Whether it's to have a baby or a planned medical procedure, or an unexpected emergency arises, at some point you may find yourself in a hospital. While the reasons differ, there's one constant among patients: They all eat.
"They may not be here under the best of circumstances, but the one thing patients can look forward to or feel good about is their meals," says Jeff Leidy, Sharp Grossmont Hospital's new executive chef of Food and Nutrition Services. "Food makes you feel more at home and provides a level of comfort. It's good for the soul."
Hospital food has evolved for the better in recent years — and taste, quality and presentation matter. To make it happen, Chef Leidy oversees a culinary team of 25, plus three chefs who prepare an average of 1,200 patient meals daily and serve another 1,100 visitors and employees in the hospital's cafe.
He has 30 years of experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry and is highly skilled at creating tasty menus for large, hard-to-please crowds. During his career, he's been the general manager or executive chef at some of the nation's top venues and companies, including the Spokane Convention Center, Sports Arena and Performing Arts Center; the Los Angeles Convention Center (Levy Restaurants); the San Diego Convention Center; Qualcomm Stadium and the San Diego Chargers; and Kyocera Wireless in La Jolla, where he served as the executive and regional chef. He graduated with honors from the California Culinary Academy, San Francisco.
Chef Leidy made the leap from hospitality to health care and says, "Working in a hospital is rewarding, but also challenging and intriguing. Cuisine can be just as creative and flavorful in a health care setting as a fine restaurant, and our goal is to transform meal experiences from bland to grand."
Here's more on Chef Leidy's recipe for success:
Do you feel food plays a role in the healing process?
Food is a critical part of our well-being, nourishment and mental health; it provides us comfort and peace of mind. In many ways, food is the best medicine because eating right keeps us healthy and assists us in fighting and preventing all types of illnesses.
What challenges do you face when creating menus for people with health conditions?
One of the big challenges is taking traditional recipes I've cooked for years and finding new ways to prepare them given dietary restrictions — for example, low sodium, gluten free, caloric intake or heart healthy — and still have them taste good and be satisfying.
Why did you want to work for Sharp?
I've used Sharp health services over the years and always felt they provided the highest level of care — in fact two of my children were born at Sharp Mary Birch.
What's your go-to meal at home?
I recently bought a wood-fired pizza oven and have been perfecting my pizza dough recipe. I like the Neapolitan-style pizza with San Marzano tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. I also love canning and making homemade jams. My last jam was a fresh huckleberry jam from Washington.
For the news media: To talk with executive chef Jeff Leidy about healthful food for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at email@example.com.