Karen Humpage is the Head Chef at ExtraCare’s Longbridge Retirement Village in Birmingham. Here she tells us about her job…

Karen Humpage

I’ve worked For ExtraCare for five years now, two years at Bournville Gardens and now Longbridge. I moved to Longbridge when it first opened as I live in walking distance of the village.

I’m originally from Ireland and first trained at the Blooms Hotel in Temple Bar, Dublin where I worked as a breakfast chef. When I moved to Birmingham, I worked for the International Convention Centre (ICC) and National Exhibition Centre (NEC) where I did conference and banqueting for six years. I then fancied a change and went to work for St. Andrews Healthcare as a chef in a secure psychiatric unit. We cooked dinner and tea for 120 patients, which was then taken to kitchens on the wards. I’ve also worked match-day catering in the VIP boxes at Aston villa and Birmingham City Football clubs, delivering buffets.

I applied to work for ExtraCare as it was my first chance to run my own kitchen as a Head Chef and I felt ready to progress into this role. I’m so glad I did. I really enjoy my job. I get to run my own kitchen and create my own menus. I also put on themed nights and get involved with entertainment, all of which I really enjoy. I’ve also learned a lot about bar and cellar work, through ordering our alcohol supplies and managing the staff rotas.

My current role is Head Chef and Bar Manager. I work with a small team and we rely on the help of volunteers. We cook breakfast and lunch for our residents and have recently introduced a Wednesday evening meal to boost revenue. My day starts with cooking breakfast, organising the staff and volunteer teams, making sure everyone knows what they are doing. We’re like one big family. The residents know me very well and feel comfortable to tell me what they like and don’t like. Listening to our residents is a key part of the job - if you cook the food they like, you will have no issues. Lamb shanks, liver and onions, beef stew with dumplings, and fish and chip Friday are the favourites. The Sunday Carvery is also a big hit. During lunch, I also help residents to get fed and seated. After lunch, I do my online ordering and make sure kitchen is clean and tidy, I also ensure the temperature recording is done and food all dated and labelled. The kitchen porter works alongside me to make sure the kitchen is spotless.

The thing I enjoy most is my job is how versatile it is, and I love the themed nights, the entertainment and the bar. The benefits of working for ExtraCare are finishing at 5pm, it means I get to see my family in the evenings and the kitchens we work in are excellent, clean, spacious and we have all the equipment we need.

My biggest achievement at ExtraCare so far was winning the Liz Taylor Award. I was nominated by residents! It was nice to know they nominated me. Running my own kitchen as a Head Chef is also a huge achievement for me.

I would say to anyone thinking of applying for a job at ExtraCare to go for it. It took me a long time to believe in myself and go for a position as Head Chef, but it was the best decision I have made. It’s a lovely charity to work for and we have an amazing team.