“This is perfect,” said chef Don Miller as he lifted the lid on a hot lunch and judged the artful arrangement of chicken, mashed potatoes and broccoli moving down the tray line.
For three days this week, hospital cooks got a crash course in turning institutional food into cuisine.
Visitors and patients at Kootenai Medical Center can thank Miller, a certified executive chef and registered dietician, if their lunch looks more appetizing and their low-fat chicken dinner has gravy over mashed potatoes.
Miller and the KMC dietetic staff spent Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday reviewing menus and recipes. His suggestions included adding a low-sodium, low-fat meat base to soups, pasta and rice and gravy for more flavor. He stressed that patients on unrestricted diets shouldn’t have to eat bland food just because they’re in a hospital.
For presentation, Miller taught cooks to spruce up a salad bar in the cafeteria by creating ornamental geese from squash.
Miller said the KMC kitchen was doing a good job when he arrived Monday. “But good isn’t good enough anymore.”
He proudly compares the kitchen’s conventional cold sandwich plate with Wednesday’s offering, which featured a colorful array of lettuce, carrots, pickle and tomato. “It was a seven, now it’s a 10.”
Working as a consultant, Miller takes his “Destination 10” program to the cooks at hospitals, nursing homes, colleges and prisons around the nation. He exhorts cooks and dieticians to taste their food every day and make quality food a priority.
“They (the food service staff) don’t want to be a hospital kitchen,” Miller said as he moved from the cafeteria line to the patients’ food trays, preaching his doctrine. “They want to be The (Coeur d’Alene) Resort.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo