Joining EACH is the ‘best thing I ever did’ says lead chef

Lead chef at East Anglia's Children's Hospices (EACH), Julie Knott (pictured) has described her work family

Lead chef at East Anglia's Children's Hospices (EACH), Julie Knott (pictured) has described her work family as "one big wheel with lots of different spokes." - Credit: EACH

A lead chef at East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH) has described her decision to join the charity as the “best thing I ever did.” 

58-year-old Julie Knott has been in her role at EACH Milton hospice for 13 years, having previously worked at Girton College.

After taking time out following the birth of her son, Julie jumped at the chance to try something new and hasn’t looked back since. 

Julie started her time at EACH as a cook/housekeeper but, when the hospice chef left, she was given an opportunity to take the reins. 

“It’s very different, going from catering for hundreds of people to a much smaller hospice community,” she said. 

“I didn’t know what to expect or what it was going to be like working here.” 

Julie spends her days cooking up a feast of mouth-watering meals and treats – all ‘heartily’ enjoyed by children, families, staff and volunteers. 

Most Read

She believes the satisfaction from looking after and feeding families in the care of EACH is “immense”. 

“It’s the best thing I ever did; I absolutely love it here,” she said. 

“I do a lot of cooking with siblings and also children who come to us for care. 

“Sometimes when families come here, they’re absolutely shattered, especially if they have other children or have come straight to us from Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

“They haven’t got the time or inclination to cook a meal, so for me to be able to do it for them is a very special and amazing feeling. 

“They can sit back and relax and don’t have to think about things. They don’t have to worry about food or care for their child. 

She added: "A lot of them say it’s a weight lifted from their shoulders and that’s hugely rewarding to hear.

“I get lovely feedback and it means a lot to me when people say ‘I enjoyed that’. I know I got it right when that happens."

A typical day for Julie, a pastry chef by trade, includes her cooking up something special every week day from 8:30am until 4:30pm. 

Two cooks/housekeepers cover for her during the weekend and she loves being around the children, young people and families at Milton. 

“I write my own menus and plan them a month in advance, but I always try to be flexible and let children choose the things they like,” said Julie. 

“I cater for children who have a blended diet and also produce ketogenic food. 

“In fact, EACH recently paid for me to complete a diploma in ketogenics, which I gained a distinction in.” 

Julie’s menu changes all the time and may depend on what food is being delivered or items that need using up in the fridge or freezer. 

In addition to meals, she also offers lighter options such as jacket potatoes, paninis and soup and has themed days such as ‘veggie Wednesdays’. 

Julie also conjures up a different dessert every day, from cakes and sponges to gateaux and pavlova. 

“Sometimes a family will come to me and say ‘we really fancy such and such’ and I’ll always do my best to accommodate them,” she said. 

“It’s about cooking what’s popular and I always try to be flexible, tweaking my menu all the time.” 

She added: “Much depends on what families are with us at certain times as, for instance, we might have a Muslim family who only eat halal food and will not eat or drink anything forbidden. 

“This would mean sourcing specific meats and vegetables, which I’m always happy to do.” 

Julie says the support and encouragement she receives from EACH makes a huge difference and shows her that her job is one that she’s always learning in. 

“I pick up something new every day; I am so passionate about my job and love pretty much every day at Milton,” she said. 

She admits that working in a hospice has changed her perception of what it might be like. 

Far from 'doom and gloom', she describes it as a “fun, friendly and positive environment.” 

“We’ve got an amazing team here and I know how busy they are, so always make a point of finding them and making a note of what they’d like for lunch,” she said. 

“The care team do so much with the children; sometimes they’ll just appear at the counter and watch me cook, they seem to enjoy it!” 

She added: “We’re one big wheel with lots of different spokes and it’s those spokes that keep the wheel moving. 

“We all support each other.”