Eateries open all the time in medical centers and hospitals, and they often try to emphasize the health and wellness mission of the institution by emphasizing nutritious menu choices. The Michael D. Bloch Café on the 14th floor of the new 425-bed Cancer and Critical Care Tower at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center (OSUWMC) has taken that approach to a new level and in the process has produced an exemplary example of a foodservice operation tangibly supporting the mission of the host institution.
That’s because the Bloch Café not only serves nutritious, healthy foods and beverages but also specifically designs everything it serves around the 25 foods identified by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) as being particularly effective at fighting cancer. They range from high-antioxidant-bearing fruits like cherries and blueberries, whole grains and cruciferous vegetables to various nuts, garlic and even coffee and tea. (For AICR’s full list, go here.
The goal is to have five to eight choices each day, says Mike Folino, assistant director of nutrition services. “Everything we serve has at minimum one of the cancer-fighting ingredients, and most have more than one,” he explains.
Salads have been big sellers over the warmer months, especially fruit salads. Proteins are lean and either grilled or sautéed using healthy oils. Nothing is fried and butter is kept to a minimum.
Some of the more popular menu items served at Bloch Café include:
• Caprese Flatbread—a thick piece of naan bread given a light brush of an herb-infused garlic oil, then topped with thick, sliced, fresh mozzarella cheese, roasted grape tomatoes and finished with fresh arugula and balsamic glaze.
• Grilled Tuna—an 8-ounce piece of fresh ahi tuna, grilled rare, topped with sautéed capers and a soy-ginger glaze and served with a radish and cilantro garnish and saffron rice.
• Grilled Peach Salad—grilled-to-order freshly sliced peaches with toasted walnuts and blue cheese crumbles on top a blend of spinach, kale and arugula and served with a housemade raspberry vinaigrette made with fresh raspberries, champagne vinegar, honey and olive oil.
• Fresh Berry Salad—arugula salad with fresh blackberries and raspberries topped with blue cheese crumbles, walnuts and a housemade lemon-poppy seed vinaigrette.
“The restaurant has a very open layout,” notes Sous Chef Wes Campbell. “When people walk in they can see the kitchen right in front of them where we take their orders personally.”
Once the food is ordered at the counter and paid for, guests can seat themselves and their food is delivered to them. The settings are white tablecloth with silverware, cloth napkins and china.
As it is tucked away on the 14th floor, a lot of the initial business has been with staff but the number of visitors who find their way to the Bloch Café is growing. Campbell estimates the current customer mix as 60-40 staff.
Directory signage mapping the premises notes the café but a lot of the awareness is through word of mouth, especially effective in a medical facility where repeated visits for treatment are common and visitors have a mutual interest centered around fighting cancer.
While many staff members prefer takeout because of time constraints, the space is a welcome respite place for many visitors, Folino says. “Family members going through a pretty stressful time like the quiet, the soft music in the background. It’s gives them a chance to relax for a bit.”
Recently, the Bloch Café also began hosting cooking demos for the James Survivor Series for cancer survivors. The meetings will often also feature an address from a staff dietitian.
Mike Folino, assistant director
Drew Patterson, culinary director
Wes Campbell, sous chef
Julie Jones, director
John Egnor, food service designer, JME Hospitality Group
Georgie Shockey, operational consultant, Ruck Shockey & Associates