Man with a Pan – How it all began

Man with a Pan cookery courses for older men – a practical way for men to learn how to cook and be healthy while making friends, being active and building community 

Maureen Hume, a dynamic and seemingly indefatigable community champion from Camberley in Surrey helped set up an Alzheimer Café for her local community in order to raise awareness and offer support around Alzheimers and dementia issues.

In the course of running monthly cafe’s, Maureen identified a need for improving the diets of some of the men who attended the cafe, many of whom are the primary carer of a family member. Maureen found out about my work with the local children centre and food bank, who I’d been working with since 2014.

She told me her vision and asked me if I would consider designing a Man with a Pan course. I jumped at the chance. When I first set up my project in 2001, the primary focus was to work with older people. This felt like a fantastic opportunity to reconnect with the reason I started Community Chef in the first place.

Maureen and I met and put a plan together. We submitted a  funding bid to the National Lottery and were able to secure a year’s worth of funding for the programme. We arranged to hire the commercial kitchen at St Mary’s church who were delighted to host such a positive community activity.

Over the five week course the men learn basic dishes such as vegetable soup, cheese scones, bread, fish cakes, frittata, pasta sauces and low sugar desserts. They learnt basic cookery techniques and food hygiene. Every week the group prepares a meal which they share together. We cook in bulk and send the participants home with another meal or two for later in the week.

My aim is to help them to developed the skills and confidence to be able to cook and eat good food while making friends and feeling supported. Seeing the men develop friendships and trust has been an honour and a privilege. In addition to the cooking and eating, there is lots of light banter, putting the world to rights and heartfelt sharing, trust and support.

We have now run 3 courses and have more in the pipeline with regular reunion sessions to help sustain the network of friendships and community these courses have created. The feedback from alumni has been overwhelmingly positive. All of the participants felt that they had considerably improved their cookery skills and felt more active and socially nourished. They have all asked for a longer course and regular reunions.

Sean Murphy who attend the first MWOP course said: “I’m a carer and suffer from mental health issues. I often find it difficult to leave the house. Todays cookery session has been the best day I’ve had in the two years I’ve been off work suffering with depression.”

Our aim is to link the Man with a Pan projects to the Alzheimers Cafe and create a sustained social dining club run by the men.  

If you would like to find out more about the Man with a Pan programme, please contact me.



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