Meet the Chef: Philippa McIntyre, Summerset on Cavendish, Christchurch

Philippa McIntyre is the chef manager at Summerset on Cavendish, Christchurch. The happy mother of three teenage kids (whose partner is also a chef) started her culinary career at the ripe age of 16, completing an apprenticeship at Ascot Park Hotel in Invercargill.

When she finished her apprenticeship, McIntyre moved to Nelson. At 22 years old and in her first head chef position, she was awarded Restaurant of the Year, a big deal for someone so young, not to mention being a woman in a male-dominated field.

McIntyre moved to Auckland in her mid-20s where she refined her chef skills at restaurants Cin Cin’s and Hotel du Vin. She then moved to Christchurch where she met her husband and worked as head chef at some top restaurants including Viaduct, Cia Bella, and Trent’s Vineyard.

Being a head chef became difficult after McIntyre had her first child and so she retrained as a preschool teacher, however, the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes changed her ideas, and she found the professional kitchen was calling. She went back into the culinary world as sous chef at Rangi Ruru Girls School where she was for seven years before joining the team at Summerset Cavendish.

With her children now older, McIntyre was ready to step back into a head chef role.

“It was time for me to go back to my passion which is food and people,” she explained. “I love the engagement that I have across the food and the people here at Summerset.”

Summerset On Cavendish's brand-new villas, cottages and serviced apartments offer the experience of luxury living in the enviable location of Casebrook. The brand-new village centre is the heart of the village, providing a multi-purpose community hub. Featuring spacious resident lounges and a stylish dining room and library, it includes a range of resort-style facilities including a café, bar, hair & beauty salon, and indoor pool.

Divine Cafe's delicious cabinet food.

McIntyre’s day starts at about 6.30am with breakfast set up and café prep for Summerset’s Divine Café which opens from 10am-4pm. On Thursday’s the facility has Happy Hour afternoon with a very popular roast dinner afterwards.

“Cooking for our residents is more than just cooking food. You need to really get to know the residents, their likes, and dislikes. There are many dietary requirements that you need to consider while still making the meals appealing and satisfying,” noted McIntyre.

“Cooking in a Retirement Village is about cooking good, healthy, home-style meals and developing a menu that is appealing for this generation. Food is so important and it’s a great feeling knowing that our residents are happy, healthy, and well-fed.”

When it comes to designing the menu, fresh and healthy ingredients are key, so too is a balanced and varied menu.

“We like to offer good, traditional recipes that our residents would have cooked themselves. Keeping it exciting and something that our residents can look forward to is also very important.”

Texture modified foods are a vital aspect of any aged care or retirement facility’s food offerings. At Summerset on Cavendish, McIntyre and her team use Pure Foods’ Puree products.

“Which are fantastic,” according to McIntyre. “They are healthy and taste great. Texture modified food was something new to me, so I had to do a lot of research around this and educate the team to ensure that we are presenting it in the most appetising way.”

The most rewarding part of McIntyre’s job are the “awesome” residents.

“You build very rewarding relationships with them.”

McIntyre also noted that the Summerset staff are incredibly hard-working and very friendly, her village manager is supportive and nurturing and the catering team is fantastic.

“They give 110%!”

Being a new village, Summerset on Cavendish had only been opened for 10 days when the country when into lockdown in March 2020. It was a challenge, but Summerset had great systems in place.

“We dealt with what happened and made sure everyone was safe, fed, and happy.”

When she’s not working hard in the kitchen you can probably find McIntyre at a Zumba class, spending time with her family or walking her two miniature Schnauzers. Her goal at Cavendish is to be known as ‘The Foodie Village’.

“Where people come to enjoy great food and service but still have that feeling of home.”