Today is International Chefs Day: VMCH head chef Sanath Wanniarachchi on the importance of dining experience

VMCH Head Chef Sanath Wanniarachchi

Since its creation by the Late Chef Dr Bill Gallagher in 2004, Worldchefs has committed to using International Chefs Day to celebrate the profession, with a motto centred on passing on knowledge and culinary skills to the next generation. World Chefs Day is celebrated every October 20.

Someone who embodies this vision is Sanath Wanniarachchi – head chef at VMCH where he oversees the menus across all 13 VMCH locations.

He joined VMCH in 2015, following a career in coveted positions in some of the world’s most luxurious hotels and casinos, including the 7-star Burj-Al-Arab Hotel in Dubai.  

Now, in his new role as Head Chef, Residential Aged Care, Sanath is passionate about inspiring chef managers to concentrate on presentation and nutrition to maximise residents’ dining experience. 

“It is a very rewarding job,” Sanath says. “Food is such an important part of aged care and residents should 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.”  

New seasonal, dietitian-approved menus, including various cuisines and traditional cooking techniques have been well received, with spring chef’s specials including poached salmon with artichoke confit and strawberry-basil shortcakes. Attractive menu books with images are also popular, giving residents a visual representation of what to expect of their meal. Alternative menus ensure residents have more choices and options. 

VMCH CEO Sonya Smart says employing experienced chefs like Sanath is just one part of the puzzle to ensure an outstanding dining experience for residents. 

“We focus on providing the best meals for residents and investing in our staff. Our chefs recently enjoyed online training through Altura Learning and the Maggie Beer Foundation, learning about maximising flavours and ‘feeding the eyes’ through food presentation. Training like this helps fuel their passion and get their creative juices flowing,” Sonya says.

“We recognise mealtimes are something residents in aged care look forward to, and that many of our residents have spent their lifetimes cooking and have a keen interest in food, so we want to make the experience as exciting and diverse as possible. Obviously, there are some limitations with health needs, but there is no reason why we can’t give residents good, wholesome food with a variety that encompasses cultural diversity and beliefs.”  

VMCH aged care resident Barbara Stanton says she’s enjoying the “new exciting menus” created by Sanath. 

“He has done a good job! Most people enjoy his food and if they prefer something else, they can have an alternative. We also like the menu books.” 

Sonya says moving forward, VMCH hopes to not only maximise residents’ dining experience in-house but advocate for change across the industry. 


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