Sanath Wanniarachchi previously worked as a chef in some of the world’s most luxurious hotels and casinos including various Hilton’s and the 7-star Burj-Al-Arab Hotel in Dubai.
Looking for a greater work/life balance and more time with his wife and two children, Mr Wanniarachchi swapped the high-pressure environment of restaurant kitchens to take on the role of Chef Manager at Villa Maria Catholic Homes’ (VMCH) Shanagolden aged care residence in Pakenham two years ago.
Mr Wanniarachchi has been committed to ensuring the quality of food reflects his fine-dining experiences and enjoyed introducing residents to new and exciting flavours and cuisines.
“It is a very rewarding job,” Mr Wanniarachchi says. “Food is a very important part of aged care and residents should of course have access to the best quality food available. Along with a focus on meeting their dietary requirements, I’ve also worked on improving the texture, flavour and appearance of the meals to appeal to their appetites and make it more interesting.”
Mr Wanniarachchi's new, seasonal menus have been well-received by residents. Although many still enjoy traditional dishes such as shepherd’s pie and roast meals, they have embraced new, fusion-style dishes including Moroccan lamb moussaka with Greek salad, lamb biryani with pappadam and raita, and smoked cod with lemon-thyme butter sauce.
According to VMCH Catering Services Manager Ellis Wilkinson, attracting experienced chefs like Mr Wanniarachchi is vital to improving the culture of food in aged care.
“The aged care food industry has long been seen as one in which chefs and cooks go to retire, or where the chefs overcook and puree all the food.
“Having a chef with a solid cookery background is just one part of the role, having passion for cookery is just as important. Sanath has both, which is a win for the residents and the organisation.”
VMCH will introduce new menus across the organisation’s aged care service, focusing on produce-driven meals to promote health, wellbeing and cultural diversity.
“Before they came to aged care, residents had a choice and ate what they wanted. They have lived their lives, paid their taxes, and in some cases went to war for this country. They deserve to have good, wholesome food with variety that encompasses cultural diversity and beliefs,” Mr Wilkinson says.
“Moving forward we hope to not only maximise the residents’ dining experience here at VMCH, but advocate for change across the industry as a whole.”