Creative, Innovative and Healthy:
Hospital Chefs Learn to Cook Meatless

December 16th, 2013

Eating Dinner_2ndpage180x164Let food be thy medicine. And if thy food is meatless, even better.

With all due respect to Hippocrates, at a recent cooking class held at Natural Gourmet Institute, the prescription for hospital chefs who want to provide healthier, plant-based menu options was Meatless Monday. It was all part of an innovative cooking event coordinated by Chef Michael Kiley of North Shore University Hospital, and led by Chef Richard LaMarita of Natural Gourmet Institute.

The nearly four-hour class titled “Fare Share” provided an opportunity for 14 chefs from North Shore-LIJ Healthy System, one of the largest hospital systems in the United States, to prepare and taste a wide range of plant-based dishes. “This continuing education on a Monday night is another way to bring the Meatless Monday movement forward,” said Chef Kiley. “Chefs will apply their learning on how to create delicious plant-based menus to offer our patients and customers.”

Panko Crusted Marinated Tofu_2ndpage180x164The program is an extension of an idea created by Dr. Robert Graham of Lenox Hill Hospital, whose “Fare Share Cooking Class” introduced the concept of teaching Meatless Monday cooking classes to resident doctors. On this night, the focus was on chefs. “Introducing hospital chefs on how to prepare healthy, nutritious and delicious plant-based foods or meatless meals is good medicine,” writes Dr. Graham on his Fare Wellness site. “I am so happy to say the North Shore LIJ hospitals support Meatless Monday.”

Natural Gourmet Institute, which recently launched Meatless Monday cooking classes for the general public, is a leading advocate of health supportive culinary education. “Hospital chefs have hard jobs meeting dietary needs of patients,” said Laura Rosenberg, Registered Dietician for Natural Gourmet Institute. “With people demanding more vegetables, chefs have the opportunity to offer more quality-based, locally sourced ingredients and descriptive menus, and connect patients with their food.”

All of which was confirmed in a 2012 report from Johns Hopkins. With companies like Sodexo, a global foodservice and facilities management company which introduced Meatless Monday in its healthcare division as early as 2011, chefs can help shift consumers toward more plant-based options. As the report outlines, 54% of operators saw an increase in their purchase of vegetables through innovative menu planning and promotion. That certainly was the case on this night. Sixteen meatless dishes were created in NGI’s kitchen, from Farro Risotto to Oysters Mushrooms and Brussels Sprouts to Cauliflower & Gruyere Macaroni Gratin. “What’s so amazing about NGI,” commented Dr. Graham, “is the care they put into choosing only the healthiest and finest ingredients. By the time our evening ended, many of the chefs admitted they had never enjoyed a vegetarian meal quite like the ones Chef Rich chose for us. It was so rewarding to see grown men completely satiated from a meat-free, plant-based meal. And, they seemed excited about the new creative possibilities.”