When it comes to going above and beyond for the residents, Peter Pavia is all about helping people to enjoy this stage of their life.
He plays an integral role in the team at VMCH St Catherine’s Aged Care Residence, Balwyn, and without him, there would be many unhappy residents.
Why? Because Peter is St Catherine’s Chef Manager.
Peter was in year 7 at high school when he knew he wanted to be a chef, and he started cooking professionally when he was 19.
After a long history working in cafés, restaurants, and pubs, he decided to give a not-for-profit aged care residence a try. That was a year and a half ago.
“I really enjoy my job. We have a good team here at St Catherine’s, everyone chips in. We like to take our time to have a chat with the residents, make sure they’re ok, and receive what they want.
“No request is out of the question, we will find a solution “
After working in the corporate world, Peter decided the aged care industry was for him, and he’s now found his place in the team at St Catherine’s.
The best part of his job is freedom, especially when it comes to desserts, which is when his ‘creative ideas’ come out.
They now hold regular high teas, where he bakes every item, from the macarons to the cupcakes.
“Desserts are my favourite. My theory is that everyone likes something sweet. It’s the last thing you eat and therefore the main thing you remember.
“My baking relaxes me. It’s very precise. Baking is when I concentrate; it’s my go-to happy place.”
The residents at St Catherine’s certainly benefited from Peter’s passion, with his famous high teas often mentioned as a favourite occasion. These are held for events such as Mother’s Day, official openings, or a milestone birthday.
Peter also creates a different birthday cake at the Coffee Shop celebration each month, from a classic cream and jam sponge to a croquembouche, a dessert which would be familiar to those who are fans of MasterChef. A croquembouche is choux pastry puffs piled into a cone and bound with threads of caramel. It is a sight to behold.
“The residents do love it, and we have that at the end of every month to celebrate the residents’ birthdays,” Peter says. “But it’s not only for special occasions that I bake. For every morning and afternoon tea residents have a freshly baked item from scones to lemon curd tarts, made in-house by me.
“It’s an old fashioned ideal. Who doesn’t like tea and a biscuit, or a cake, especially when it’s made fresh? I always get compliments and comments from residents, which is great.”
Peter says fresh food is very important and strives to ensure that there is a meal option for every resident that they will enjoy.
“It’s something they all know. Food. They have all cooked at some point in their lives, and it’s a big part of their day. Good food makes a big difference, absolutely.”