ThedaCare Initiates New, Fresh Approach to Cafeteria Dining

ThedaCare Initiates New, Fresh Approach to Cafeteria Dining

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Chef Larry London Introduces Fresh Foods, Healthy Cooking Techniques

September 16, 2010--The days of canned fruit and frozen vegetables are numbered. With a series of big changes that will culminate this winter, ThedaCare is implementing the area’s most detailed new nutrition program and pioneering a fresh approach to preparing and enjoying food in its cafeterias.

With the help of Executive Chef Larry London, Appleton Medical Center (AMC) and Theda Clark Medical Center cafeterias will introduce patients, staff and guests to healthy new menus this fall. The first upgrades rolled out in August and features healthy foods that are full of flavor. Coinciding with new menus, ThedaCare is also implementing a detailed new nutrition program based around color-coding cafeteria foods as “green,” “yellow” or “red” options, with a goal of having 70 percent of meal choices be “green” in the next year.

“ThedaCare’s mission is to improve the health of the community, and that includes our employees and guests in the cafeterias,” said Janet Peiffer, manager of dining and patient room services with ThedaCare. “We have heard comments from people saying nobody else is doing this, and we are ahead of the curve. But healthcare is 70 percent lifestyle and the food we eat, so it only makes sense that we do this.”

The biggest cafeteria changes are using fresh vegetables instead of canned or frozen, introducing new items like eggplant and barley pilaf for sampling at its onsite innovation stations, learning healthy ways to prepare foods, and doing more cooking from scratch. Chef London said developing a more health-conscious cafeteria experience has meant going back to the basics — and teaching employees how to really cook.

London, who opened Green Bay Mediterranean restaurant Big Tomatoes in 2005, came to ThedaCare in May to teach staff about cooking from scratch and to arm them with the culinary skills they will need to make fresh food taste good.

“The biggest thing is to take a staff that hasn’t been ‘cooking’ for a long time and ignite that passion and fire back into people,” London said. “It’s a little harder to actually cook and prepare fresh products.”

In prelude to planning new menus for AMC and Theda Clark, London worked with ThedaCare’s wellness committee to evaluate recipes and create parameters that answer the question: “what is healthy?”

Already, the cafeterias have stopped serving bacon, donuts and super-sized meals and drinks. They are slowing phasing out foods high in sodium, fat and cholesterol and steering toward products that are free of hormones and antibiotics. New menus will make use of fresh vegetables and incorporate whole grains in foods like French toast, buttermilk pancakes and pasta. Menus will also feature ethnic dishes from around the world.

“The food is alive again,” London said. “When you come into the cafeteria you’re going to look at the food and see a lot of bright, vibrant fresh colors — which means there is a lot of fresh produce and it’s been properly cooked.”

Peiffer said the goal is to make a transition to completely new menu cycles by February 2011.

“If we’re doing our jobs as cooks no one will notice the transition, because the food is good,” London said. “The fact that it’s good for you is almost secondary.”

ThedaCare ( is a community-owned health system consisting of Appleton Medical Center, Theda Clark Medical Center, New London Family Medical Center, Riverside Medical Center in Waupaca, ThedaCare Physicians, and other health care services. ThedaCare is the largest employer in Northeast Wisconsin with nearly 5,400 employees. For the latest health news and updates, follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter.

For more information, media may contact Megan Wilcox ([email protected]), APR, corporate and public relations specialist for ThedaCare, at (920) 830-5847.