About publishing a book for Jim McGrody

Rex Healthcare's McGrody writes about creating a good patient dining experience.

This spring Jim McGrody, director of food and nutrition at 650-bed Rex Healthcare in Raleigh, N.C., published his first book, “What We Feed Our Patients.” McGrody says he wrote the book to share his journey to improve hospital foodservice and to share stories he’s learned during his 27-year foodservice career.

Q. Why did you decide to write a book?

When we would see things that were unbelievable I would say, “That needs to go in a book.” Over the years of doing foodservice you come up with a lot of crazy stories. Three years ago I just started writing it all down. I put the book into a timeline of my journey from when I started in the foodservice business until today and how I am trying to transform hospital food. It’s kind of a journal of sorts. The book starts off when I am in Washington, D.C and I had just entered into the hospital world and I saw patient food for the first time. I had worked in hotels and restaurants and I went to culinary school so I had been around good food. What I saw for the patients I couldn’t believe. I said if I’m going to be in this end of the business than I need to make some changes because I’m not serving that. That’s been my quest for the past eight years is to change hospital food. Many people are doing it now and hospital food is definitely changing. I wanted it to be restaurant-quality food. That’s what the whole book is about. There are no recipes in the book. It does talk a lot about menus and recipe development.

Q. What are some of the stories you share in the book?

At the end of the book there is a collection of short stories in a chapter called “The World We Live In.” I have this one story where I had this cook rip sandwiches with her bare hands because she was too lazy to go and find a knife. I saw that and said you have to be kidding me. She didn’t care and had no love for food at all. Another story is about a drunken interview. I had a guy interviewing for a cook’s job. He was so drunk. His wife, who was also drunk, came into the interview with their kids. The guy and his wife started arguing, and I had to call the campus police.

Another story was when I was working in colleges and we had a big catering event. I was driving up after the catering van. As I got up toward the event I saw that the catering van had been pulled over by the police and they had arrested my employee for selling marijuana out of the back of the van. We were late to the event. All these things had happened over the years and I thought no one would believe this. That’s when I wrote it down because you can’t make this stuff up.

I had this employee when I was living in Arizona. He always had an issue and was always complaining about something. One day he said, “Jim I need to talk to you.” We went outside and he was going on and on about something. This giant moth flew right into his mouth, and he started hacking and coughing. It was the funniest thing I’d ever seen. I swear that moth was sent to shut him up. After that day he didn’t complain as much. I always think about that guy. I tell that story to my employees. At the end of the book I give credit to some people and I give credit to that guy.

Q. Who did you write this book for? Patients, directors, hospital administrators?

It’s a little bit for everybody. I’ve had hospital directors in New York and New Jersey who have bought it for their entire management staff and they are using it as a guide. It’s for the patients and the hospital foodservice workers. There is a section on hospital administration. It talks about contractors and patient satisfaction. The book talks about the quest for good food and how we shouldn’t just accept what we’re given. We should strive to make it restaurant quality. It’s my goal to make it a dining experience for our patients.

Q. Why did you feel that this was the right time to write the book?

I had enough experience and had enough of a story to tell. Being in a self-op world I really got to drive the program without any restraints or corporate policies and programs. My operation in the 95th percentile in satisfaction and we had a 40% increase in revenue in retail. We are a go-to account now in this region. Other people come and visit us now. I felt that I had the credentials to talk about how we did things. I had a story to tell and I thought people wanted to read it.

Q. What did you learn during the process of writing the book?

The hardest part of writing the book was getting it organized and getting it to make sense. It took two and a half years to write it and then about six months of editing. I hired a professional editor. Making it flow was difficult. The editing itself was a really important step because I’m terrible in grammar. It’s funny because the people who knew me in high school would say I’m the last person they expected to write a book. It was a huge thing for me to do.

It was a lot harder than I thought it would be to write the book. I spent hundreds and hundreds of hours writing it. It was a labor of love. It took a lot of energy and time. I learned a lot about the publishing world. It was a very unique learning experience. If I write a second book I will be better prepared than I was with this one.

When I was writing it I would recall a lot of things in my career that I would say I wish I knew then what I know now. It’s a 27-year journey and I see things differently now. I have a more experienced and mature eye now. I’m more patient now. Writing the book took me through all the different periods of my life. The book starts when I was in high school. I was a dishwasher at the time and all I wanted to do was cook. I kept bugging the owner of this restaurant and finally he let me cook. There is a lot of reflection in the book.

It’s interesting because everyone who reads the book says they are re-energized. One of the directors in New Jersey put one of his chefs on a performance improvement plan after reading the book.

Read more about “What We Feed Our Patients.”

Read more about Jim McGrody, our FSD of the Month in May 2010.

More From FoodService Director

Menu Development
sam kass peter romeo

We’ve heard it time and again—millennials are extremely conscious about what they eat. They want to know what is in their food, where it is from, how it was made and more. And, as we’re learning, Gen Zers are even more aware and information-demanding about the food they eat than their older counterparts.

Hitting those higher-quality food standards is no easy feat. But it’s becoming a must, said chef Sam Kass—known for being the White House chef for the Obamas, a senior White House policy advisor on nutrition policy while he cooked, and currently the senior food analyst for NBC News...

Sponsored Content
chicken veggies recipes

From Tyson Food Service.

With operators becoming increasingly strapped for time and labor, it’s a strain to prepare every aspect of a menu item back-of-house or keep the menu populated with a variety of options. While it doesn’t mean they have to cut corners when developing new items, operators can use more versatile items that are simple enough to apply across the menu to save on labor and cost as well as be more efficient.

With versatile proteins, operators can increase menu opportunities without kitchen complexity, and drive new customer traffic or increase the number...

Industry News & Opinion

An audit into Kennesaw State University’s dining services revealed the university accrued roughly $2 million from off-campus students paying for meal plans as part of their semester fees, according to a report by Fox 5 Atlanta .

Meal plans at the Kennesaw, Ga., university are automatically assessed to students whether they live on campus or not. The university does not refund unused meals, draining the pockets of commuter students each semester.

“I think it’s ridiculous that we pay all this tuition and then we’re here paying another big fee,” commuter student Emmanuel...

Industry News & Opinion

As part of a 10-year contract to run Eastern Michigan University’s foodservice, Chartwells will invest $5 million in the Ypsilanti, Mich., university, as well as provide it with $18 million in capital improvements, according to a report by the Detroit Free Press .

The university’s board of regents approved the contract on Tuesday, citing the new revenue as an opportunity to expand and improve campus foodservice. EMU’s website indicates the partnership will allow for more student input as well as the introduction of food trucks and improved technology.

“The primary reason...

FSD Resources