Can you use bone broth to fortify foods for kids, even convince picky eaters to try some greens? The chefs at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital know how. They start with the most wholesome, safe, fresh ingredients possible. Director of Culinary Operations Miles McMath showed me on a behind-the-lines kitchen tour for Flour Sack Mama readers how his staff stores custom soup blends and more. No matter what the unique needs of a St. Jude patient, the culinary staff can probably meet it. They might even perfect a special batch of soup and freeze it until that same patient needs it again.
The Memphis-area treatment center known for helping kids with cancer strives for the best quality in nutrition along with its cutting edge treatments. For a child who feels like eating, that could mean the freshest picks from the hospital’s own organic garden. Kids are invited to build their own custom recipes, from pizza to macaroni and cheese, all with extra veggie power. “We found that telling a kid, ‘hey you’re gonna have broccoli’ probably isn’t the best approach,” said McNath. “We say ‘hey would you like broccoli, would you like cauliflower, would you like cabbage or green beans?’ they’re gonna pick one of those! And that’s what we do is try to let them drive it and as they’re driving it we’re fueling it with the most nutritious food possible.”
For a child without an appetite, Executive Chef Rick Farmer whips up a customized sort of gummy candy, full of concentrated nutrition and created to be as appealing as possible. What looks and tastes like candy is really a masterfully concocted Sour Gem that a kid finds more appetizing than a liquid supplement.
Top chefs catering to the needs of cancer patients are also nourishing a sense of community for everyone who eats at Kay Kafe. Dining has always been innovative, going back to 1962 when St. Jude was the South’s first fully integrated children’s hospital. The welcoming atmosphere is festive with everything from a mixed greens station featuring fresh garden picks to regionally sourced food to fit diverse tastes.
The chefs proudly use local foods in abundance, favoring food grown with organic and sustainable methods. They once turned some 300 pounds of a farmer’s surplus butternut squash into a special soup-of-the-day. The chefs plan or modify menus based on what is in season. “You have to be creative,” shared McMath,”but I hire creative innovative chefs and they’re all in.”
With so much attention devoted to the best nutrition for the children they serve, the staff of executive chefs is also able to please thousands of family members and hospital employees who eat together, as well. “We want to have a cafe with world class food service,” said Farmer!
Added McMath, “Let’s just grow as much food as we can, let’s source the best local food we can, and let’s serve it.”
Tomorrow on FlourSackMama.com, Chef McMath shares some tips with parents on encouraging your kids to eat real food!