9: Bistro on the Hill, Fauquier Hospital, Warrenton, Va.
Move over, locavores! Fauquier Hospital’s Bistro on the Hill not only incorporates organic fruits, vegetables, and herbs into their menu, they also grow many of them right on their hospital campus, according to NPR. What they don’t grow, they try to source as locally as possible to ensure freshness. As if that wasn’t awesome enough, each patient’s meals are made to order, rather than being pulled off a food cart randomly. The hospitals philosophy of patient-centered care is one that encourages better eating choices for better health, even after the hospital stay.
Credit: Fauquier Health
8: Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York City
Mount Sinai is no slouch when it comes to luxurious dining options. The New York Times reported: "… William Duffy, the hospital’s director of hospitality, said his favorite entrée was Colorado rack of lamb, adding, 'We pride ourselves on getting anything the patient wants. If they have a craving for lobster tails and we don’t have them on the menu, we’ll go out and get them." We hear lobster is the best medicine… oh wait, that’s laughter! But a decadent lobster may work just as well...
7: New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York City
Pnina Peled, executive chef at Sloan-Kettering, won top honors in 2010 at the Iron Chef-style Big Apple Health Care Culinary Challenge, sponsored by the Healthcare Food Administrators' Association, in a bid to show that hospital food can be more appealing. Peled has received a lot of attention for her ability to whip up creative dishes for the young cancer patients she serves at the hospital. Patients on restricted diets after procedures such as bone marrow transplants have been thrilled to be served dishes like pasta carbonara made with low-fat milk, whole-wheat pasta, and turkey bacon, and black beans and chips styled after Moe’s Southwest Grill.
Credit: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
6: New York-Presbyterian Hospital's Weill Cornell Medical Center, New York City
Through what is known as an "amenities unit," New York-Presbyterian Hospital’s Weill Cornell Medical Center offers wealthy hospital patients the option to upgrade to a stellar penthouse suite complete with a butler, high-thread count sheets, and lavish menus, according to The New York Times. Patients have expressed gratitude for the delicious treats, which include mushroom risotto with tomatoes rather than the "inedible" food from the rest of the hospital.
5: Stanford Hospital, Stanford, Calif.
A dietary assistant at Stanford Hospital in California told us that the facilities' Chef Entrées are "very popular," and with choices like steak, salmon roulette, and vegetable quiche, it's clear why patients are keen to order them. A great option for quick ordering is their Skylight program, according to Foodgal, where patients can order meals directly through their hospital room TVs. Now that's service! Stanford also recently collaborated with cookbook author, restaurateur, and chef Jesse Cool to offer an all-organic menu. In order to promote healthy eating when patients go home, they also have some healthy soup recipes featured on their website. We can't wait to try the Roasted Red Pepper with Goat Cheese... yum!
4: Mercy Hospitals, Various Locations
Mercy has hospital locations in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Oklahoma, which all boast food that would fit right in at a fine dining restaurant. Dishes like roasted chicken breast with sautéed apples and walnuts, spinach-crusted cod, paella, roasted Cajun salmon, and chicken tandoori are offered to patients and visitors alike. They even offer recipes for the above mentioned dishes on their website.
Credit: Mercy Hospitals
3: Huntsman Cancer Institute, Salt Lake City
The Point Restaurant at the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City offers up delicious dishes and spectacular views of Salt Lake City to both patients and the general public. The restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch and serves dishes like sesame seared tuna, orange chicken and coconut shrimp, mahimahi with shallot ginger glaze, and grilled salmon. Those hospital food jokes stop here, comedians!
Credit: Huntsman Cancer Institute
2: Vail Valley Medical Center, Vail, Colo.
Vail Valley Medical Center employees like Amanda Rocha love the environment of the center's Remedies Café. "It's a different environment,” she told Vail Daily. “It feels more like a restaurant and less like a hospital." The menu isn't exactly fine dining, but it's comfort food and that can often be more appealing to patients and employees than stuffy dining rooms and fancy dishes. The chefs come up with comforting meals like tarragon chicken breast with pasta and pesto cream sauce, chicken smothered in tomato sauce and provolone cheese served with a side of green beans and polenta, and there is a salad bar if you choose to go light. Sounds like a great place to recover to us!
1: Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Various Locations
Cancer Treatment Centers of America has locations all around the U.S., and these facilities cater to the taste buds of all of their patients. Carla Hooks, executive sous chef of the Tulsa, Okla., location, has worked in dining services for 21 years. She told us that the most requested dishes from patients in the hospital's fine dining room are the buffalo meatloaf, stuffed tenderloin, and coffee-crusted prime rib. Cancer Treatment Centers of America locations try to source locally, 90 percent of the meat served is organic, and they try to incorporate seasonal fruits and vegetables into the menu options. And the facilities do their best to customize to patients' needs. "If we don't have something on the menu that a patient wants, we'll do whatever it takes to get it for them, including shipping something in for them," said Hooks.
Credit: Cancer Treatment Centers of America
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When faced with the prospect of an extended hospital stay, there's not much worth looking forward to, if anything at all. There are the needles, the shared rooms, the backside-baring gowns (brr!), the sight of things you were hoping not to see, and the general desire to be anywhere but there. And adding insult to injury? The uninspired, seemingly cardboard-derived food.
The Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine published a 2011 study analyzing food served at more than 110 hospitals in all 50 states and determined that many hospitals were serving foods that were "high in fat, cholesterol, calories, sugar, and sodium." Many of these hospitals also have fast-food chains right in the building, like Chick-fil-A and McDonald's, with items such as chicken wings, quesadillas with bacon, country-fried steak, and fried chicken on patients' menus. Although admittedly some of these choices sound more appealing than mushy meatloaf and watery Jell-O, they are certainly not the nutritious, well-rounded meals recovering patients require. While it's great to pique a patient's appetite, there has to be a better way.
But it appears that change is a-comin' for hospitals nationwide. Many are teaming up with nutritionists and classically trained chefs to slim down dishes and revamp menus to include healthier, more appealing options. Some are even classing up their cafeterias so much, patients have to pay extra for it! Whether it's Stanford Hospital's hi-tech ordering system through room TV's, Fauquier Hospital's local organic menu, or the coffee-crusted prime rib at Cancer Treatment Centers of America, it's clear that hospital food has moved on from Jell-O.
Want to see what nine hospitals serve the best food in America? Check out our slideshow above.