An NHS kitchen boss who has overseen 156 million hospital meals and fed royalty is hanging up his whites after a five decade career.
Mike Munro joined the health service as head cook when he was just 18-years-old, having left school at 15.
Today, 52 years later, the catering manager from Johnshaven, said he has many fond memories of his time with the NHS.
One of those was meeting the Queen Mother in 1993, after a fish-bone became lodged in her throat while she stayed at Birkhall, near Ballater.
Mike said: “I remember when she was leaving after her stay, along with her entourage and all the dignitaries who were with her on Ward 36.
“The senior nurse introduced me – I floated forward, shook her hand and never washed it again.”
A later brush with the Royal Family left Mike fearing for his liberty. “Another time the Duke of Edinburgh was in and he wanted a poached egg,” he said.
“But we had to say no because policy is to use heat-treated eggs.
“So we had to tell the Duke no – I thought I’d end up in the Tower,” he joked.
But Mike’s career started years earlier and he admits he wasn’t at his best when at the hob.
He said: “I started out as a cook but I wasn’t much good, I much preferred the management side of things.
“For me this has been the most satisfying catering job in the world.
“I’ve never had two days the same, and I’m meeting deadlines all the time.
“The colleagues and staff have made it for me, everyone is here for the patients.”
Mike initially worked for NHS Tayside, then became catering manager at Foresterhill in 1978, working with a budget of more than £1 million pounds a year.
Although the health service has gone through many changes since then, Mike says patient favourites are the same.
He said: “Mince and tatties and ice cream and jelly were the most popular when I started – that’s probably still the case now.
“Things like roast beef, puddings, stews, skirlie, mashed tatties, Scotch broth; basically comfort food people have been brought up with – that has always been the main thing.” Making between three and four thousand meals a day, the 68-year-old admits you can’t get it right for everyone all the time.
He said: “Now there is so much more to consider. All the meals are nutritionally analysed and there are allergies to consider, NHS standards and budgets.
“People are more cosmopolitan now so it’s different making a menu and a big part of this job has been keeping the food and the menu up to date to try and cater for a wide number of individuals.
“We are always looking at the changing needs of patients.”
Keen golfer Mike hasn’t made any major retirement plans just yet.
“I was chairman of a community council for a while, but I won’t be doing that again. I’ve made very few plans other than golf.”