North Shore-LIJ Hospital Chefs Compete in Healthy Cooking Challenge

FHH chefs win top prize in Healthy Cooking Challenge
Dale Lyons chops an onion for the winning dish-- stuffed pork tenderloin with cranberry wild rice-- while Gary DeFreitas consults with registered dietician, Malgorazata Rokoszak of Staten Island University Hospital.

GLEN COVE, NY – Hospital food usually gets a bad rap, but chefs from 11 North Shore-LIJ Hospitals recently competed in the health system’s first-ever cooking challenge to prove that hospital chefs can serve up gourmet restaurant-quality meals, but without the high fat, calories or sodium.

Coinciding with National Nutrition Month, hospital culinary teams from Queens, Long Island, Manhattan and Staten Island faced off at Glen Cove Hospital’s  Pratt Auditorium, which was transformed into a giant kitchen equipped with stove top burners, a pantry and farmers’ market for the “Ultimate Chef Healthy Entrée Challenge.”  Each team had one hour to create a delicious, attractive and nutritious meal.

Three celebrity chef judges awarded Forest Hills Hospital’s  chefs with the top prize for their original dish of stuffed pork tenderloin with cranberry wild rice. Lenox Hill Hospital  received second place and Syosset Hospital came in third.

Michael Kiley, director of nutrition and food services at Glen Cove Hospital, who also serves as a coordinator of North Shore-LIJ’s chef committee, organized the cook-off.  “Patients often compare hospital food to restaurants and this event showcases that hospital chefs can prepare appealing food that tastes really good and is nutritious,” said Mr. Kiley.  All entrees and side dishes prepared during the competition were rated by judges for taste, nutrition, originality and presentation.  Each hospital culinary team was paired with a registered dietician from a North Shore-LIJ hospital to ensure that each dish contained equal or less than 500 calories, 15 grams and 600 milligrams of sodium.

Teams were given a “surprise protein” – such as halibut, shrimps, chicken and pork tenderloin – in which to build their creative meal around the item.

Winning chefs Gary DeFreitas and Dale Lyons from Forest Hills Hospital said they are used to preparing meals for 600 to 700 patients each day.  After the awards ceremony, Mr. Lyons said,

“This event gives us the opportunity to show what we can do in the kitchen…It’s a dream come true.” Mr. DeFreitas, who has been cooking since he was 19 years old,  said it was a “great honor” to receive first prize in the competition but pointed out that “love is the most important ingredient in cooking, and it always comes out in the dish.”

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