By Drew Morgan, Regional Executive Chef at Morrison Healthcare
With people cooking more meals at home during the pandemic, there is a new-found interest in learning how to make quick, healthy meals. I’ve been able to jump on this trend and educate medical personnel in the Richmond, Va., area by combining my education background with Morrison’s expertise in preparing healthy, nutritious food.
This spring, we found an opportunity to work with hospitals when Celebrity Chef Bal Arneson and Morrison released a series of videos showing how anyone can make quick, nutritious meals. Rick D’Eredita, our Regional Director of Operations, suggested we combine the videos with a “Teaching Kitchen @ Home” cooking series at several of Richmond’s largest hospitals.
These sessions have turned into the perfect antidote for medical personnel, hospital administrators and others working long hours. Teaming up with Regional Marketing Director Mike Jakubowicz, we’ve held what we call “Teaching Kitchen @ Home” sessions at four hospitals in the Bon Secours Mercy Health organization: St. Mary’s, Memorial Regional Medical Center, St. Francis Medical Center and Mary Immaculate.
These sessions have been a natural outlet for my teaching skills. I worked for several years in local schools teaching children and young adults the importance of the food we eat and helping parents cook fundamentals. After joining Morrison in 2017, I helped train our clinical staff to conduct teaching kitchens for people with diabetes.
Vegetarian Meals for Teens at Home
The demos are held between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., giving everyone time to stop in during their lunch break, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Each cooking demo only takes a few minutes, so if a large group of dietitians or nurses stops by, I can give them a full session in just a few minutes.
With parents and children spending much more time together at home, one theme has become clear: many nurses, doctors, dietitians and other medical personnel tell me they want to learn how to cook more vegetarian meals at home because their children are vegetarians. They may be used to cooking broccoli and corn, but that’s not enough.
All dishes we prepare only take 10-15 minutes to make at home. So far, in our four sessions, I’ve taught them how to make lentil soup, roasted vegetables and turmeric Tahini and coconut and chickpea bowls. These are entrees with different flavor profiles but include a lot of the same cor
e ingredients. And I give them simple recipes for vegetarian or black bean burgers that we make at the hospital and are easy to make at home.
Not surprisingly, the reaction has been extremely favorable. A doctor at one hospital who was born and raised in Saudi Arabia enjoyed the lentil soup and approached me after the session about how he enjoyed it growing up. A cardiologist at another hospital raved about the importance of eating healthy, while others now have recipes they can take home and make for their vegetarian teenagers.
Securing a Safe Location in Each Hospital
In the pre-COVID-19 days, we encouraged people to come close to our cooking stations and watch the chef in action. Now, we’ve worked closely with each hospital to set up tables in the hospital café on the day before each event. Because most cafés are still off-limits to visitors, there is plenty of room for our food, ingredients, cutting boards, measuring cups and other utensils. There’s plenty of space to allow people to watch the demos while still standing six feet apart and away from the kitchen.
To pique interest in our demo, we arrange for medical personnel and other visitors to sample small portions before the demo begins, then watch the demo and ask questions. This allows shorter interaction, but the quality of the message is the same. Finally, everyone can watch videos from the new Chef Bal Arneson series sponsored by Morrison Healthcare. And I provide recipe cards featuring the five recipes released so far.
I recently celebrated my third anniversary with Morrison, but I worked in food service for 21 years. Early in my career, I found a passion for helping educate people about food, especially for its power to nourish, heal and improve a person’s daily life. Our Teaching Kitchen @ Home Series is just one more to provide information and knowledge that will help people lead better lives.