Mihaela Iosif rinses, peels and chops a basketful of bright and cheerfully orange sweet potatoes in preparation for dinner.
She pauses, turns and pulls out the turkey roasting in the oven behind her and tests the temperature.
Like any good cook, Iosif handles her ingredients with care and takes pride in her food. Her kitchen is organized and sparkling clean.
Tonight, as usual, she will be serving a hot meal to about 35 people — some ill, some recovering, all resting in hospital beds on the floors above her kitchen.
Iosif is the dinner cook for Sutter Davis Hospital. She has provided nourishment to the patients at the hospital for the past 11 years. She has one assistant who helps assemble the food trays and, if it gets really busy, her boss Josue Montalban, the hospital’s food services manager and chef, pitches in.
Perhaps surprisingly, the food is made from fresh ingredients. Dinner preparation begins in the afternoon, usually around 4 p.m.
On tonight’s menu: Oven-roasted turkey and gravy with stuffing and mashed sweet potatoes. Special dietary requests are welcomed.
Montalban is in charge of making sure the fridge and pantry are stocked with everything his staff needs to make delicious, nutritious meals. About two years ago, he says, hospitals in the Sutter Health system throughout Northern California decided to move toward serving fresher, healthier and more flavorful foods.
To add to that list of good things, Sutter Davis Hospital soon may be using more local, seasonal ingredients as well — he says the hospital is working on launching a mini-Davis Farmers Market on campus this summer.
Having that kind of partnership not only would make healthy foods more accessible to hospital staff and visitors, but also would make it easier for the kitchen to serve ingredients that support local farmers, he says.
In addition to patient meals, which are prepared three times a day, the kitchen also cooks for the cafeteria using the same fresh-food philosophy.
Montalban plans all the hospital’s meals using a computer program that calculates nutritional information based on recipes entered into its database. One of his kitchen staffers brought in a family recipe for delicious enchilada soup that is now shared across the Sutter Health hospitals in the region, he says.
Weekly menus and nutritional information are posted in the cafeteria and on the hospital’s website.
But how good can hospital food really be?
“We have patients that after they get out of the hospital, they come back for our food in the cafeteria,” Iosif says, her face beaming under her hairnet.
— Reach Crystal Lee at email@example.com or (530) 747-8057.