TOP NOSH: Maggie Beer believes everyone has the right to a good meal every day.
TOP NOSH: Maggie Beer believes everyone has the right to a good meal every day. Dragan

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Maggie Beer has a recipe for keeping folk in aged care happy and contented-flavoursome, nutritious meals, served in pleasant surroundings.

And Australia's favourite chef is doing more than just talking about providing food with that touch of home cooking.

She started her Maggie Beer Foundation - A Good Food Life for All - in May 2014 and it is now providing benchmark best practice in many of Australia's aged care homes, transforming the way we look after our elderly and giving them a better quality of life.

The 71-year-old entrepreneur will be in Brisbane next month to conduct cooking demonstrations at the Regional Flavours Festival on July 16-17 at South Bank and in an exclusive interview from her home in the Barossa Valley she told Seniors, "I will take the chance to talk up the foundation while I'm there."

Maggie's first became interested in 2010 when she was named Senior Australian of the Year and asked to speak in Tasmania at a conference of aged care leaders. "I did my research into a lot of facilities and, while I saw some wonderful things, I also saw some terrible things at places where the quality of food didn't count.

"Everyone has the right to a good meal every day. I've had good food all my life and to me the greatest gift everyone should have is the gift of a life of good food. It's not just sustenance, it's pleasure."

She described how she approached the then Federal Government with the idea that they find the best aged care exponents across Australia and see what they were doing to deinstitutionalise food.

"There was a lot of interest but no money. I knew I had to do something so I started the foundation. So far we've managed to get a TAFE course with eight different components of specific instruction in aged care and two Masterclasses each giving grants for 30 cooks and chefs in aged care facilities.

"We bring in the experts and the chefs then go back their homes where they are looking after 50 to 300 people and so it becomes a movement.

"Flinders University in Adelaide did an evaluation before and after the Masterclasses and six months down the track we have qualitative evidence that it works. It's just fantastic."

Her vision of the ideal aged care facility, large or small, country or city, as one that not only feels like home but needs to be the home of the person who is in it.

"I see it as bringing people around the table enjoying a lovely outlook, conversation and a really good meal. Pleasure, nutrition, conversation, all the things that should be there."

She is also a proponent of kitchen gardens. "It's important to have food for the kitchen as well as activities like gardening for residents to allow them to do the things they are used to doing."

Food author, television chef, restaurateur, and food manufacturer Maggie says she has to compartmentalise her business life to have the foundation "make the biggest impact in the shortest possible time.

"When I was young I was never told I couldn't do something. I was never given any constraints and so I never accepted any. I still believe that because the one thing I've always had going for me is that I'm a lateral thinker. I always see a way to do something better.

"I am, however, very aware that the people who work so hard in the very complex area of aged care should not to be diminished in any way. There are very few organisations who don't want to do better and if we can give them the tools and share work information and ideas then that's wonderful."

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