The Recipe for Recovery - SBH Health System
Image of Cooking Staff from St. Barnabas Hospital

The smell of freshly baked bread is comforting, warm, and undeniably delicious. To smell freshly baked bread while recovering in your hospital bed – well that’s simply magical.

Thanks to Food and Nutrition Service’s technologically advanced food carts, all meals are served to patients at the perfect temperature – from cold juices to warm roast beef, and of course freshly baked dinner rolls.

This is just one of the many ways that Food and Nutrition Services is transforming the patient experience at SBH. Run more meticulously than a five-star restaurant, the 90-person department serves 650 patient meals, 700 cafeteria meals and 200 sandwiches to ER visitors on a daily basis. This doesn’t include the many events that the department caters for, including monthly baby showers, new hire breakfasts, and the annual Employee Appreciation Day barbecue which is attended by 3000 people.

A typical day in the kitchen begins at 5 am. Cooks work on different food stations, such as starches, meats, and grains. Meanwhile, ambassadors dressed in black slacks and white button-downs travel from unit to unit to take patients’ food orders. Sodexo creates the menus and modifies every recipe for different diets. It is common for restaurants to accommodate allergies and religious dietary restrictions. At SBH, however, the cooks must also take into consideration the patient’s medication history, nutrition needs, care plans, and cultural preferences.

To ensure consistent quality, managers examine test trays throughout the week for proper food temperatures, plating, accuracy and overall taste. “Our priority is to make sure that the patients are taken care of,” says Ingrid Cardona, operations manager. Staff also completes monthly in-service sessions on topics such as proper cooking temperature, how to avoid cross-contamination, and knife skills.

The Food and Nutrition Service staff is a tight-knit group that takes great pride in their work. Nestor Herrera is one of the many talented cooks. Formerly a chef at Park South Hotel in the Gramercy area, he joined SBH 11 years ago seeking a stable work schedule to spend more time with his family. “Nestor has a passion, and he puts it into his food,” says Karen Travali, the department director. “Whenever I taste something from the cafeteria, I can always tell if Nestor made it.”

Always on the lookout for new ways to enhance the SBH experience, the Food and Nutrition Services Department currently conducts patient roundings to receive feedback on the menu. “Everyone needs to eat,” says Travali, “and here we can heal through nutrition.”