Hospital cooks take great care with food prep

Attention to detail presents food in best light possible.

June 21—At Mercy Medical Center, in Sioux City, Iowa, Executive Chef Tracey Badar says hospital corners, in a way, work in food preparation.

"We had a discussion just today about wraps and how we want all our staff to wrap and tuck food properly as it presents the food in the best way, showing straight lines and sharp cuts," Badar said. "It shows how much we care for our food."

And, by extension, how much his staff cares for its customers. A sign posted in the kitchen says as much: "Remember: We're here for the customers." When Kim McCumber, the patient food service manager at Mercy Medical Center, started in this trade 34 years ago, the emphasis wasn't customer satisfaction. The negative connotation that came with "hospital food" may have been justified.

"It was typical back then. We served blah hospital food," she said.

Today? Staffers study food trends. They learn how color schemes can enhance the food experience for a diner. Along with Beef Brisket (Mercy's most popular food item), the staff in the Mercy Medical Center kitchen whips up creations like the Santa Fe Chicken Wrap, the Greek Salad and quesadillas.