Cooking Therapy

Chef’s Tables give children in hospitals opportunity to get out of their rooms and into the kitchen.

Patients make pizza during one of the Chef's Tables.

HOUSTON—Being in a hospital is difficult, especially for children, so Luby’s Culinary Services has created a new program to allow kids to have fun during their hospital stay. The program, the Chef’s Table, is offered at any hospital where the food management company serves children. The Chef’s Table has been especially successful at Texas Children’s West Campus Hospital, according to Todd Coutee, senior vice president, operations, for Luby’s Fuddruckers Restaurants LLC.

“We understand that sometimes children get bored [while in the hospital]. Or they’re not feeling well. In an attempt to cheer them up, we thought, we’re in foodservice, let’s see what items or opportunities we can get for well children to come down and work on things like decorating cupcakes,” Coutee says.

Some of the activities at the Chef’s Tables include making pizzas, from rolling the dough to topping the pies, baking them and then enjoying the pizzas. Kids can also make Jell-O molds and top them with whipped cream or assemble pasta plates with a variety of sauces. The mini “chefs” are given an apron and chef’s hat to wear and to take home.

The Chef’s Tables are run in the servery or kitchen between meal periods, when there isn’t much traffic. The hospital’s on-site chef or regional chef runs the program. Patients’ siblings and parents are also encouraged to join, and Coutee says most parents elect to join their children. Coffee and light snacks are offered to parents during the event.

Coutee says the hospitals try to do two Chef’s Tables a month, but he says if the census is high they will do them more frequently. To let patients know when the Chef’s Tables are held, the foodservice department sends out email blasts, posts info on the hospital’s internal TV station and talks with parents and nurses to see which children can come down to the dining room.

“A lot of good things have come out of [the Chef’s Tables],” Coutee says. “I think it takes [patients’] minds off of why they’re there. It gets them out of the rooms, which is really good. The parents really appreciate it. It offers a little comfort. From our standpoint it’s another value-added thing we offer as a company so we’re just not there providing food for staff and patients. We’re trying to fit into what the hospitals are doing to do more from a patient-services standpoint.

“The kids react wonderfully,” he adds. “They smile and have a good time. Children are very candid. You’ll bring out one flavor of Jell-O and they will say, ‘I like red, not blue.’ So we’ll go find red. They ask if they can come back tomorrow. You don’t have the heart to say no. If we need to do one the next day, we’ll do it. You take every advantage when you get those moments to make a patient feel better. Some of the children suggest that we do a hot dog building one.”

Luby’s is working on a component of an in-room Chef’s Table for those children who are not well enough to leave their rooms. 

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

The Virginia Department of Health said it has traced a “cluster” of hepatitis A cases to frozen Egyptian strawberries used by Virginia units of a smoothie chain.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe voluntarily trashed the strawberries and switched to supplies from a different source immediately after being notified of the connection, the health department said in a statement issued Friday.

The department noted that it had traced earlier outbreaks of hepatitis A to strawberries imported from Egypt. But it warned that supplies may still be in the freezers of other foodservice operations...

Managing Your Business
business man smash computer

Foodservice directors spend a lot of time taking care of other people, whether it’s K-12 students who aren’t always eating enough at home, malnourished patients back for return visits or employees squabbling among themselves. That kind of pressure can weigh heavily—and come home from work. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America finds that 83% of men and 72% of women say stress at work carries over into their personal lives, and 50% call staff management their main culprit for workplace stress.

“Stress is very difficult in our world, and work-life balance is very much a...

Industry News & Opinion

Students at an Arkansas high school may have to take creative measures to get a meal, thanks to a school policy that prevents parents from dropping off lunches left at home.

The Catholic High School for Boys in Little Rock, Ark., last week posted a picture on Facebook of a sign that reads, “Stop. If you are dropping off your son’s forgotten lunch, books, homework, equipment, etc., please turn around and exit the building. Your son will learn to problem-solve in your absence.”

While social media opinions on the school’s rule were mixed, some commenters expressed concern that...

Industry News & Opinion

Novato Unified School District in Novato, Calif., has created a new vegetarian grab-and-go item as part of the district’s Meatless Monday initiative, marinij.com reports .

The Fiesta Rice and Bean Shaker, which is served in disposable cups, contains rice, corn, black beans, taco seasoning, corn tortilla chips and romaine lettuce topped with an optional salsa and ranch dressing. It’s also customizable, as students are able to select which ingredients they’d like to include.

The vegetarian shaker is made using produce from a nearby organic garden. Sofie Garcia, an employee in...

FSD Resources