It’s an unspoken truth in healthcare foodservice that sometimes doctors don’t have the best eating habits.
“They’re busy, they want comfort food and they want something fast; they’re not always able to pay attention to what they’re eating,” says Ryan McNulty, corporate executive chef for Cura, a part of the Elior North America family of companies.
So, when McNulty, who until three months ago was corporate chef with Metz Culinary Management, was approached by the Cura marketing team to do a monthly healthcare-focused special, he thought something for the hardworking doctors would be the perfect place to start.
Available for all Cura healthcare accounts on National Doctor’s Day on March 30, the menu started with McNulty making word associations and ended up with a flavorful combo of pulled pork sandwiches and apple slaw.
“I thought of Dr. Pepper, so we did Dr. Pepper-braised pork shoulder on whole grain buns,” McNulty says. “And I thought of ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away,’ so we did a slaw with two different apples.”
The slaw was made with apple cider vinegar and yogurt instead of traditional mayo and came with a side of fresh fruit instead of fries or chips, so it was an example of the healthy (but restaurant-quality) food trends McNulty hopes to develop and build on at his new job.
The senior dining side of Cura poses a lot of opportunities on the culinary side, he’s finding as he travels around to different accounts, meeting with chefs and directors.
“In a lot of higher-end communities, we have full-blown restaurants with really contemporary food that’s often the best thing in town if you’re in a rural area,” McNulty says. “The kitchens are well stocked and we have a lot of leeway in terms of seasonality and regional preferences. It’s a really good place for a creative chef.”
The general population of seniors, referred to as the ‘new seniors’ in the industry, “are well traveled,” he notes. “We have snowbirds who go down to Florida, and also to New York, Philly and Boston on a regular basis.”
At accounts with trayline service, patient feeding and hospital cafes, McNulty has been plotting out revamps and rebranding existing programs, “revitalizing and facelifts.”
“I’m drilling down beyond the look and feel of what we’re trying to accomplish for retail brands and concepts,” he says.
As for the monthly healthcare series that began with Doctor’s Day, planning is already underway for the next event, which will celebrate World Health Day.
McNulty is now researching the “most consumed” foods in the world, which include potato, rice and—interestingly—sorghum.
“We might do a cool spin on hoppin’ john or succotash or roasted fish,” he says. Whatever the menu, McNulty plans to incorporate the chefs at each account more into daily life.
“People really want to see a chef; they want to see a white coat or toque at an action station,” he says, emphasizing “that involvement and building dialog, and telling people, ‘I’m taking care of you today.’”