UK HealthCare

"Chefs In Action" Teaches Patients, Staff Healthy Cooking Techniques

Chandler Dining "Chefs in Action"

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 18, 2017) — When Chandler Dining opened its new facility in the hospital's Pavilion A last year, it embraced the concept that food service should be as involved in teaching healthy habits as medical and nursing staff. 

The long lines of institutional steamers and shelving to slide plastic trays along were gone, replaced instead with cooking hubs where diners choose nutritious, freshly-prepared food ingredients and their dish is prepared to order before their eyes. 

According to J.J. Housley, UK HealthCare's director of enterprise operations, the new facility offers restaurant-quality food selections that you wouldn’t expect to see in a cafeteria.

Perhaps less expected was a teaching kitchen where chefs can demonstrate healthy meal preparations. UK HealthCare Executive Chef Pete Combs, who is "responsible for the taste and quality of everyone's food at the hospital," was tasked with creating a platform for sharing with hospital patients, visitors and staff the tips and techniques that make food more nutritious. The result?  A monthly series called "Chefs in Action."

"Chefs in Action is designed to help people see that it's not difficult to cook healthy dishes with high-quality ingredients," said the 30+ year food service industry veteran. "The power of food [in improving health] is huge."

At 4 p.m. on the third Thursday of every month, Combs and sous chefs Justin Clark and Sarah Null prepare a themed menu with an extra dash of theater and humor.  At the February event, the Heart Month-themed menu included:

  • Flaxseed hummus with almond crackers, jicama, rainbow peppers and carrot 
  • Three-bean salsa with avocado, tomato and cucumber chips 
  • Roasted butternut squash boat with asparagus, ginger, almond and wild mushrooms 
  • Rainbow trout stuffed with Fuji apples, walnuts, spinach and raisins with orange saffron sauce 
  • Raspberry banana and dark chocolate bites

As they demonstrated each recipe and distributed free samples to the audience, dietitians Andrea Francis, Jill Haeberlin, and Katie Lewis listed the ingredients in each dish and explained how they boosted heart health.

"Sharing nutrition information is as important as showing people how to make the recipe," said Combs. "People may not want to make the apple-walnut stuffing, but they might add walnuts to one of their favorite dishes once they learn that walnuts can reduce cardiovascular problems and Type 2 Diabetes."

Housley says the long-term goal for Chefs in Action is to make the demos available to patients via the Get Well Network.

"UK HealthCare is not just about medicine," Housley said.  "This enterprise strives to provide Kentuckians with the tools for healthy living, and why wouldn't our food service be a significant player in that effort?"

The next Chefs in Action will be 4 p.m., Thursday, April 20.  The menu will center around healthy twists to Kentucky's classic dishes. No reservations are necessary and the event is free.

Photo of "Chefs in Action" at UK Chandler Dining.  Photo:  James K. Morris
Photo of "Chefs in Action" at UK Chandler Dining.  Photo:  James K. Morris
Photo of tasty samples from "Chefs In Action" Photo:  James K. Morris

UK is the University for Kentucky. At UK, we are educating more students, treating more patients with complex illnesses and conducting more research and service than at any time in our 150-year history. To read more about the UK story and how you can support continued investment in your university and the Commonwealth, go to: #uk4ky #seeblue