Q: I had a delicious "loaded potato" soup at the Lakeside Cafeteria at St. Luke's Hospital and would love to have the recipe.
— Marilyn Fletcher, Ballwin
A: Until three years ago, cooks at St. Luke's Hospital prepared food in large quantities for the 2,000 patients, staff, visitors and Meals on Wheels customers they feed each day. But in 2009, the hospital overhauled the kitchen for "batch cooking," said Susanne Puckett, director of Food & Nutrition Services. Patients now order from a menu and their food is cooked to order, like room service in a hotel.
"Patients expect more now, they want healthier food," she said.
St. Luke's made a large capital investment to retool the kitchen, including installing gas appliances. The department's retail and production manager, Mark Novy, trained the hospital's cooks how to cook to order and began hiring cooks with restaurant and country club experience.
The typical loaded potato soup recipe would call for baked potato toppings such as sour cream, cheddar cheese and lots of bacon. St. Luke's soup, Puckett said, "tastes loaded" but isn't. For example, the potatoes and onions are steamed so that the potatoes hold their shape and absorb a little onion flavor.
Special Request is written by Kirkwood resident Alanna Kellogg, author of the online recipe column KitchenParade.com and "veggie evangelist" at the food blog about vegetables, A Veggie Venture.