Before culinary school, I spent roughly 2 years working as a pantry cook in the kitchen of The Arden House in Harriman, New York. In this role, I worked with cold salad preparation dressings, sandwiches, shrimp cocktail and fruit platters just to name a few. Every day for lunch, I had three fresh prepared salads that I needed to have ready for our salad bar at 10:45 am. They were to be freshly made, and artfully presented. Nothing was “store-bought,” it was all made from scratch. So in a way it was a good thing as I learned how to make bleu cheese dressing, gazpacho, cocktail, sauce, and hummus just to name a few. Freshly whipped cream, and handmade cold canapes were also part of my daiily repertoire. I was a salad chef, and proud of it.
Fast forward now nearly 16 years, and I’m an executive chef in healthcare, and I’m excited that my salad team is doing the same as I once did. The “salad girls” as we call them here have come a long way, and have a crucial role in our food programs success. Here they are, getting ready for battle…
Let me share a little more about the cold side of our operation. Our market style salad bar is a very popular spot in the Courtyard Cafe. Our team spends time crafting composed salads, with and emphasis on freshness. Daily, you will see a large variety of whole grain salads, freshly cut fruit with berries, marinated vegetables and a variety of green salads. You will also see salads with edamame, legumes, and a variety exotic rices and grains. Recently, we’ve even started to make our own pickles and giardiniera vegetables. Right from the start, we knew that if we were going to change our salad bar from the “Institutional Style” to more of a “Market Style” concept, our customers needed to be educated on many of the new ingredients. That was done with numerous samplings and tastings to help win our customers over and turn them on to something new. Now, items that were once foreign have quickly become signature staples in our operation. The “salad girls” are making it happen.
Here are some pictures of our salad bar today, as we are featuring Tropical Black Barley, Southern Style Black Eyed Peas, Chesapeake Style Seafood with Baby Shrimp , and Tuscan Style Pasta with freshly made Arugula Pesto & Olives
Additionally at Mezza Luna (pictured below)- which is our made to order salad market, you can choose from a one of our chef crafted salads, or build your own by choosing from over 40 fresh ingredients. The best part is, you can watch it prepared and tossed right in front of your eyes.
So Basically what I’m trying to say is… never neglect the cold side of your operation. Often the focus is so strong about entrees and sides, that the opportunities to delight are frequently missed when you settle for pre-made salads, and items that don’t focus on freshness. In my world, with the help of the “salad girls” we are able to bring the wow factor to places that have been neglected in the past.
Special thanks to Jim McGrody, who can be seen frequently throughout the kitchen these days with his camera in hand, capturing the spirit of what we do, which is making “hospital food” better.