In 2007, chef Ryan Garcia and his wife had to spend a stressful week at Seattle Children’s Hospital as the couple’s newborn recovered from the flu. During that time, he ate a lot of the hospital’s food—suffice it to say that when the chance to be on the other side of the plate came up last year, he jumped at the opportunity to get creative.
The former Wolfgang Puck and Whole Foods chef is the hospital’s first chef hired to focus solely on the quality of patient meals. Making hospital fare healthy and tasty has included testing and implementing fresh, made-from-scratch recipes for dishes that will be offered on a daily rotating menu; changing all bread recipes to exclude high-fructose corn syrup as an ingredient; eliminating highly processed and sodium-packed foods (an ongoing project); and adding fresh, local ingredients.
To accomplish that last goal, Garcia is developing a partnership with the Puget Sound Food Hub and Seattle Tilth to supply produce, which will also come from a garden on the hospital campus.
Seattle Children’s is in the process of expanding, and that includes a new kitchen, dubbed the Forest Kitchen, which will generate the food for the hospital’s revamped room service, slated for 2016. Patients, their families and guests, and staff all will have the freedom to order from a full menu at any time of day, with a wide variety of Garcia’s tasty creations to choose from (and breakfast served all day).
“Patients will be able to mix and match and create their own options every day that they’re here,” Garcia says. Indeed, treating patients like restaurant customers, particularly in a foodie city like Seattle, is a recipe for success.