What do the residents of Sharston House Nursing Home have in common with football legend Pele, former French president Francois Mitterrand and big screen stars Oliver Reed and Michael Caine?
They have all been served food by chef Douglas Hemlin whose glittering career has taken him full circle from Manchester, via a stream of five-star hotels in Europe and Australia, back to the North West.
Now living in Mobberley, Douglas, 61, has been chef at Sharston House, in Knutsford, for the past two years and relishes taking time out of the kitchen for a chat with his “five-star residents” who blow him kisses and demolish his casseroles, roasts and lasagne.
He said: “We use fresh, local produce and our focus is on simple but tasty and nutritious food that our residents relate to. We aim for the highest standard of cuisine with five-star presentation.”
Douglas grew up in Manchester and started his chef apprenticeship with the Hilton Group as a teenager, working at the Hilton in Stratford Upon Avon before moving to Park Lane, in London.
He completed his apprenticeship at the Hilton’s training school in Basel, Switzerland, and then worked at the Hiltons in Zurich and Geneva.
His career then took him as senior sous-chef to a five-star hotel in Guernsey where he enjoyed cooking for and socialising with the actor Oliver Reed.
In 1988, Douglas moved to Australia, selected as one of 20 chefs, from 2,000 applicants, to help launch four five-star Hyatt hotels.
Living in Australia for 27 years, his final position was as executive chef, in charge of 80 staff, at the Sea World resort on the Gold Coast.
He said: “During that time, I always came back to see my parents while they were still alive and I knew I always wanted to come back to the North West for my final career move.
“I have dual nationality and when I eventually retire I will split my time between the UK and Australia.”
Douglas said he adapted straightaway to working at a care home.
“A job is what you make it. I look at it like a five-star hotel. The people here have to be looked after as five-star residents,” he said.
Of all the celebrities he has cooked for, he most fondly recalls Pele – “a lovely man” – who he met at the Sea World Resort in Australia.
For #World Food Day Douglas was preparing an international food festival, taking account of residents’ preferences for Italian, American and German food.