Hudson Valley Hospital Center opens teaching kitchen

The teaching kitchen, along with an organic garden, are part of the Healthy Harvest program, which teaches patients and community members healthier lifestyle changes.

HUDSON VALLEY, N.Y.—“We use it on fish,” chef Peter X. Kelly said, when shown a leafy amaranth plant in the organic garden at Hudson Valley Hospital Center in Cortlandt Manor. “Lightly cooked,” said Kelly, the owner of Xaviars Restaurant Group, which operates four restaurants in Westchester and Rockland counties.

In an immaculate white chef’s coat, he was dressed for the kitchen — and for the cameras that followed him on his July 21 appearance at the hospital.

The well-known chef has brought his name and network of contacts in the area’s restaurant industry to the service of Hudson Valley Hospital Center. He appeared with U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey, a Democrat from Harrison and ranking member on the House appropriations committee, and their host, Hudson Valley Hospital Center President John C. Federspiel, to formally open the Chef Peter X. Kelly Teaching Kitchen at Dempsey House, a converted farmhouse on hospital property.

The teaching kitchen and nearby organic garden are part of Healthy Harvest, a 2-year-old initiative by hospital staff to teach patients and members of the community to better manage their health and thereby reduce health care costs with changes in diet and lifestyle. The prevention initiative also includes a twice-weekly farmers market and an institutional food-service contractor that aims to source one-fifth of the hospital’s produce and other foods from distributors, farms and artisanal businesses in the region.

Still a fledgling enterprise, the farm-to-hospital food chain snagged this summer when the hospital’s food service contractor dropped a produce distributor in the Hudson Valley and replaced it with one in Hartford, Conn., as local supplier.

The hospital garden, where cancer patients and their families are encouraged to visit and work and share in its bounty, opened in 2012, said hospital spokeswoman Victoria Hochman. “It was a lot of community effort,” she said. “The kitchen finally caught up with it.”

Designed free of charge by Joseph Pallante, an architect specializing in health care facilities and principal of Pallante Design L.L.C. in Newark, N.J., the teaching kitchen is used by classes that offer general instruction and specific cooking lessons for diabetics, cancer and heart patients, breastfeeding mothers and persons with gluten sensitivities. Kelly at the official opening was joined by five members of the hospital’s Young Chefs of the Hudson Valley, a program for at-risk middle school students to replace bad eating habits with healthy ones through cooking classes and gardening.

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