Above: Joining the Chill Chef competition judging panel, Philip Williams (light blue shirt), Commissioning Manager, GCPHN, presents awards to two participants for a cooking competition using their skills from a 10-week cooking skills program at Primary & Community Care Services (PCCS) Hub1 at Mermaid Beach. Also judging (at far left and far right) were Dr JR Baker, CEO of PCCS and Sandra Bale, Local Area Coordinator, Carers Queensland.
To live healthy and independent lives we all need some key skills. Few would be more fundamental than cooking. Combine this with the skill to budget and shop effectively and you are well on the way to a life of your own direction.
If you’re living with mental illness however, there are potentially many barriers to eating and cooking; such as lack of motivation and confidence in cooking at home for yourself and others or a reliance on fast food options due to a lack of cooking knowledge and anxiety issues with following recipes. The broader health implications of limited diets and fast food are very well known to have negative impacts on mental health.
“I would like to move away from eating fried food and avoid sugar due to my diabetes. I would like to reconnect to Italian cooking like my mother used to cook” wrote one client entering the program.
Which is why the Chill Chef class was created within the Plus Social® program run by Primary & Community Care Services at Mermaid Beach. The Chill Chef program supports the development of cooking skills using a range of basic recipes and using a range of common ingredients. The class supports the development of skills and goals for effective shopping, cooking and culinary skills with Occupational Therapist and Social Work assistance. The class provides a safe space to explore palates, taste preferences, social eating and sharing of food and ideas.
The logical extension of these skills is then being able to cook for others – to share a meal is to build friendships, cement relationships and care for your friends or family. So much of our social expression, sense of self and wellbeing has a setting around mealtime events. Participating in a class of peers creates a comfortable space to learn, to belong, and to socialise over food. A more positive set of psychosocial factors are now in place to aid participants in their mental health recovery.
“I know how to choose ingredients and the order to cook them in. I’m more confident, I can create new recipes and I very much enjoy cooking now” wrote another client after completing the program, which culminates in a cook-off for a panel of guest judges.