Cooking Therapy

Chef’s Tables give children in hospitals opportunity to get out of their rooms and into the kitchen.

Patients make pizza during one of the Chef's Tables.

HOUSTON—Being in a hospital is difficult, especially for children, so Luby’s Culinary Services has created a new program to allow kids to have fun during their hospital stay. The program, the Chef’s Table, is offered at any hospital where the food management company serves children. The Chef’s Table has been especially successful at Texas Children’s West Campus Hospital, according to Todd Coutee, senior vice president, operations, for Luby’s Fuddruckers Restaurants LLC.

“We understand that sometimes children get bored [while in the hospital]. Or they’re not feeling well. In an attempt to cheer them up, we thought, we’re in foodservice, let’s see what items or opportunities we can get for well children to come down and work on things like decorating cupcakes,” Coutee says.

Some of the activities at the Chef’s Tables include making pizzas, from rolling the dough to topping the pies, baking them and then enjoying the pizzas. Kids can also make Jell-O molds and top them with whipped cream or assemble pasta plates with a variety of sauces. The mini “chefs” are given an apron and chef’s hat to wear and to take home.

The Chef’s Tables are run in the servery or kitchen between meal periods, when there isn’t much traffic. The hospital’s on-site chef or regional chef runs the program. Patients’ siblings and parents are also encouraged to join, and Coutee says most parents elect to join their children. Coffee and light snacks are offered to parents during the event.

Coutee says the hospitals try to do two Chef’s Tables a month, but he says if the census is high they will do them more frequently. To let patients know when the Chef’s Tables are held, the foodservice department sends out email blasts, posts info on the hospital’s internal TV station and talks with parents and nurses to see which children can come down to the dining room.

“A lot of good things have come out of [the Chef’s Tables],” Coutee says. “I think it takes [patients’] minds off of why they’re there. It gets them out of the rooms, which is really good. The parents really appreciate it. It offers a little comfort. From our standpoint it’s another value-added thing we offer as a company so we’re just not there providing food for staff and patients. We’re trying to fit into what the hospitals are doing to do more from a patient-services standpoint.

“The kids react wonderfully,” he adds. “They smile and have a good time. Children are very candid. You’ll bring out one flavor of Jell-O and they will say, ‘I like red, not blue.’ So we’ll go find red. They ask if they can come back tomorrow. You don’t have the heart to say no. If we need to do one the next day, we’ll do it. You take every advantage when you get those moments to make a patient feel better. Some of the children suggest that we do a hot dog building one.”

Luby’s is working on a component of an in-room Chef’s Table for those children who are not well enough to leave their rooms. 

More From FoodService Director

Menu Development
spicy bibimbop

Bowls continue to trend as meal carriers for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Both operators and the guests they feed appreciate bowls for their convenience, customizability and creative combinations. Build-your-own stations are increasingly popular ways to offer bowls in college dining, corporate venues and school and hospital cafeterias. But building a satisfying bowl takes more planning than randomly tossing ingredients together in one vessel.

Playing with layering

“Texture is the secret ingredient for a successful bowl,” says Kevin Cecilio, senior director of culinary innovations...

Industry News & Opinion

Austin Independent School District in Texas is introducing new globally influenced menu items this school year, Spectrum News reports.

The offerings are meant to reflect the district’s diverse student body and will include yuca fries, Jamaican meat pies and plantains.

Read the full story via spectrumlocalnews.com .

Industry News & Opinion

Miami-Dade County Public Schools is introducing new plant-based menu items this school year, CBS Miami reports.

Vegan chili and cilantro-lime rice will be appearing on menus when students at the Miami district return to class later this month.

The new plant-based offerings join other new items such as French toast, turkey bacon and antibiotic-free chicken tenders and breast fillets. Students will also be able to enjoy a variety of salads and fresh fruit.

Read the full story via miami.cbslocal.com .

Ideas and Innovation
baby boomer eating

Millennials get a lot of attention from foodservice operators and chefs, but baby boomers make up a large and lucrative group of potential patrons that shouldn’t be ignored, finds Technomic’s 2018 Generational Consumer Trend Report . As more senior-living communities cater to the baby boomer set , here’s a look at the factors that drive those customers’ dining choices.

1. Boomers are flavor-seekers

There’s a perception that because these consumers are older, they are stuck in their ways. But this generation is the most likely to say that they enjoy trying new flavors from time to...

FSD Resources

Code for Asynchronous jQuery Munchkin Tracking Code