Chefs in Action

Chefs In Action teaches healthy cooking techniques

When UK HealthCare opened its state-of-the-art dining facility, Chandler Dining, 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 can choose nutritious, freshly prepared food ingredients and have their dish prepared to order before their eyes.

The new facility, which is open to patients, families, staff and the public, offers restaurant-quality food selections that you wouldn’t expect to see in a hospital cafeteria.

Perhaps less expected was a teaching kitchen where chefs can demonstrate healthy meal preparations. UK HealthCare Executive Chef Pete Combs 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 Combs, a food service industry veteran of more than 30 years. “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,” Combs said. “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, an in-room patient engagement system that helps improve the transition of care from hospital to home.

“UK HealthCare is not just about medicine,” said J.J. Housley, UK HealthCare’s director of enterprise operations. “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 at 4 p.m., this Thursday, April 20.  The menu will center on healthy twists to Kentucky’s classic dishes. No reservations are necessary and the event is free. Check out the video below to learn more about Chefs in Action.


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