Head and Neck Cancer Patients Helped with their Care and Cooking by Future Chefs

14 Nov 2018 | Hospitality & Catering

Plymouth’s future chefs have been helping those with or recovering from head and neck cancer to explore the culinary world at a special event held in City College Plymouth’s popular PL1 restaurant.

Hosted by Plymouth’s Head and Neck Clinical Nurse Specialist, Steph Murgatroyd, and funded by Macmillan Cancer Support, the event welcomed patients who wanted learn about adjusting to life post-treatment. They gained an insight into what foods may stimulate taste and appetite, how best to manage side effects and where to find support.

The team from Plymouth’s Cancer Support Centre, The Mustard Tree, gave talks on post-treatment exercise programmes, coping with fatigue and dry mouth. Ryan Riley, founder of Life Kitchen, who offers free cooking classes to cancer survivors, discussed his experience and gave all attendees some food for thought. After satisfying their hunger for knowledge, they were treated to canapés specially made by City College Plymouth catering students with the patients’ particular dietary requirements in mind.

University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust’s Specialist Oncology Dietitian, Claire Davis, and Speech and Language Therapist, Chloe Jarvis, visited the students prior to the event to brief them on dishes most appropriate for patients. The students created menus that would tickle their taste buds without aggravating their condition.

City College Plymouth’s Academy Manager for Hospitality and Care, Chaz Talbot, said: “The students have been working incredibly hard to produce a selection of foods that were suitable for the patients. The menus they have put together involved careful consideration of textures to stimulate taste, smell and ease of digestion. I’m incredibly proud of what they have produced.

“This event has really made these future chefs think about the dining experience and to consider those they are cooking for and get a chance to explore a different area of catering. They have been given a unique opportunity to help the local community and combine care and cooking so these patients have the tools to be able to better look after themselves.”

Claire Davis and Chloe Jarvis specialise in head and neck cancer and wanted the event to build patients’ confidence around meals post-treatment. They said: “One of the most challenging aspects of head and neck cancer and its treatment is the impact it has on eating and drinking. Good nutrition is vital, especially for those trying to recover from cancer; however, head and neck cancer can make managing meals a huge challenge.

“Surgical treatment can change the anatomy of the mouth and chemo/radiotherapy can cause loss of taste and smell, as well as loss of appetite, dry mouth, and difficulty swallowing. This means that patients often miss out on the social occasions that focus around food, as well as losing the enjoyment of eating and drinking. By bringing patients together we wanted to give them the opportunity to meet others in similar situations, and provide a supportive environment to try canapés specifically focussed on stimulating taste and appetite. We have had some wonderful feedback and are so impressed with what the City College Plymouth students came up with. Thank you to everyone who supported the event and special thanks to Macmillan Cancer Support for helping to fund it.”

Amanda Nadin, Macmillan Partnership Quality Lead for Devon, added: “We are delighted to have funded such a successful event, which has helped so many local people living with cancer to enjoy food again and supported their wellbeing. Seeing the students working alongside Macmillan Dietitians and Speech and Language Therapists to help people try new foods has been so inspiring. These future chefs now understand the needs of people with head and neck cancer and can go on to teach others in the catering industry.”

Those interested in developing their culinary skills into a career can find out more at City College Plymouth’s website – cityplym.ac.uk/events – or by calling 01752 305300.

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