there.

Mark, 53, who lives in Llanelli with his partner, nurse Sarah Griffiths, has also launched a successful cooking club where with his guidance residents can try making dishes themselves.

He was thrilled when he made it out of scores of nominees across the industry to the final shortlist in the Wales Care Awards 2022 Excellence in Catering category, sponsored by Harlech Foodservice. He was nominated by nursing home manager Sue Lewis-Ball.

She said: “When you meet Mark the first thing that strikes you is his incredible passion for catering in care.”

Supported by lead sponsor Ontex UK, and organised by care industry champions Care Forum Wales, the awards celebrate exceptional work of those in the care sector.

The winners were revealed at a glittering ceremony which all those shortlisted were invited to attend at Cardiff City Hall. The host for the evening was popular tenor, Wynne Evans, aka Gio Compario from the Go Compare TV advertisements and the whole event was streamed online.

Mark was excited to be among the winners on the big night and to help celebrate the work of so many of his peers in the care sector.

He started his working life in the steel industry but after the firm where he worked went out of business he found a job in a hotel kitchen where he watched the chefs at work, picking up culinary tips.

He said: “One day a hotel chef who was a part-time fireman had to dash out because news came in that two light aircraft had collided over a nearby field.”

The emergency meant the hotel was left with a full restaurant but no chef, so Mark stepped in to hold the fort, cooking, 63 meals that day and keeping all the customers were happy.

Mark later proved his mettle by running the hotel before going on to launch a successful restaurant in South Wales, then more recently joining the care sector.

He drew on past experience in hospitality to open the pub at Ty Cwm Gwendraeth. He oversees kitchens for five residential units in his role as Head Chef with Fieldbay, a leading provider of nursing, residential and supported living services in South Wales.

Mario Kreft, chairman of Care Forum Wales, said this year’s Wales Care Awards ceremony was all the more poignant because of the Covid pandemic and what front line staff had endured.

He said: “I would like to pay a heartfelt tribute to all the wonderful people who work in social care after they rose magnificently and courageously to meet the unprecedented challenges they have faced over the past couple of years.

“We have always recognised their true value and hopefully now the rest of Wales is also aware of how lucky we are as a nation to  have them providing care and safeguarding our most vulnerable people.

“Our finalists are the best of the best and are here representing the whole social care workforce who all deserve a big pat on the back.

“There are only winners here tonight so it is only fitting that the finalists will receive a gold, silver or bronze Wales Care Award.

“I trust that they will continue to inspire those around them as role models and encourage others to aspire to even greater heights in the months and years to come.

“In the words of the powerful song, Heroes of our Heart, written by the acclaimed poet Mererid Hopwood and sung by Sir Bryn Terfel, let the Diolch last forever.

“We take our hats off to them.”

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