Timothy Gee, CEC, executive chef at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) in New York City, has never made a habit of checking off goals or feeling that his work is done. Since December of last year, he’s been moving food culture forward in terms of patient room service, retail, catering, demos and training programs.
Q: How has working at MSK been like compared to your earlier career?
A: “Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center is amazing. We are part of a true mission and our impact is significant on a daily basis. My culinary career led me to this position…I’m able to fully use my abilities, passion and heart to give the best to those we serve. We’re passionate about not chasing to keep with what others are doing, but to work hard every day to differentiate ourselves.”
Q: FM covered the White Toque Culinarians initiative at your prior job at Robert Wood Johnson health system (RWJ) the time you said you were looking to create a food culture there. Would you say you reached your goal by the time you left?
A: “We made a lot of progress at RWJ and it was amazing to watch the staff progress in their careers while I was there. I had one cook, Harvey, who was a cook with a basic understanding of food when I started at RWJ, and now he’s a sous chef there. To see the staff grow and be successful while progressing the food culture and quality at the same time…that’s what it’s all about. But I don’t think the goal is ever really achievable. At least I don’t want it to be. I never want to settle and say, ‘I’m satisfied.’ Instead, my goal is for my teams to continue pushing to the next level.”
Q: What does your typical day at work look like?
A: “My days start early and end when the job is done. I spend time in all areas. I make sure that everything we do is up to our standard, whether that be producing the gazpacho for our summer cold soup special for our patients or writing a standard operating procedure for the gluten-free kitchen certification we are pursuing—my only focus is that we be the best we can be. I have an amazing team and they’re the all stars that make our department achieve all we do.”
Q: What’s the setup like for the main kitchen?
A: “We have a centralized kitchen and we’re currently looking at redesigning the prep area into a setup similar to the restaurant Alinea in Chicago, a progressive, high-tech restaurant that thinks outside the box in everything they do. They think differently about food just like we think differently about what we do. This setup will allow us to maximize the design of the kitchen and be as efficient, innovative and productive as possible.”
Q: On the retail side, have you introduced any new concepts?
A: “We’re going through a full revamp of all of our retail concepts and menu items. We recently introduced an expansive local produce program, weekly theme days and seasonal menus and items.”
Q: When it comes to patient dining, how do you make sure the focus is on the patient?
A: “We’re always thinking about the customer. Whether that is our patients or our guests, we take everything they are going through into account. The team is constantly rounding on the floors. We have a weekly patient experience meeting that involves room service management, a dietitian, Clinical Nutrition Manager Barbra Jordan, our Director Veronica McLymont and me.”
Q: And what do the weekly meetings consist of?
A: “We examine everything we are doing and any feedback we have received, the impact it has on patients, and how we can do better.”
Q: What’s been one of the most rewarding aspects of your job so far?
A: “One of my favorite things about being at MSK is that since I’ve joined, I have partnered with dietitian Ashley Krzyski, and together we round on the pediatric floor twice a week. During this time we work together to create menu items and custom meals for our pediatric patients that have been here for a longer stay or are struggling with eating.”
Q: What’s on the horizon in the coming months at MSK?
A: “We continue to be focused on the NYC Healthy Hospital Food Initiative; we’re doing the MSK Gold Star Chefs training program; we’re implementing a sous vide program to produce better yields and reduce waste. Also we just received a grant from the MSK Society and purchased a digitally controlled herb growing cabinet. This will allow us to use fresh, nutritious herbs that are grown onsite, in the preparation of every meal.”