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Rex Healthcare Chefs Win Gold Medal at National Hospital Food Competition in Miami

Top Prize Reflects Quality of Cuisine Enjoyed by Rex Patients, Visitors and Co-workers

June 26, 2012

Contact: Alan M. Wolf
(919) 784-4467

RALEIGH, N.C. - A team of Rex Healthcare chefs proved their culinary prowess by taking home the top prize at the Association for Healthcare Foodservice 2012 Culinary Competition, held in Miami.

In winning the gold medal, Rex Executive Chef Ryan Conklin and Rex Food and Nutrition Retail Services Coordinator Tyran Lawson beat chefs from hospitals around the country, including two finalists from the Triangle. The Rex team prepared a Cuban-themed dish: Chicken "Ropa Vieja" with Heirloom Black Barley, Mango Jicama Salad and Plantain Mojo Sauce.

"In the world of hospital cuisine, this is a really big deal," Conklin said. "Our work was validated on a grand stage by world-renowned chefs. The judges said we won hands down with food that you'd expect to see in a trendy restaurant."

The judges included: Norman Van Aken, Chef and Director of Restaurants at the Miami Culinary Institute and James Beard Foundation Winner; Rene Marquis, Executive Chef with the U.S. Army and Military Regional Director with the American Academy of Chefs; and Paula DaSilva, Executive Chef at 1500 Degrees, the only Florida restaurant noted in Esquire's annual magazine feature, "The Best New Restaurants in America 2011."

"Last year we were thrilled when the Rex chefs brought home a silver medal, but they hit a home run this year," said Chad Lefteris, Rex's vice president of Support Services. Another noteworthy aspect of the award is that the Rex team paired Conklin, an experienced chef, with Lawson, a Rex coworker who this time last year had never cooked commercially but completed Rex's Black Hat Chefs Culinary Training Program.

The hospital chefs had 75 minutes to prepare, cook and present the entrée and sides. The dishes had to adhere to stated nutritional guidelines and cost less than $7 to produce. The teams and their dishes were judged on organization, culinary skills, taste and presentation.

Rex continues to gain attention for its efforts to bring healthy, gourmet cuisine to its community and to reinvent the traditional concept of institutional food in the hospital environment. Rex's Black Hat Chefs are in the process of removing all fried food from its menus, making Rex one of the first hospitals in the Southeast to go completely fryer free. Rex recently participated in the first nationwide Whole Grain Sampling Day.

Rex and Jim McGrody, the hospital's director of Culinary and Nutrition Services, also are featured in the July issue of GQ magazine in a story exploring where to find the "tastiest food in the funkiest places."

"We strive to promote healthy choices for our patients, visitors and co-workers and to make Rex a leader in improving hospital food nationwide," McGrody said. McGrody is also the author of What We Feed Our Patients, a book exploring the mission to revamp hospital food.

For more information on food at Rex, visit rexhealth.com/food-services.

About Rex Healthcare

Rex Healthcare, a member of UNC Health Care, is a private, not-for-profit health care system with more than 5,300 co-workers. Rex Healthcare has 660 beds (433 general acute beds and 227 skilled nursing) and treats nearly 34,000 inpatients each year. Rex offers dedicated centers for cancer, surgery, heart and vascular, post-acute rehabilitation and skilled nursing care, wellness and women's care plus dedicated services for bariatric, heartburn, pain management, sleep disorders, diabetes education, wound and emergency care. Rex's medical staff includes more than 1,100 physicians and 1,700 nurses. Rex provides various health care services throughout Wake County with facilities in Apex, Cary, Garner, Holly Springs, Knightdale, Wakefield and downtown Raleigh. Rex was the first hospital in the Triangle to receive Magnet Recognition, placing Rex nurses among the top 6 percent in the nation. Rex was named one of the top 100 Best Places to Work in Healthcare by Modern Healthcare magazine in 2008, 2009 and 2011, and was highlighted as one of the Top 50 Hospitals in the U.S. by Becker's Hospital Review in 2011.