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Next time you’re playing the “Where do you want to go for lunch?” game, you might want to consider the hospital cafeteria.
Last Thursday, when I visited, the cafeteria line entree options were seasoned roast turkey breast and honey glazed pork loin. The day’s special at the grill was sausage and peppers. Soup choices were chicken and rice or Brunswick stew.
Over at the Chef’s Table, J.P. Murcia was plating five spice Asian pork ribs served with fried rice and spring rolls. The aroma was heavenly, and it was so hard to choose!
Murcia, executive chef at Wilson Medical Center, and his staff prepare an enticing menu each day for patients, family, hospital staff and the community. They also cook for Wilson County’s home-delivered meals.
Since the end of summer and with Murcia’s arrival, a number of changes have been made.
Murcia most recently worked at StateView Hotel on the N.C. State University campus, but he was also chef at Duke University Hospital for seven years.
Murcia said he’s glad to be back in the health care environment and enjoys the family-friendly hours the Wilson job provides.
Murcia, with help from the HHS food service concept, said he has improved the quality of food at the hospital for both patients and visitors to the cafeteria and has added a Chef’s Table that operates from 11:15 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
One of the most important changes at the hospital, he said, was incorporating a healthier menu that uses locally-sourced foods as much as possible including fresh vegetables or chicken from a free-range farm in Winston-Salem. He also emphasizes foods that are cooked from scratch, on site, not just reheated.
“We’re here to nourish,” he said.
Murcia added that the doctors and medical staff do the hard stuff at the hospital.
“We just cook. Food heals,” he said. “That’s what we’re here for.”
Patients are given more options now, with menus they can choose from. If they want something from the Chef’s Table, the food service employee assigned to each patient, called an “ambassador,” will make it happen. Murcia will also work to accommodate special requests.
“Whatever they want,” Murcia said.
The Chef’s Table has become quite popular with hospital employees as well as people from the community who come in to try Murcia’s pork carnitas burrito, carved roast prime rib or maybe chicken and seafood paella. Shrimp and grits has been a favorite menu item for the Chef’s Table, Murcia said. Chef’s Table prices range from $5.99 to $7.99.
On the cafeteria line, staff and visitors can choose from a rotating menu that might include sweet and sour pork, root beer barbecue grilled chicken, beef Burgundy, stuffed flounder or spaghetti and meatballs. Sides vary from roasted garlic mushrooms and breaded crispy eggplant to creole squash and tomato and grilled summer squash. Collard greens with fatback and mustard greens with smoked pork were on Tuesday’s menu.
If you want something sweet, check out the daily hot dessert. I want to go back on cherry skillet cobbler day!
Murcia hopes those who eat at the hospital will experience the new menu options and eat healthier. Maybe try the quinoa, bulger or barley on the salad bar.
Last week, it was Hot Chocolate Day with hot chocolate for a quarter. This Thursday, the Chef’s Table will mark National Fettuccine Day with fettuccine chicken alfredo.
Although the Chef’s Table isn’t open for the evening meal, the cafeteria line is open each evening from 4 to 6.
The community is encouraged to visit the cafeteria and see what’s cooking! You can check the menu in advance at wilsonmedical.com, under the Patients & Visitors tab.
Rotini and Black Bean Pasta
8 ounces whole-wheat rotini (or any pasta shape)
6 tablesepoon white balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (or grapeseed oil)
1 can (19-ounce) black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup fresh cucumbers
1/4 cup red and green peppers
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup fresh kale
1/4 cup edamame
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. While pasta cooks, whisk together vinegar, garlic and lemon juice in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in oil until dressing thickens. Set aside.
Drain pasta and rinse briefly under cold water. Drain completely. Place pasta in a large bowl; add beans, tomatoes, cucumber, green and red peppers, chives, fresh kale and edamame.Toss gently. Pour dressing over pasta mixture and toss again, gently but thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours. Use chives as garnish.