Hospital Chefs

imi chen 艾米
3 min readJan 24, 2022

Hospitals are gaining a taste for gourmet good

Where wouldn’t you expect to find a chef extraordinaire? In hospital food service, the once ill-reputed home of the bland and blah. Now it’s the place to be. Just ask Venus Dejesus, hospital pastry chef in Dallas, Texas. “I worked at Hotel Crescent Court in Dallas for four years under a three-time world champion pastry chef,” said DeJesus. “I learned and perfected most of my skills at the hotel.”

By bringing more culinary experts on board, hospitals are becoming known for hospitality. Many seek seasoned cooks and wait staff that can cater to a sick patient’s palate without sacrificing taste.

“This helps elevate the meal experience to a higher level, making the patient feel more special,” said James Pond, editor in chief of FoodService Director magazine.

Hotel-style service at the hospital

Some hospital have room service on call, allowing patients to order what they want when they want it. The only catch is that it must meet doctors’ and dietitians’ approval.

“Successful room service programs reduce food waste because the staff only produces meals that are ordered, rather than one for everybody in a patient room,” Pond said.

At Medical City Dallas Hospital, a new hotel-style room service, City Gourmet, offers multiple menus. Patients order from 6:45 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, said Mary Ann T. Moser, director of food and nutrition service.

“We encourage creativity,” she said. “This certainly helps with developing new menu items, creating eye-appealing plate designs, setting up catering events and just looking at everyday procedures.”

The freedom to innovate has drawn top-of-the-line food preparers to hospitals. “More and more qualified, trained chefs are making career moves into the healthcare environment,” Moser said.

A desirable career

For those craving a balance between work and family life, transferring from the late-night restaurant industry makes sense, said Neal Lavender, a hospital director of food, nutrition and conference services. And in hospitals, “volumes are down during the holidays, whereas in a restaurant, they would be gearing up,” he said.

“I decided to move to the hospital sector because of great hours during the weekdays, and not many weekends,” said head chef Nathan Forrestal, a former hotel chef. “I also saw an opportunity to change perception and be a part of the hospital culinary renaissance.”

“Organizational skills, speed and knowledge of food safety and nutrition are the main ingredients foe success,” said hospital chef Laird Morgan.

“It makes us different from the hotel and restaurant industry,” Morgan said. “We do our work from the heart, and it’s not a competitive, for-profit environment.”

Added flavor

With the right know-how, chefs can alter upscale restaurant-style recipes to blend seasonings with dietary restrictions.

“We [pick] different ways of flavoring items,” said nutritional services assistant Liz Copes. “We can also cook it plain,” Copes said. “But the flavor is what a lot of people miss when they go into the hospital.”

A degree in dietetics, food service management or hospitality is required for higher-level supervisory and clinical positions, Moser said. “One of the key talents we look for in potential applicants is customer service skills and a true passion for the job,” she said.

According to Lavender, perceptions have changed greatly since he entered the industry in the early 1990s. “In the past, it was always referred to as hospital food,” Lavender said. “Nowadays, it’s more gourmet.”

  • extraordinaire 非凡的: exceptional, remarkable
  • culinary 烹飪的 : to cooking or kitchens
  • wait staff 餐飲服務人員
  • dietitian 營養師
  • renaissance 復興
  • ill-reputed : when someone or something has a bad reputation
  • seasoned : having a lot of experience doing something and therefore knowing how to do it well
  • cater to : to try to satisfy a need, especially a demanding need
  • crave : to have a strong or uncontrollable desire for something
  • gear up : to prepare yourself or someone else for activity
  • upscale : characteristic of or suitable for wealthy people

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