In a heated competition, three hospital chefs with more than 50 years of combined culinary experience impressed judges at Northwell Health’s sixth annual Ultimate Chef Healthy Cooking Challenge to win the top prize for their original, spring-inspired three-course menu.
Culinary masters from 17 hospitals around the New York metropolitan area competed in the contest held at Glen Cove Hospital, proving they can serve up delicious, restaurant-quality meals, but without the added high fat, calories or sodium.
“The Ultimate Chef Challenge highlights how our chefs are able to inspire delicious and nutritious meals, not only for our patients but for ourselves,” said Sven Gierlinger, vice president and chief experience officer at Northwell Health, who served as one of the judges for the cooking challenge. “We are investing in a culture of health and wellness in order to maintain a healthy work place and workforce and it starts with food. Patient meals are more than nourishment. We are looking to provide innovative recipes that will drive quality and enhance the patient’s experience.”
The winning chef team represented North Shore University Hospital (James Liquori); Stern Family Center for Extended Care and Rehabilitation (John Geoghan); and Staten Island Hospital North (Christopher Amabile). The chefs had never professionally cooked together before. Their delicious and eye-pleasing dishes took the top honor for this menu: Encrusted coffee ostrich steak with sautéed asparagus and fennel salad; sweet potato rosti with mango puree; shaved asparagus and fennel salad with lemon vinaigrette; and avocado chocolate mousse.
Coinciding with National Nutrition Month in March, six culinary teams of three chefs from different hospitals faced off in Glen Cove’s Pratt Auditorium, which was transformed into a giant kitchen equipped with stove top burners, refrigerators, a pantry and a farmers’ market for the cooking contest. Each team had 60 minutes to create tasty, attractive and nutritious meals for the three judges to score, and one for the presentation table. Hospital culinary teams were paired with registered dietitians and interns from Northwell hospitals to ensure that the three-course meal met specific guidelines.
Each appetizer and dessert had to be less than 250 calories, 250 mg. of sodium and less than 35 percent total calories from fat. Entrees needed to be under 450 calories, 500 mg. of sodium and 35 percent from calories. Teams also were given the mystery ingredient of fennel to incorporate into their original three-course meal.
At the event, Northwell Health unveiled the health system’s new nutritional guidelines, known as Healthy Choice. The new guidelines support quality standards that will better serve the health and healing of patients, along with the health of visitors and employees. Healthy Choice stickers will appear on foods in hospital food service eateries and items in vending machines.
“Health system chefs and staff create more than eight million meals annually for patients, staff and visitors, which is quite a feat,” said event emcee Eric Sieden, director of nutrition and food services at Glen Cove, Plainview and Syosset hospitals. “In this competition, chefs can focus their creative talents on an original three-course menu, showing that they can create appealing dishes that are tasty and healthy.”
Other judges rating plates were: Joseph Moscola, chief people officer at Northwell Health, and Michael Kaufman, a member of the Astor Group and trustee emeritus of the Culinary Institute of America.
—Submitted by Northwell Health