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Weil adds healthy options to UA hospital menu

Dr. Andrew Weil has yet to open one of his True Food Kitchen restaurants in Tucson, but the Arizona Daily Star reports his dishes will now be available at a venue previously unknown for culinary prowess — the hospital.

Weil, a Tucson author and nationally recognized founder of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, is lending both his name and recipes to the UA Medical Center’s inpatient menu.

Patients staying overnight at the academic medical center, which has two local campuses, will now be able to select healthy gourmet items developed by Weil, such as curried cauliflower soup, Tuscan kale salad and wild salmon with miso, lime and ginger glaze.

The change continues a trend of improving hospital food both locally and nationally away from the stereotype of bland, overcooked meals. In 2006, the UA Medical Center began offering a “room service” menu to patients that includes items like make-your-own omelet, breakfast burrito, pasta or sandwich, among others.

On a national level, more hospitals are employing their own chefs and expanding offerings from standard hospital meatloaf and gelatin desserts.

“As baby boomers have started to age and our customer base has become more demanding, the quality of food has gone up,” said Eric Eisenberg, corporate executive chef at Swedish Health Services, which includes five hospitals in the Seattle area.

“That is really a movement over the last 10 years. People have gone from a clinically focused operation to one that is way more balanced with food quality.”

Eisenberg, a certified executive chef, is part of the national Association for Healthcare Foodservice, which holds Iron Chef-style culinary competitions.

The baby boomers aren’t the only impetus for improving hospital food. There’s a financial incentive, too. As a result of the Affordable Care Act, Medicare reimbursements are based in part on patient satisfaction.

In October, the UA Medical Center added Julie Kennedy Oehlert as the hospital’s new vice president of patient experience.

Kennedy Oehlert, who is a registered nurse, acknowledged that she “stalked” Weil by attending one of his cooking classes, though she isn’t terribly interested in cooking herself.

She attended the class with the UA Medical Center’s food and nutrition services director, Susan Bristol, for the express purpose of persuading Weil to work with the hospital.

“Dr. Weil is a name people know,” Bristol said. “People are more willing to try new foods when it’s a name they recognize.”

The recipes are from Weil’s 2012 cookbook, “True Food: Seasonal, Sustainable, Simple, Pure,” which he co-wrote with business partner and restaurateur Sam Fox and executive chef Michael Stebner. Fox, Stebner and Weil have opened two True Food Kitchens in Phoenix and want to open another restaurant site in Tucson.

Weil focuses on foods that are anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory, since he says so many serious illnesses are a result of chronic inflammation.

Kennedy Oehlert and Bristol didn’t need to worry about persuading Weil. He was an easy sell. As it turns out, he had approached the hospital about adding healthier food choices a decade ago and said he was stonewalled.

Though the collaboration with the UA Medical Center marks his first time teaming up with a medical facility for a food project, Weil’s interest in improving hospital meals goes back to when he was a fourth-year medical student on hospital rotation and the dining options were typically salty crackers, peanut butter and soda from the vending machine.

“I was amazed and delighted,” Weil said of Kennedy Oehlert’s idea to collaborate.

On March 5, dietetic interns at the UA Medical Center presented several of Weil’s recipes for the hospital cafeteria’s lunch menu. The theme was “Prescribing a Healthier You,” and the event drew thousands of staff members and visitors.

On Tuesday, Weil tasted some of the recipes that had been prepared by the hospital staff and did a cooking demonstration of his Tuscan kale salad, which includes chili flakes, sea salt, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and bread crumbs.

He also offered Kennedy Oehlert some tips, like removing imitation crab from the cafeteria’s sushi offerings because it is not a healthful ingredient.

The hospital staff tasted items such as Weil’s gluten-free pasta with kale pesto and turkey bolognese with shiitake mushrooms. Executive Chef Steve Martin said Weil offered advice on some of the flavoring, which is sometimes harder to exact when recipes are multiplied for larger volumes.

The hospital plans on adding Weil’s items in the near future, with special inserts in the existing patient menus. The Weil items are options only. Patients can still order more traditional hospital items.

“There will always be red Jell-O at the hospital. There’s a clinical need for it,” Swedish Health’s Eisenberg said. “People who are on clear liquid diets, you’ve got to give them something to chew on. To say we are going to abolish Jell-O isn’t really serving your client base.”


Fox Enters Juice Market with Launch of Juby True

Fox Restaurant Concepts has expanded its presence in the thriving health-conscious restaurant market with the opening of Juby True, which stands for “Juice by True,” a juice bar poised to become a multi-unit concept by the end of 2014.

FRC, which has 40 restaurants under 13 brands in six states, opened Juby True in October as an extension to the restaurant group’s Scottsdale, Ariz. location of True Food Kitchen. The globally influenced restaurant debuted in Phoenix in 2008 and was developed in partnership with world-renowned leader in integrative medicine and best-selling author, Dr. Andrew Weil. It has since expanded into California, Colorado and Texas and has plans to open locations in Georgia, Virginia and Massachusetts.  New units of Juby True will be both stand alone locations and extensions of True Food Kitchen locations.

The launch of the walk-up juice bar is in response to the increasing demand for more healthful food options, said Sam Fox, CEO and founder of Fox Restaurant Concepts, based in Phoenix.

“When we first opened True Food Kitchen, we recognized the need for restaurants that offer nutritious food that also tastes good,” Fox said. “We instilled the same philosophy in Juby True, but this time in a portable, convenient cup.”

National Restaurant Association studies confirm the increasing interest in health and nutrition among today’s restaurant guests. In fact, 71 percent of adults said they are trying to eat healthier at restaurants than they did two years ago.

Juby True serves cold-pressed juices for $9, made in house and bottled for on-the-go convenience. The menu also features protein blends and smoothies for $8, water-based “hydrators” for $7, “juice boosts” for $4, coffees and teas ranging from $2-$6, and a variety of gluten-free, vegan and paleo-friendly snacks priced between $3 and $4. Additionally Juby True offers one- and two-day cleanse packages for $50 and $99, respectively.

Fruits and vegetables are sourced from local and regional organic farms in relation to “The Dirty Dozen” list. The foundation of Juby True was built with strong influences from True Food Kitchen’s anti-inflammatory philosophy.

True Food Kitchen Offers Simple, Delicious Meals

True Food Kitchen Offers Simple, Delicious Meals Emphasizing Local And Regionally Sourced Ingredients

Fresh local and regionally sourced food is always a score. Make it delicious and you’ve got a winner.

True Food Kitchen accomplishes just that.

The brainchild of best-selling author Dr. Andrew Weil and Fox Restaurant Concepts, True Food Kitchen was first introduced to the Valley two years ago at the Biltmore Fashion Park. Now, the Scottsdale Quarter has gained a tasty addition to its restaurant repertoire.

The menu at True Food Kitchen is unlike those at typical restaurants. Locally and regionally sourced ingredients create a simple but satisfying menu. Helpful guidelines in the menu allow patrons who are vegan, vegetarian or prefer gluten free to quickly choose their meal.

The new location also has other sustainable elements that add to the restaurant’s “green” vibe. It is partially powered by solar panels and has an herb garden adjacent to the restaurant that is utilized for many of the restaurant’s dishes. It also features high efficiency kitchen equipment, waterless urinals (saving 40,000 gallons of water a year), reclaimed wood floors, compostable take out containers, low voltage LED lighting and much, much more.

One of the neatest green factors I enjoyed is the reusable wine bottles, including a Chardonnay from a local winery in Flagstaff, Kind Vines. The bottles have painted labels and glass corks and are returned to the distributor to be washed, sanitized and reused. A real throwback to the old school milkman days.

Of course, the sustainable theme is felt throughout the restaurant’s décor with elements of nature visible in the fragrant herbs, potted plants and flowers dotting the interior and exterior.

But enough about the green stuff, let’s get to the food. The cuisine at True Food tastes different right away, but only in the best way possible. Every flavor, texture, and aroma is enhanced — you can simply taste the freshness in each bite. We began our meal with shrimp dumplings, comprised of shiitake mushrooms, brocolli, kale, ginger and cilantro – that packed just the right amount of punch.

Then we moved on to some entrees: Chicken Sausage Pizza topped with tomato, fennel and fontina as well as the Teriyaki Rice Bowl, made up of Asian vegetables, sesame, avocado and shrimp. The pizza was made with organic flour, spelt and flax seed and you can almost trick yourself into thinking it was as healthy as pure veggies.  But indeed, the normal greasy, pit-of-the-stomach feeling you get after eating pizza? Gone! These slices tasted fresh and invigorating, a testament to the quality of the ingredients.

The rice bowl was also a hit. Diners have a choice between pairing the dish with tofu, chicken or shrimp. I chose the shrimp option and was also blown away with the result. Just like the pizza, the rice bowl left me feeling satisfied but not stuffed. Each ingredient had its own unique flavor that harmonized perfectly together.

To top it off, we selected a flourless chocolate cake, made with 72 percent cocoa and topped with vanilla ice cream and caramel. The decadent treat was so good, we didn’t even miss the flour.

For an appetizing and healthy meal, True Food Kitchen is a fantastic choice for the health-conscious foodie with a hearty appetite.

If You Go:

Scottsdale Quarter
15191 N. Scottsdale Rd., Ste 100
Scottsdale, AZ 85254