Hospital food, long considered in the mediocre genre that includes airline and school cafeteria fare, is having a coming out party.
Make that going out, as in catering.Although still uncommon, hospitals are catering weddings, picnics and graduation parties. A trend could develop as more hospital kitchens get into the act.
"People are going to want to be sick to come to Bi-County," says Wally Wozniak, assistant director of Food and Services of Bi-County Hospital in the Detroit suburb of Warren.
The menu at Bi-County stays away from the traditional fried chicken and roastbeef.
"We serve different types of chicken, such as champagne chicken, or chicken cacciatore. You can have quiche everyday if you want," Wozniak says. You can also choose buttered egg noodles with parsley instead of mostaccioli pasta.
Five Seattle-area hospitals offer expresso and cappuccino on site. A Bloomington, Ind., hospital has done so well with its bakery that restaurants purchase cookies and cakes from them.
Hospitals in California, Oregon and Illinios plan similar operations, says Jan Shulman of the American Hospital Association in Chicago.
Apparently, even the experts are finding hospital food to their liking.
Northern Dutchess Hospital in Rhinebeck, N.Y. catered a staff picnic for the Calinary institute of America, among the country's most prestigious schools for chefs, Shulman says.
Just as in a restaurant, a hostess at Chicago's Northwestern Memorial Hospital visits all patients after their meals are served to insure the food is satisfactory and the patient received everything that was ordered.
"We have been doing this for over a year and have been pretty successful. Most of our business comes from referrals from past users. We've done weddings, showers, graduation and office parties," says Wozniak, who has a degree in hotel and restaurant management.
Elaine Havern had her wedding catered by the hospiltal.
"The food was excellent. People were asking where it had come from," says Havern, whose previous caterer canceled seven weeks before the wedding.