1168 days ago
The life of a catering assistant is never dull it seems. Beryl Zarb and the catering team at Queen’s Hospital, Romford, keep the patients well fed and the catering services running smoothly. And it’s Beryl’s love of the job and the interaction with staff and patients alike that has kept her in Romford’s hospitals for just over 36 years.
“I’ve had quite a varied career over the years but have always worked in the hospital,” says Beryl. “I honestly can’t believe it’s such a long time ago that I first started at Oldchurch Hospital back in 1979. Then in 2006, Oldchurch closed and we all moved to the new state-of-the-art Queen’s Hospital.
“When I started out I was employed by the NHS and, at that time, all the meals served in the hospital were prepared and cooked on-site. Then, we moved to Queen’s Hospital, and here all the food is cooked and chilled off-site. So, my job is to pack all the chilled food and take the meals up to the wards where are then heated, if required, and served to the patients.”
A good deal of Beryl’s day is spent working in the fridge, prepping the food for the next meal of the day. Says Beryl, “People are very jealous of me in the summer, when I get to cool off in the fridge, but my fleece is an essential part of my wardrobe in the winter!”
Although Beryl has always worked in hospitals, she’s worked quite a few different roles over time. Catering has been a constant but, in addition to her catering assistant role, she’s done housekeeping and some portering, mainly taking the bread and milk up to the wards throughout the day. Beryl has also supported the administrative side of the catering team by delivering the daily menus to the patients and marking off their meal selections.
“Catering, like everything, changes depending on trends at the time,” admits Beryl. “It used to be that we always served soup and sandwiches at lunchtime and the patients had a hot, main meal in the evening. Then that changed round when people wanted something lighter at night time.
Naturally she has lots of good memories of the great people she’s worked with and looked after. “After 36 years, you feel like part of the furniture and you never really take the time to look back over your career. Getting the invitation to the long service event taking in October was very touching and much appreciated. It makes me feel recognised and valued for the work I’ve done over those years,” reflects Beryl.
When asked what makes her stay in her job, Beryl revealed that her two younger sisters also work in catering at Queen’s Hospital, having also been there for 36 and 37 years respectively. “It’s well and truly a family affair for us working here.
“My daughter keeps telling me that if I retired I’d just get bored at home – and she’s right! Work keeps me young and I love the interaction with people and I’m not ready to give that up just yet.”
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