Hospitals create custom cuisine for patients

Special diets require chefs to use creativity to satisfy patient customers.

Feb. 21—Creating made-to-order dishes has become second nature to many hospital chefs, especially those trying to help very ill people enjoy their food. Pnina Peled, executive chef at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, recently was challenged to feed a teenage cancer patient who wanted pizza, but because of the patient's chemotherapy treatments, her taste buds were dulled and she could only taste lemon.

"This kid liked Italian food, and we couldn't think of a lemon-flavored pizza because we kept thinking of tomato sauce," says Ms. Peled told The Wall Street Journal. After some trial and error, the chef created a pizza with a lemon Alfredo sauce for the young patient. "We made it for her three or four times in a month because she kept requesting it," Ms. Peled says.

Along with updating menus with healthier options, hospitals must create food that caters to a variety of medical needs such as gastric-bypass, cardiac, diabetic and cancer-related food challenges.