Chris Took, Catering Manager

Congratulations to Chris Took and his team who are the winners of the 2009 Peoples Award for Dignity in Care!

Chris Took knows about the importance of good food. The chef has transformed meal times for terminally-ill patients at the Hospice of St Francis in Berkhamsted.

Choice is the magic ingredient. Chris tailors his menus for each individual patient, taking note of dietary requirements and people's preferences.

When he joined the hospice eight years ago, he made the unconventional move of leaving the kitchen to chat to patients and families about their meals. Chris understood how anxious families become when patients refuse to eat, and wanted to do as much possible to allay their fears. He felt it was impossible to prepare a plate of food not knowing the patient or the family who would be eating it.

Since then Chris has trained teams of volunteers who serve the meals. They have learned the importance of good presentation, knowing each patient's preferences and double-checking each tray before it goes out. They know, for example, that metal spoons should not be given to cancer patients as chemotherapy gives them an unpleasant taste. Plastic ones are better.

Chris also prepares meals for family celebrations - a home-cooked meal for family members and a fruit smoothie for the patient if they can no longer manage solid food.

The chef has been highly praised for his efforts. He and his smoothies were the subject of a recent article in the Times. Clinical staff recognise the important role he plays in improving the quality of patients' lives and marvel at how he can get a reluctant patient to eat again. For the patients, knowing that food has been prepared with such care and close attention to detail brings peace of mind.