When Sparrow Health System in Lansing, Mich., opened its new cafeteria, the hospital wanted to create a space that draws from the surrounding area. The new dining space, called Gathering Place at Sparrow, moved from the basement to the first floor with a 4,000-square-foot addition that spills out onto Lansing's Michigan Ave. "The hospital feels some personal responsibility for making the Michigan Avenue Corridor a nice place to be," says Laura Fellows, executive chef and interim director of support services for the hospital.
Local talent and partnerships
To staff the cafeteria's pizza, grill and allergen-friendly and rotating chef's corner stations, Fellows hired a few dozen employees, about a third of which are cooks. "When it comes to culinary talent, I am looking for people who have a great eagerness to learn first," she says. "Then on the second round, I look for skills and background needed." She says Lansing is not a huge pool to draw from, and though there are a number of ways to teach cooking skills, she hasn't figured out a way to teach someone to care.
Fellows also wanted to offer fresh sushi to guests. However, she is not a trained sushi chef and was uncomfortable experimenting with a cuisine that has a lot of food safety nuances. So, she partnered with a local sushi restaurant that sends three sushi chefs per day to Gathering Place. The sushi chefs set up shop with their own ingredients, and if the sushi station meets the minimum revenue for the week—calculated by the POS—Gathering Place is given a percentage of the sales. “We did the sushi tastings, and then sort of let legal handle the logistics,” she says.
A well-known Lansing-based kitchen and bath remodeler donated a demo cooking area. Fellows says both her staff and outside chefs will use the space to teach Lansing residents health-focused cooking. “My dietitians are really excited,” she says. “It’s such a great space for teaching, education and team building.” The space is designed so that it can be closed off from the rest of the cafeteria to provide a more intimate experience for group events.
A volunteer group donated a living wall that houses around 1,500 plants. The wall faces Michigan Ave. and is always the first place to fill up during meal periods.