On June 2, Angel Richter stood behind the entrée station in the ProMedica Toledo Hospital cafeteria, serving baked chicken breast, mac and cheese, kale, corn bread and caramelized sweet potatoes. The prep cook, who has been in the food industry for 20 years and in the hospital since 2012, developed the entire soul food menu. For them it is comfort food, the taste of home.
“My grandmother came from the south,” she quoted a display near the train station, “and her kitchen reflected her origins, which extended to my mother and me.”
Over a five-week period, the hospital presented meals developed by individual members of the nutrition staff to highlight the diverse roots of the people on their team. On five consecutive Wednesdays, beginning in early May, they offered in addition to their options Panini, pizza and grill stations.
The program started with a Cinco de Mayo menu with albóndigas (meatball soup) and Elotes street corn. Febe Yapregigur, whose parents immigrated to the USA from Mexico in 1974, developed the menu.
Photo: Sabah Kashen, who immigrated from Lebanon in 1979, developed a Lebanese menu with majadra, a dish made from lentils, rice and caramelized onions, beef biryani and Greek spinach cake.
Sabah Kashen, who moved to Toledo from Lebanon in 1979, has worked in the hospitality industry throughout her career and has worked for ProMedica since 2011. Kashen’s Lebanese food included beef biryani, lubia (rice with ground beef and green beans), hot potatoes, Greek spinach pie, and majadra (a layered dish made from lentils, rice, and caramelized onions).
Providing a platform for employees to share food from their respective cultures and for customers to taste and enjoy prompted the nutrition team to tackle the program.
The nutrition team started talking about the idea earlier this year and simply filled the Wednesday slots by asking for volunteers. Each participant developed the menu, supervised the preparation and helped serve the meals to the customers. They had no problem sourcing ingredients through their usual channels.
The program “is a culmination of everything that happens to diversity around us,” said Steve Fogle, director of nutrition at ProMedica. “We have a very diverse staff in our hospital … and ours [nutrition] Employees wanted to showcase their talents ”and celebrate their legacy.
Photo: Angel Richter, preparatory chef at ProMedica Toledo Hospital since 2012, developed and served a soul food menu with mac and cheese, kale and caramelized sweet potatoes. She says her grandmother’s southern roots influenced her cuisine.
Mary Grace Smith, who works on room service, created a Filipino meal of pork adobo, beef mechado, and lumpia. They also served a Polish meal of pierogi, kielbasa, sauerkraut, and stuffed cabbage.
Richter’s soul food meal was the finale – for now. Barbecue is served on Wednesdays throughout the summer. But in autumn they want to put the melting pot back into operation and structure it according to the number of employees who choose to participate.
All five spring participants want to be presented again. A few other chefs can join them. The participants decide whether they want to have the same menu or introduce new dishes.
The program is very popular; Sales in the cafeteria rose 35 percent between the first and fifth weeks of the program.
Of the 800 lunches they sell daily, they sold 127 Polish dishes, 163 Lebanese dishes, and 178 soul food meals.
But the program is about more than just numbers.
They focus their marketing on the stories of the featured employee. The communications employee interviews employees. For each meal, they create a flyer that includes the employee’s photo and a brief story about their menu and what the food means to them.
The food service distributes the flyers on social media and posts them on the day of each meal on a digital display that hangs above the train station. After that, they leave a copy of the flyer in the cafeteria for about a week to educate customers and make them aware of the program.
Photo: Over a five-week period, the hospital presented meals developed by individual members of the nutrition staff to highlight the diverse roots of the people on their team.
“I think food makes the most sense when there is a story behind it,” says Ron. by Sodexo Dorchak, systems director of ProMedica Nutrition Services. “And so the customer can not only try the food, but also hear the story that makes it special. I think that’s our main reason for wanting to do this more in the future, because it allows us to be more in touch with our customers. “
A frequent “VIP” customer, a hospital employee, had a special relationship with one of the meals. Nicole Syska, the hospital’s retail manager, recalls his excitement after eating a plate of Polish food.
“That’s his legacy,” she says. “He was very happy to be able to come down and get some comfort food from his childhood.”