By: Lily Sheridan
Like the song was for the Beatles, my strawberry field (salads) served at St. Agnes Hospital were a big success. I gained valuable experience planning and executing a special hospital cafeteria meal, and the staff and visitors to St. Agnes Hospital’s cafeteria enjoyed a delicious meal. As a dietetic intern at St. Agnes, I had the opportunity to make a meal and serve it to the staff and visitors of the hospital. As part of my food service rotation, my partner and I decided to make a strawberry field salad with salmon since it was previously offered and very successful. We served the meal mid-September. We thought a salad with strawberries was a perfect way to end the summer season.
We met with the retail food manager and estimated approximately 60 customers would come to our station during the lunch hours. The idea of producing 60 portions of a salad with salmon was very intimidating at first! Breaking the assignment into steps and collaborating with kitchen members made the production much more manageable. I learned that there is a lot that happens behind the scenes of service. For the first step, the executive chef shared with us the recipe database so we could find the recipe. We modified the original salad recipe because we wanted to incorporate salmon instead of chicken. Next, we ordered the ingredients to accommodate the number of people we were anticipating serving. The produce was delivered on a separate day from all other goods, so we had to be strategic in delivery dates to ensure the products would arrive on time. We ordered enough to serve 60 portions and have spare in case more was needed. Additionally, we had the delivery date two days prior to service, so there would be time to order more ingredients if there was a problem with the delivery.
The majority of food preparations took place the day prior to service. This included washing and cutting the strawberries and onion, portioning the mushrooms, pecans, bleu cheese and feta cheese, as well washing and portioning the spring mix. We also made a raspberry balsamic vinaigrette from scratch to serve with the salad. The salmon and bacon were prepared the day we served our meal. We spent a few hours in the morning getting all the salad ingredients finalized and set on display for service. The station would be open for the lunch hours of the hospital. My partner and I successfully served around 60 portions of this salad.
Creating this dish to share with the staff and visitors of St. Agnes Hospital was a rewarding and educational experience. There was a lot of planning and labor that occured behind the scenes. Additionally, the quantity we needed to have available was a new challenge in the kitchen I had not faced. Seeing the satisfaction of the customers after they ate the dish made it all worth it! We had a survey available and received feedback from customers that they enjoyed this dish and wanted to see it again. However, since this salad was priced a bit higher than other meals in the cafeteria, it was important there was a special appeal to it. The salad was priced higher to cover the food cost to make it with some additional profit for the food service company. According to the recipe database, the recipe cost about $6.00 to make, this is largely because it is served with salmon. The food retail manager taught us to use that price to determine the selling point for the salad at $9.99, so there was some profit but it was still affordable. He mentioned that this recipe was unique because it is rarely served, so customers may want to take advantage of the opportunity. To keep that interest, the manager explained that the strawberry field salads should not routinely be on the menu, but rather offered as a special every once in a while. This experience has taught me about the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes of food service production.