Christmas Dinner Events: An Interview with our Catering Director

Our Christmas dinner events are always a highlight of the calendar year at McCarthy Stone. To learn more about them, we spoke to our Catering Director Andrew Rowlands.

Although we all love to give and receive presents, there’s no doubt that Christmas dinner is the true highlight of Christmas Day. After all, it’s a really social and festive affair where the whole family can get together.

Here at McCarthy Stone, we love to promote the social aspect of Christmas as much as we possibly can, which is why we host Christmas dinner events across our developments. To learn more about the logistics of organising these and why they’re so much fun, we spoke to our Catering Director, Andrew Rowlands. 

Interview with Andrew Rowlands

Could you tell us more about the Christmas dinner events that are happening this year at McCarthy Stone developments?

Each year most developments hold a friends and family event that takes place on the last weekend of November or the first few weekends in December. This is very popular and eagerly anticipated by all involved; everyone pulls together to make the events special for residents and their guests.

Each Estate Manager supports the event by working with the onsite chef to make sure the menu provided by our catering partners meets the needs and expectations of residents. This is very similar to Christmas Day, when the restaurants are festively decorated and a sit down three-course meal or a Christmas-themed hot and cold buffet is served.  

The food itself can be anything from the traditional roast turkey dinner through to something a little different like a delicious honey and mustard-glazed gammon that gets expertly carved at the table. Desserts are always popular, and you can expect a traditional Christmas Pudding or something slightly different like a delectable Italian tiramisu. 

Christmas crackers, tablecloths and napkins are all provided, along with festive drinks and entertainment which can be in the form of local choirs, singers or even magicians. All of this adds to the celebrations and brings everyone together to enjoy the festivities. 

These events are the highlight of the year for the developments, where in excess of 100 residents, family members and friends sit down together.

Christmas Day itself is still fantastic but more of a low-key event, because a lot of residents go out to visit family or friends. However, we still make it extra special and have plenty of things available for residents who wish to stay with us, including another delicious Christmas dinner and drinks around the television to watch the Queen’s speech.

Will these events be the same across the UK or are there some regional differences?

Our Christmas events vary by development as we like to make them unique. Some of our developments have large sit-down meals, while others have hot and cold buffets. All events are special and there are always lots of activities happening. For example, this year at some developments we are holding a mince pie ‘bake off / fake off’ to raise funds for our 2019 charity of the year, Coram Beanstalk

We do appreciate a lot of residents don’t bake anymore, and so they ‘fake it’ by getting in shop-bought mince pies and decorating them to make them look original. What’s more, events like this can also see local choirs and school children in attendance to sing carols for residents.

It’s really easy for our residents to find out what’s happening in or around their development and how they can get involved as well. There are resident notice boards in our developments that display this information, helping to ensure no one misses out. 

What’s on the menu for McCarthy Stone’s Christmas dinners?

These do vary by development, depending on what residents’ preferences may be, what is in season or readily available to the chefs.

However, like I mentioned earlier, you will still see the usual favourites like traditional roast turkey with all the trimmings and Christmas pudding with brandy sauce. 

If residents don’t want the turkey option, a popular alternative is roast salmon with sherry trifle for dessert. We even have something for residents that fancy something vegetarian, and this year we have a delightful filo pastry basket which comes filled with toasted tofu, wilted spinach and pumpkin. This is also served with hollandaise sauce, smashed roots and glazed brussels sprouts. 

Our chefs really do pull out all the stops and if you’re thinking of making some separate Christmas treats or meals for visiting family and friends, then you should also take a look at some of our ultimate Christmas recipes. These creative recipes can be great for getting you right into the festive spirit, and your friends and family members are sure to love them – much like our residents when they’re tucking into their Christmas dinner. 

Can families visit during Christmas?

Yes, absolutely. We think Christmas should be spent with friends and family, so we always ask family members whether they’d like to attend, and we actively encourage them to come.

Our ‘At Home’ with McCarthy Stone events are popular with every generation, so grandkids are just as likely to enjoy them as the residents are. The performances are particularly popular with guests of all ages - especially the choirs. 

Can dietary requirements be accounted for with Christmas dinners?

They most certainly can, the dietary needs of our residents are always catered for. 

We have residents that have specific needs and the utmost care is taken to make sure that the dishes we serve are made specifically for them. For instance, if a resident is gluten free then gluten free flour would be used in any part of the dish, sauce or gravy that might come with their meal.

What is your favourite part of working at McCarthy Stone during the Christmas period?

It is very inspiring that everyone pulls together to make the Christmas period so special for the residents and their friends and family. 

It is a time where everyone at the development shares their blessings with the whole community. This means that whether we cater for an extended family or a resident who is unable to go out, we always try to do a little something extra and bring the spirit of Christmas to all of our extended McCarthy Stone family. 

Can residents who have only just moved to a McCarthy Stone development still get involved?

Yes, all residents and families are welcome. We pride ourselves on making retirement communities that everyone can enjoy. 

Christmas is particularly poignant in this respect and we see it as a time for any residents who might have just moved in to make new friends. We’re particularly proud of the fact that at these events many of our residents form friendships that last for a lifetime. 

It’s also of course a time to celebrate and another way in which we endeavour to enrich the lives of residents and their friends and families. Ultimately, regardless of the development you live in, and whether you buy, rent or part buy and part rent your home, residents and their families are welcome at any of our Christmas events. 

Do you have any particularly memorable Christmas dinner events from years gone by?

Last year we had such an overwhelming response to our Christmas events that we had developments that needed to put on two sittings due to demand; with some doing over 100 Christmas meals. 

These were such fun events and the McCarthy Stone staff joined in the festivities with some even dressing up as reindeer and elves to make the day even more special for all involved. 

Christmas ‘At Home’ with McCarthy Stone

At McCarthy Stone, we love Christmas because it really helps us build a sense of community and friendship in our developments. If you'd like to learn more about our 'At Home' events, or you have any other questions about the retirement properties we have for sale, rent or part buy part rent, you can also get in touch by calling 0800 201 4811.