Considering the reputation that hospital food has, people might be surprised a hospital has a chef in the kitchen. The executive chef at Doctors Hospital not only is a regional winner but also will compete this summer for a national title.
Greg Mueller recently received the American Culinary Foundation Southeast Region Chef Professionalism award. He will compete against three other regional winners for the national award at a convention in July. Unlike some previous awards he has garnered for cooking competitions, this was based more on community service and his willingness to educate his staffers and others and give back to the profession, he said.
“It’s how you are every day,” Mueller said. “It’s how you represent the uniform. Are you training, educating your staff? Are you trying to grow the profession? Are you trying to take some time out for those who want to learn the profession and show what you’ve learned over the years?”
After nine years as executive chef at Green Boundary Club in Aiken, Mueller went to the hospital about a year ago and said he still tries to provide a high level of food quality.
“I think the misconception is hospital food is hospital food. But it’s not institutional at all,” he said. “I think I kind of bring a little bit of the country club to the hospital.”
There is now a need to provide good nutrition in addition to good taste.
“Food heals your body just like medicine does,” Mueller said. “We provide a lot of that care by food.”
For instance, using fresh ingredients such as local produce almost exclusively can accomplish both goals.
“I’m a big fan of fresh vegetables,” Mueller said “They’re crisp, they’re clean, they’re vibrant flavors.”
A lot of healthful items – roasted fish and chicken, for instance – sell well. Then again, this is the South, and the favorite is still the occasionalfried chicken, Mueller said.
“When we do fried chicken, it’s just crazy,” he said. He gives a lot of the credit to his staffers, some of whom have been in that kitchen almost 40 years.
“They’re just great cooks,” Mueller said. “They put their love in the food, and it really shows.”
Making good food convenient to everyone in the hospital is the key, he said.
“Not only is patient satisfaction higher but employee morale is higher,” Mueller said. “People can actually enjoy their lunch break.”