What is your biggest challenge in cooking at the University of Kentucky?
The biggest challenge for a chef in healthcare is to get past the “hospital food” mentality.
We are limited in our ability due to cost, dietary requirements, as well as serving procedures to impact the food quality.
Although, we challenge ourselves to make it the best we can. We try to excel in all aspects of temperature control and quality.
The retail as well as catering gives us a chance to shine. This hopefully helps the visitor, as well as the employees caring for the patient, something to brighten their day.
Who is your cooking guru?
I don’t know if aspire to be him but I definitely look up to and respect Emeril Lagasse. He is a showman and has great love for his profession
He has been very successful but seems to cook from his roots and those of others that he has worked under.
Do you eat the cafeteria food at the University of Kentucky/Chandler Hospital?
Yes, I do alot of tasting throughout my morning and afternoon so sometimes I don’t feel like sitting down to a complete meal.
Tasting and checking all aspects of production is important to teach cooks and make sure the finished product is what you would be proud to serve.
What is something you haven’t tried yet in the cafeteria that you would like to take a chance on?
We have done everything from Sushi to Fondue. I would like to attempt some soft shell crabs when they come into season. There is no end and I’m always up for suggestions.
The prices in the cafeteria are quite reasonable, particularly in view of some of your more elaborate entrees. How do you manage to do that?
We follow a budget and stay as close to it as possible. We work off a declining budget system, kind of like a checkbook, and make sure there are no overdrafts.
We are also part of a Novation buying program to maximize rebates and low prices without risking quality. Deliveries are brought in everyday to minimize inventory on hand as well as maximize quality – for example produce.
Do you have any plans to expand your operations?
I’m looking forward to the new hospital and would really like to develop some people that work for me into future chefs and foodservice professionals. I still like to do special events for the company but look forward to the challenges ahead of us at University of Kentucky.
How do you prevent your food from tasting “warmed over?”
The biggest challenge is to do as much as “a la minute” cooking which really means small batches or cooking as close to service as possible.
The eateries in are retail outlets have some finishing cooking devices but we are basically a centralized kitchen and that supplies four retail outlets. We try to use as little frozen vegetables or meats as possible where the application permits.
I really think we get alot of compliments and the staff takes great pride in their work. I have a pasta station cook named Larry Powell and an action station cook named Michael Cummins, both great examples of people that show great passion to make the guest happy.
Do you ever want to go back to cooking in the restaurant trade?
I have had several chances to do this in Nashville, TN. as well as Kansas City, Missouri. Fortunately, I was really happy with all my opportunities I’ve had throughout my career and wouldn’t change a thing.
My mom was a great cook. She was very instrumental in making sure we were part of the “clean your plate club”. This opened are palates to everything and were very fortunate to have great parents who exposed to as much as they could.
Iron Chef’s Chicken Curry is considered the best fast food. I add a little extra lime juice, cilantro and sugar to it but overall great, fresh and fast.
Overall, not bad but I don’t really no their process and I always wonder about when someone says “grilled” but I don’t see smoke coming from the exhaust fan. There are many ways to “grill” chicken.
I love the “Diners and Dives” as well as the Travel channels “Anthony Bourdains; No Resrvations”.
I don’t know if people know that one of the main ingredients in worcestershire sauce is the anchovy. Yeh, the fish that no one supposedly likes.
I love to cook and really feel most comfortable with meditarennean as well as Italian cooking. Not all the big pastas but some of the more light but unaltered dishes that doesn’t take away from the ingredients natural state.