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Marco Gambi: A passion for food

Marco Gambi: A passion for food

Take small steps and build up slowly

Prior to sustaining a severe brain injury in 2016 Marco Gambi was a chef by trade, and over 20 years became a successful and respected figure in the catering industry.

After being hit by a mini-van while out riding his motorbike, he went through a long journey of rehab to learn to cope with ongoing effects on memory, fatigue, concentration and the ability to process information - all essential for cooking.

His continued passion for food gave a clear focus during the early rehab stages, and led him on a path to relearning his kitchen skills and going on to support others to make their own meals.

"When I was at the rehabilitation unit, one of the tasks I was set was to go to the supermarket and buy £5-worth of produce, then come back and turn it into a meal," said Marco.

"I found this helped me to focus and plan. As well as a cooking challenge, it's something that uses a number of skills that transfer to other aspects of life, such as planning, managing finances and social skills.

Marco now helps clients in his local Headway group to get back into cooking, and he contributed to a unique Headway Swindon cookbook that is designed specifically for brain injury survivors.

"Being able to cook even simple meals can make a big difference to people's lives," said Marco. "I see the changes in people as they go from not being able to cook at all to making simple meals for themselves and family.

"I'm currently supporting someone who came to Headway completely unable to cook. In the first session we started with just making a cup of tea, which was something he hadn't been able to do since the brain injury. Next we'll move on to toast, and that means he can make his own breakfast."

With so much experience of helping others to discover the benefits of cooking, Marco has plenty of tried-and-tested ideas to help other brain injury survivors get back into the kitchen.

"I find with a lot of people it's a confidence thing, so take small steps and build up slowly. One day you might make a cup of tea, then toast, then a sandwich and work up to creating a simple stew.

Marco prepares fresh ingredients in his home kitchen. Here, he is slicing an onion.

"Whatever you're cooking, try to be really aware of your fatigue levels. Don't try to overdo it, feel you have to do everything at once or take on anything too ambitious. You don't have to start something if you're really not feeling it.

"Above all, don't feel like you have to be cooking exactly how you were before your brain injury. If you try and rush things, you'll only go backwards not forwards."

Marco's top 5 food prep tips

  • Keep a whiteboard in the kitchen and use it to plan - when you think of something, write it down.
  • Have a simple notepad or app on your phone where you can create shopping lists to take out with you.
  • Look into easy-to-use equipment such as veg peelers, tin openers and microwaves that don't need great strength or a computing degree to operate!
  • If you can't do something, speak to a professional such as an occupational therapist about equipment that might help.
  • Use simple pre-prepared ingredients, for instance combine frozen onions, frozen veg and a tin of tomatoes with herbs... bosh, that's the building blocks of a casserole!

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