Carilion Clinic: Nobody wants to be in the hospital for Thanksgiving - but if you have to, Carilion dietitians and Food Service Partner chefs provide a taste of home

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Nobody wants to be in the hospital for Thanksgiving - but if you have to, Carilion dietitians and Food Service Partner chefs provide a taste of home

When you sit down to a home-cooked meal of turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, green beans and cranberry sauce, so will hundreds of patients, their families and staff at Carilion Clinic hospitals around the region. Thanks to chefs, dietitians and others working together, it will look and taste a little bit like home. (yes the plate you see above is an actual meal prepared by the folks at Food Service Partners, who operate Carilion Clinic's central kitchen in Roanoke. (FSP operates kitchens in San Francisco, New York and Roanoke)

Because many hospital patients are on restricted diets, the chefs and dietitians have developed recipes that can be safely eaten by just about anyone - without sacrificing taste. For Thanksgiving, it means buying additive & preservative - free turkeys, using low-fat cooking ingredients, sugar substitutes and a special variety of spices that give the food flavor without adding salt (how does it taste? keep reading!) And then ship it out by the truckload! (Food is prepared one day in advance, and shipped out at 5 a.m. each morning, to make sure it arrives fresh)

Roanoke Times reporter Christina Rogers and photographer Justin Cook recently visited our central kitchen for their Thanksgiving article "Cooking for the Masses". We thought you might like to see part of the tour. Many thanks to Executive Chef Jay Brinkley for coordinating a fascinating tour!

How do you roast 800 pounds of turkey? You use a "turkey tank"!

The tank uses hot water - the boneless turkeys are sealed in plastic bags so the water never touches them - they are roasted by the heat. When they're done, the tank circulates super-cooled water around the turkeys taking them from above 140 degrees to below 40 degrees in minutes (this keeps the meat fresh). The turkey is re-heated in a special oven at the hospital.

Here you seen green beans being strained, 50 pounds at a time. You might notice that our kitchen is a lot like yours - pots and pans and utensils - just bigger (ok, you probably don't have a winch and chain)

Rice Pilaf is also on the Thanksgiving menu. Here it is prepared in very large stainless steel bowls and sealed in plastic bags for delivery to the hospital kitchens where it will be re-heated and served. (nothing is frozen, the food is chilled to below 40 degrees, but not frozen to protect quality and flavor - major restaurant chains often use the same technique).

I love the gravy machine! Once the gravy (or soup, etc) is done, the machine extracts it from the pot and stores it in sealed bags for easy delivery

The finished product looks something like this - Its a bit like having an executive chef come to your house, plan your menu, preparing your meal, serve it, and clean your kitchen. But how does it taste?

For an unbiased opinion, we invited Christina and Justin to sample the Thanksgiving menu for themselves - see the results on the video below.

One interesting note - in addition to preparing food for all the Carilion Clinic hospitals each day, the kitchen also prepares daily meals for the patients and staff at the 800 bed INOVA Fairfax hospital. Northern Virginia knows where to come for good food!