I joined the Cardiologist’s Kitchen project a little after its conception. I am now a qualified Clinical Physiologist, but at the time, I was in my final year of training. My job involves the diagnosis of cardiovascular disorders and the monitoring of cardiac rhythms, so I am expected to have detailed knowledge of the heart and its systems, and the processes via which they can be affected.
One thing my job doesn’t explicitly require, is an in-depth knowledge of how cardiac pathology can be prevented. So, when I was informed of the CardioKit innovation I saw it as a great opportunity to learn, and, being an inquisitive sort, I signed up to the newsletter.
Even in it’s infancy, I was impressed with what Ali and Mary were trying to achieve; the site was bright and colourful, it was filled with recipes that would rival some of the most talented chefs with whom I’ve ever worked, scientific fact-checking and myth-busting that would make Ben Goldacre grin and genuinely accessible lifestyle advice delivered straight from a physician, all available in one place.
The recipes particularly piqued my interest, as I myself used to be a professional chef working in various restaurants in the South West. So, I offered my services to Ali and Mary, to use my knowledge of good, seasonal food and perhaps encourage myself to broaden my own culinary horizons in the process.
I began by providing short, patient focussed write-ups on things like cholesterol, and some recipe inspiration. I had ideas for the new project direction to generate community engagement, such as the live cooking demonstrations and Q&A sessions. The cookery demos were particularly fun for me, as I was asked to expand my role within the project to become one of the CardioKit chefs, along with current chef pro Steve Mercer.
These events involved real challenges in the recipe research and execution. The first at Southmead hospital, was designed as an official opening for the North Bristol Hospital NHS Trust staff kitchen and herb garden designed by Jekka Mc Vicar. Using the same healthy local ingredients, Steve and myself had to produce different dishes in front of the watching crowd of hospital staff, managers and local council directors. The event was videoed for social media too.
The second (my favourite event) was in the demonstration space of the Taste of Timsbury food and drink festival. We followed on from Bini Ludlow of @sweetcumin (!!), and in a format ever-so-slightly tweaked from our previous outing, Steve and I made the same dish – Pesto – with whatever ingredients we saw fit. Again, we were captured on film by Mary for CardioKit’s social media followers to view.
In both events, Ali talked through the science and evidence behind the food everyone was receptive to the information, and interacted as such. The difference between the two events lay in the composition of the audience; the second event’s audience was comprised of the public, so, patients. The questions posed to Ali, Steve, and myself were all personal. THIS is what I saw when I first joined the project; people looking to use the information, and recipes, to help them.
As well as these events, the patient workshops have been of obvious benefit to patients; the stories patients have told of weight-loss and cardiovascular health improvements have been staggering, and perfectly encompass what the project set out to do.
The community engagement, and response, has been fantastic and a real joy to witness. It’s helped the patients, and it’s helped me, too. I saw how it began, and I’ve helped shape (in a small way) what it has become; together we have made a real, palpable difference to people’s lives. I’m incredibly proud to have been a part of it up until now. I hope I can continue to be a part of it for a long time yet to come.