Jerson Story Part 2: From frying pan to fiery passion

Category: Families

Shane Whaanga, the former Harbourview Care Home Manager, reflects on Jerson Lat’s journey to serving award–winning food at Harbourview Care Home in Porirua and food satisfaction results that took the care home from 66% to 92% in one year.

Jerson Lat dessert dish for competition | Bupa

Jerson Lat's Competition Dish

“I first noticed Jerson when I watched some DVDs of the care home activities with the residents,” says Shane, the former Harbourview Care Home Manager. “I saw how involved and engaged he was with them back when he was a kitchen hand.” These qualities showed Shane that Jerson was a natural with residents and had an enthusiasm to get involved and make them laugh.

Jerson was working elsewhere when Shane first arrived at Harbourview and it was a while later that the two would meet at the Inter-continental where Jerson was working. One thing led to another and Jerson came back to work at Harbourview Care Home as Head Chef.

Shane Whaanga

“I sat him down and I said, ‘Jerson, I like to encourage people through their work, you’re very creative and I want to see that in your work’.” Shane was right. Jerson was creative and one of the things Jerson did was make biscuits – a very interesting biscuit.

Residents that arrive at a care home are often underweight or have a low appetite. To address this, Jerson decided to tackle this by testing out recipes and arrived at a biscuit. “I would have people in the community who had heard of Jerson’s biscuits, asking for a batch,” says Shane. “It’s a good little snack for those that eat very little.”

Alongside these popular biscuits came the request from Shane for Jerson to use his creativity and make the Care Home menu his own.

What happened during this time was quite extraordinary. Jerson’s flair and passion for cooking had an effect on the staff around him. The kitchen was re-arranged, his methods for food preparation were followed and the journey to a higher level of satisfied residents began.

“I encouraged him to do tastings. We would pick a meal out of the menu and he would then re-work how it was cooked and plated. One thing I really remember about Jerson was he would take the time to serve the residents”.



It was through offering this service that Jerson got to know each resident’s taste and portion preferences. This meant, over time, when a resident was served by this humble-friendly Filipino chef, he would know how much mash they liked or which vegetables they preferred without being asked. It gave the residents a sense of comfort.

“He would ask every resident ‘how was your meal?’ And he really cared what they thought so it became a dining experience,” Shane says. “Meal times became a social event at Harbourview Care Home, residents were ready and waiting in the dining room at meal times. And seconds were always offered, especially to those underweight”.

“I knew things were working out well when a resident’s family member said ‘mum’s getting too big for her pants,’” Shane laughs. “Another good result was we had so much less wastage thanks to Jerson”.

Through this process of reviewing and asking residents for feedback, the pair lifted the food satisfaction rating for Harbourview Care Home. It wasn’t long after, that Jerson was encouraged to enter his first competition.

“I have to give it to him,” says Shane as he talks about Jerson’s first competition. “Jerson went along to this competition on his own. There were teams of twos and threes and here was Jerson by himself with his suitcase and he won second place.”

Shane, like others, could not pick a favourite from Jerson’s cooking. “I like it all, I’m happy to eat anything Jerson makes”. When asked if he had to choose, he replied, “I enjoyed the pork crackling.”

When asked about his thoughts on the resident satisfaction survey results of going from 66% (in 2013) to almost 92% (in 2014) satisfaction for food, Shane had the following to say:

“What we had before was never bad,” says Shane. “The food was still very tasty, it just didn’t have the flair that Jerson brought to the table, he brought the passion, the presentation, the overall experience.”

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