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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, October 3, 2001

Hospitals sign on restaurant chefs to plan menus

By Beverly Creamer
Advertiser Staff Writer

Portabella Mushroom Bruschetta. Grilled Chicken Pesto Salad. Penne Pasta Salad with Macadamia Nut Pesto. Lilikoi Cheese Cake.

Chef Russell Siu is bringing a creative approach to meals for Queen's patients.

Advertiser library photo

All specials from chef Russell Siu.

And all now available in an unexpected place — the hospital.

In the past year, Hawai'i has climbed aboard the latest bandwagon in health-care: fine dining.

The Queen's Medical Center has enlisted Siu, of 3660 on the Rise and Kaka'ako Kitchen, to create a daily salad, entree and dessert for patients and the in-house cafeteria. At Kapi'olani Medical Center for Women and Children, Italian chef Danilo Giampaolo, who trained in Europe and at the Culinary Institute of America in New York, has been upgrading the menu since his arrival a year ago. And at Pali Momi, patients receive "local-style comfort food" on request: beef stew and Portuguese bean soup being favorites.

At Queen's, the hospital already is seeing results from Siu's daily menu items, with patients sending notes of praise to the kitchen. The change in attitude may help patients get better faster. "If someone's attitude is better," said Dan Jessop, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Queen's, "typically they're going to do better in recovery."

"Many hospitals are going to these nice, attractive foods," said Vivian Coppock, general manager of Sodexho, which manages food service for both Queen's and St. Francis Medical Center, two of 1,500 hospitals they serve around the country.

Often, ill people don't feel like eating, although they need to do so. "Sometimes if things look pretty, you'll take a bite," Coppock said.

One challenge for the hospitals is balancing good taste with good nutrition; at Queen's, Jessop asked Siu to pare down the sugar and fat in his recipes.

"There's a lot of fish, fresh fruit and salads," said Jessop.

Nevertheless, providing enjoyable meals for patients is difficult. Because today's insurance system limits hospital stays to the most ill people, many patients have sluggish or finicky appetites. "And here in Hawai'i it's more challenging because of all the ethnic groups," Coppock said.

As he accepted the new challenge at Queen's, Siu submitted recipes and ideas to the hospital. "They picked and checked for seasoning, and cut back on salt and portion size," he said.

Out went the cream, Siu said. And the butter. And the whole bay leaves, sprouts and soft-boiled eggs. Bay leaves can create a choking hazard and sprouts and soft-boiled eggs have been associated with salmonella outbreaks on the Mainland, said Queen's chief chef Walter Kaneshiro.

Siu has become something of a celebrity around Queen's. On the first Wednesday of every month, he cooks on the line in the employee cafeteria. "When he's cooking you see a line-up out the door," said Jessop.