St. Jude Food Services takes unique culinary approach

The Food Services department at St. Jude has the exciting and challenging task of feeding patients who are not always hungry due to illnesses or treatment. Partnering with the hospital’s Clinical Nutrition department, Food Services seeks ways to ensure that patients not only eat, but do so in a healthy manner.

Patients­ can request meals that satisfy their regional or international tastes. If approved by Clinical Nutrition, Executive Chef Miles McMath and his team whip up creations ranging from Cajun gumbo to a Mexican flauta or Memphis-style barbecue.

Since patients aren’t always hungry at the traditional times of day, the department has adopted the growing food preservation method of sous-vide (French for “under vacuum”) to seal in a meal’s taste and freshness. Food is prepared, then vacuum sealed in plastic bags in small portions and frozen. If a patient craves a meal at 3 a.m., a staff member thaws it through steaming and then serves the meal nearly as fresh as when it was prepared.

McMath’s staff welcomes feedback from patients and families to learn what works and what does not. Food Services staff members get to know the faces they feed through activities that allow patients to create parfait treats or make their own pizzas.

Many patients have dietary limitations or have problems tasting some foods. These scenarios bring out the prodigious talents of the hospital’s four executive chefs.

“I love being creative and being challenged as a chef,” McMath says. “It’s easy to make a customer happy by cooking with some really good ingredients, but here at St. Jude, it takes technique more than ingredients to be successful. It involves using all those basic fundamentals that we learned starting out as chefs and applying them to each situation creatively.”

Reprinted from Promise Summer 2012

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