August 27, 2008 by Benjamin Gardner

A Chef with Patients

All event planners care about the quality of the food they serve their guests, but when the guest list includes hospital VIPs or patients with special dietary needs or restrictions, meeting those special needs can be a challenge – one that I face every day.

Hello, my name is Benjamin Gardner, a certified chef working at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Oklahoma City. My actual employer is Sodexo, a company to which St. Anthony’s, contracts out their food service. The average person probably has never heard of Sodexo, but they are well know in the food service industry, serving institutions in 57 counties and every continent with more than 390,000 employees, including myself!
My first job as a cook was at a restaurant in Chandler, Oklahoma when I was sixteen where I stayed for more than four years. When I decided to get serious about cooking as career, I enrolled at Platt College where I received my associate’s degree in culinary arts and became certified by the American Culinary Federation. I also spent six months as a sous chef at Platt College’s restaurant, which is open to the public and completely run by their culinary arts students.

I had heard about Sodexo from a friend, so after I graduated I applied for a job and was hired as one of their cooks. Among the many advantages the company offers their employees is the opportunity to be transfer anywhere in the world and I’m looking forward to being able to travel while I hone my skills in international cuisine. At St. Anthony’s, I run "the wheel," which means that all food comes through me to ensure that the order is correct before sending on to the tray line for runners to deliver the meals to patients’ rooms. Patients meals include those for regular diets as well as low-sodium versions. Some must be purred and other patients can have nothing on the plate which is uncooked, including a garnish such as parsley. It’s a big responsibility, but one which I enjoy.

At St. Anthony’s we also prepare meals for physicians, VIPs and hospital board members for occasions when cooking takes on more flair. Menu items might include pork tenderloin, stuffed chicken Marsala, strawberry/spinach salad, cordon bleu and even an orange Grand Marnier frozen soufflé for dessert.

In my free time, a fellow Platt graduate and I cater dinners and parties at private homes or venues with cooking facilities. We would be happy to design a very special sit-down meal for you and a few friends, or a selection of hors d’oeuvres, finger food and dessert for up to 35 guests.

Benjamin Gardner, Certified Chef
Sodexo (at St. Anthony’s Hospital)

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