The medical community has been waking up to the idea that nutrition and health are inextricably linked, so hospital foodservice programs are in the spotlight now more than ever.
At the Cleveland Clinic, Morrison Healthcare’s team has been using the spotlight to make changes in the menu, employee engagement and most recently, to provide culinary education one group at a time at the new Teaching Kitchen series, which kicked off earlier this month.
Executive Chef Josh Ingraham, who focuses on nutrition and physical fitness in his free time, teamed up with hospital Chef/RD Jillian Reilly to develop the plan for a class where a dozen people learned how to unleash “The Power of Food.” That’s been the mantra of the foodservice team that started last year, when the hospital switched management companies.
Ingraham and Reilly established three main goals for the inaugural class:
· How to cook whole grains—a basic like this, if overlooked, can prevent a lot of people from trying a grain like quinoa or freekeh, which was used in the class;
· Help the attendees understand the health benefits of incorporating whole grains, vegetables and lean proteins into every meal; and
· Inspire the class to try new foods in everyday life by surrounding new foods with familiar ingredients.
Each participant received an apron and chef’s toque to set the tone for the class, which took just about 30 minutes, start to finish. Ingraham showed the class how to set up their mise en place, and then the group learned how to cook freekeh, shred Brussels sprouts, whisk together a vinaigrette (that’s a lot healthier than bottled salad dressing) and easily throw it all together for a flavorful, nutrient-rich freekeh salad with kale, Brussels sprouts and pomegranate seeds.
Class materials included the recipe to take home, plus helpful advice, such as “this lemon Dijon vinaigrette pairs well with all vegetables and whole grains…the dressing can also be a great marinade for chicken or shrimp.”
Arming the community with real-world culinary knowledge like this by sharing the hospital’s foodservice pros’ expertise is what makes the class valuable to the community, says Nick Romagnano, vice president of operations with Morrison Healthcare, who has been at the Clinic since last year when Morrison took over. He says eventually the plan is for the Teaching Kitchen series to move out of the hospital’s 8th floor and into the hospital’s farmers’ market this summer.
“We’ll start to do these Teaching Kitchens monthly at the farmers’ market on Wednesdays,” Romagnano says, adding that other Morrison locations are doing similar teaching programs and using different reference points, such as a no antibiotic ever chicken class and one that featured sustainably raised salmon.