Celebrity chefs and celebrity chef wannabes have carved out a place for themselves in today’s pop culture scene. Yet one group of culinarians consistently overlooked are those individuals serving in the healthcare foodservice community, which has become one of the most sophisticated operator segments there is.
In the old days healthcare foodservice was pretty simple. Operators mainly provided Jell-O, consommé, meat loaf and other easy to digest menu items to patients who were convalescing in the hospital.
Those days, however, are long gone. Does a menu featuring lime-coconut water poached crispy-skinned barramundi with edamame-wasabi whipped potatoes, carrot ginger reduction and arugula greens sound like something you would find on the menu at a hospital or a five-star restaurant? This sophisticated menu item represents but one of the entries the judges will evaluate when the Association for Healthcare Foodservice convenes its annual culinary competition later this month.
At the same time, the challenges today’s healthcare foodservice operators face continue to multiply in number and complexity.
Embrace farm to table by sourcing more local and seasonal ingredients? Check. Serve an at-risk client base with compromised immune systems and very specialized dietary needs? Check. Incorporate multiple service styles, including room service, table service, grab-and-go and catering? Check. Take a leadership position in the area of sustainability? Check.
For most foodservice operations, successfully dealing with any one of these challenges would become a tremendous source of pride. Healthcare foodservice providers, however, often deal with all of this and more on a regular basis. What’s more, healthcare foodservice professionals continue to embrace these challenges with a sense of pride and confidence that can be truly inspiring. If you want to monitor the industry’s transition to healthcare cuisine Chef Ryan Conklin’s Twitter feed is a good place to start. He regularly posts pictures of the amazing food made by he and his team. Chef Conklin shares his perspectives in this month’s Chef’s Corner article.
In the healthcare foodservice arena innovation is not limited to the center of the plate, though. It means continuing to take concepts like room service to new levels, enhancing capacity and food quality in café formats, becoming flexible by design and even turning to robots to make the most effective and efficient use of labor. Our feature story, Innovative by Design, sheds additional light on these examples and more as we profile five industry leading healthcare foodservice operators who leverage their creativity, supply chain relations and existing technology to develop truly innovative solutions.
Throughout this issue we take the time to shed light on some of the ways healthcare foodservice continues to evolve, hopefully providing a few of the industry’s unsung heroes with a few moments of much deserved recognition.