In Vegetarian-Meal Throwdown, Hospital Chefs Square Off

Competition included chefs from 12 North Shore-LIJ hospitals.

Credit: North Shore-LIJ Health System
Credit: North Shore-LIJ Health System

Hospital chefs from Glen Cove Hospital took the top  prize for creating the best vegetarian cuisine at North Shore-LIJ's Third Annual Ultimate Chef Challenge, held recently  at Glen Cove Hospital.

When chefs from 12 other health system facilities were tasked with showcasing a meatless entrée, Chefs Lyndon Espiritu and Dalton Christopher wowed the judges, beating out their competition, with the entrée, “Seitan Polenta Croquette, Spicy Pesto Sauce with Zucchini Radicchio Salad and Melon Shooter.”

“Our dish was totally different – it looks and tastes great and is nutritious,” Dalton said.   

“This year was our redemption and we were thinking out of the box, dealing with vegetarians,” Lyndon said. "It feels great to win on our home turf. ”

Earning second place at the challenge was Forest Hills Hospital with tempeh-stuffed eggplant with carrot puree and blackberry coulis. Huntington Hospital took third place with raspberry tofu blintzes.

The throwdown coincided  with National Nutrition Month in March, when hospital culinary teams from Queens, Long Island, Manhattan and Staten Island squared off in the hospital’s Pratt Auditorium, which was transformed into a giant kitchen equipped with stove top burners, a pantry and a colorful abundant farmers’ market.

“The cooking competition shows that hospital chefs can serve up gourmet restaurant-quality vegetarian meals, but without the high fat, calories or sodium,” said Michael Kiley, the event’s organizer  and director of nutrition and dining services at North Shore University Hospital.  

Each team had between 45 minutes and an hour to create a delicious, attractive and nutritious meal centered around a “surprise” plant-based protein of either seitan (wheat gluten), tempeh (fermented soybeans), tofu (bean curd) or chick peas. Chefs were paired with a registered dietician from a North Shore-LIJ hospital to ensure that each dish contained equal or less than 500 calories, 15 grams and 600 milligrams of sodium.

All entrees and side dishes prepared during the competition were rated by judges for taste, nutrition, originality and presentation. Judges this year included Jennifer Mieres, MD, a cardiologist and the health system’s senior vice president for community and public health; Robert Graham, MD, of Lenox Hill Hospital who is certified in complementary and integrated medical therapies, and Todd Daigneanult, executive chef at Overlook Medical Center of Atlantic Healthcare Systems in New Jersey.

“As a health system, it’s important that we empower people to lead a healthy life, promote plant-based diets and encourage more different colored foods on the plate,”  Mieres said.  

“North Shore-LIJ is committed to health and wellness and nutrition is a key component of that,” he added. “Good nutrition also puts us on a journey for strong heart health.”

“There is a food revolution in the health system and the United States,” Graham said.  “Food brings us together and we are leading a change in healthy eating across the health system.”

To view a video of the Ultimate Chef Healthy Entrée Challenge: click here.
MK Smith March 21, 2014 at 07:56 AM
No salt and pureed, of course. Jello too.
John Peters March 21, 2014 at 02:21 PM
Glen Cove & Forest hills are too far away. We'll stick with Huntington!


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