Delight over celebrity chef’s revamp of hospital’s food


In 2011, James Martin, Saturday AM, announced he was pursuing a new project involving Scarborough Hospital.

This was to investigate the possibility that hospital food could play a more important part for hospital patients.

The whole length of the exercise covered about three months, but the selected, edited version for TV actually covered one week, lasting one hour per day.

I was very interested as I had once been a hospital volunteer for two years and have a fair knowledge of food values.

James Martin’s first action was to meet Mrs Pat Bell, the Hospital Catering Officer - in turn, Sharon Ellis, head chef, plus two additional male chefs.

James discovered that a lot of the food supplies were actually frozen foods and soups were from packets.

Pat Bell was very co-operative but one felt her discomfort to some degree, by James Martin’s questions. He soon realised that to keep Pat Bell and her chef on side for the project, that he needed to display high tact and reassurance.

Many discussions took place - not only with staff, but patients also. The catering was to provide 1,000 meals per day. This was a 300 bed hospital x three meals per day. The extra meals were available to purchase in the staff cafe.

The costing per patient per day was quite a low figure and James soon realised what a task they had.

I felt the strain on Mrs Bell was enormous and proved on one occasion when the poor lady collapsed in tears.

James soldiered on and he resourced a local meat supplier to contract to the hospital straight from farm premises.

He also arranged for Pat and Sharon (and later, one of the male cooks) to visit different food establishments in London, to back up his suggestions and encourage them to widen their perspective of what might be achieved.

Bearing in mind most of the kitchen equipment at the hospital was years old and the old steamer was a stumbling block - James promised that if the hospital finance officer couldn’t authorise the few thousand pounds to buy a new steamer, then James said he would buy one for them and present it to the hospital, which is just what happened.

Among the new ideas he introduced was to re-organise the staff cafe etc - improve the food and ambience and more inviting for staff and patients’ visitors. On its re-opening Pat got a delightful surprise when James had arranged for a new cafe entrance board to show ‘Pat’s Place.’

It was amazing how everything transpired and I was so interested in the whole exercise that I wrote to Mrs Pat Bell, congratulating her stoicism. I wrote a short letter to James Martin also.

I was delighted when eventually Mrs Bell wrote to me and said if any time I was visiting Scarborough, I would be most welcome to visit and try a lunch in the re-vamped cafe.

Maureen Wood

Carr House

George Street