Here at Chow Bella, we love food contests. Recipe contests, bake-offs, even disgusting meat-pyramid eating competitions -- we appreciate them all. But even we draw the line at a hospital food culinary competition. Naaaast-y.
Next Tuesday, cookbook author and Food Network chef Kathleen Daelemans is judging the annual Association for Healthcare Foodservice Competition, which pits five hospital chef finalists against one another in a live cook-off battle at the Arizona Biltmore. Each chef will have one hour and fifteen minutes to prep, cook and dish up an original entree and any accompanying side dishes. The dishes must cost under $5 per serving and meet nutritional guidelines.
The last time we visited a hospital cafe, we were lucky to score a congealed tuna sandwich with wilted lettuce and jellylike chocolate dessert substance. Meanwhile, these chefs are whipping up tropical rice rolls, Asian street snacks, Korean Bibimbap plates with chicken, quinoa and quail egg, chicken roulade with pine nuts, and wonton chicken tacos with purple rice and atomized ginger vapor.
What the hell?
Not surprisingly, none of the finalists are from Arizona.
The competing teams (which contain a food services supervisor and chef) include Mary Verona and Justin Klobucar of Chicago's Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center, Angelo Mojica and Shawn Dolan of UNC Healthcare in North Carolina, Jim McGrody and Ryan Conklin of North Carolina's REX Healthcare, and two teams from NYU Langone Medical Center.
We're all for better tasting, more healthful hospital food. After all, visiting a loved one in the hospital is a painful enough experience -- the last thing you need is to be forced to suck down a three-hour-old greasy hamburger with a side of mushy peas and a cheap ass Jell-O substitute in-between the hand holding.
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Plus, there's no point in sneaking that stuff upstairs to the patient (don't lie, you know you've done it, or at least would do it) if it's no better than the crap on their hospital-approved plastic tray.
So maybe this hospital food contest isn't such a bad idea after all, especially if it spurs our local hospitals to start churning out gourmet eats. Then, maybe "hospital cafeteria food" won't have as negative a rep as the waxy pizza and chicken(like) nuggets served at most school cafeterias.
The competition will take place 7-9 p.m. on Tuesday, June 7 at the Arizona Biltmore hotel. Check the AHF website afterwards for results.