Cook Jenni inspired by residents

We had a chat with Jenni Smith, the head cook at Carinity Karinya Place who is one of the long-serving unsung heroes of the aged care community at Laidley.

Your work combines your two passions – food and supporting seniors. How did you come to work in the kitchen at Carinity Karinya Place aged care 18 years ago?

I started volunteering at Karinya Place when the youngest two of my five children were in their final years of high school. Every Monday after lunch I would load up a trolley with lollies, chips, biscuits, chocolates, soft drinks and peppermints and visit the residents in their rooms. They were always up for a chat. I looked forward to visiting these knowledgeable people who could tell the greatest stories. I got a call one day to come in for an interview. There was a job for me in the kitchen. The rest is history.

Where did your passion for caring for older people come from?

My grandparents were a big part of my life when I was growing up. We always got together for lunch every Sunday, also Christmas and Easter, any excuse to be together. I cared for them in their later years, so I realised this is where I wanted to be – in a place that cared for older people.

How do you create the menus for the residents and what are some of their favourite dishes?

We ask our residents for their ideas before we start working on the menu, then we create the menu according to their likes and this goes to the dietician to review. Our men love the baked custards, creamed rice, sago and bread and butter puddings as they remind them of their mum.

The residents and staff at Karinya Place recently went through a difficult time with the COVID-19 situation. What was that experience like and how did the team pull together to get through it?

The teamwork was exceptional. Our Residential Manager had conducted extra training sessions in case an outbreak occurred. So, when it did we were all confident, and the welfare of staff and residents was our only concern.

What do you like most about working at Carinity Karinya Place?

I enjoy the drive to work each day, and to be greeted by our lovely residents with a wave or a big smile. They are my friends and I do my best to cater to their needs. The residents harvest veggies from the vegetable garden and then donate them back into the community. I’m so proud to be part of this caring group.

You help to care for foster children being raised by one of your daughters. What has that experience been like?

I have been blessed with eight grandchildren, seven granddaughters and one grandson. One of my daughters is a foster carer. My life is so much richer having these dear little people in it.

What are some of your other passions?

I love reading and spending time with my loved ones, especially all those little people.

Carinity Karinya Place cook Jenni Smith.

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