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Q • The monster cookies at Mercy are out of this world — big as a salad plate, moist and delicious. — Francene Guilfoy, Kirkwood

A • Yesterday’s assembly-line hospital food is a thing of the past, says Donald Grace, executive chef at St. Louis-based Mercy, the country’s seventh-largest Catholic health care system. “We understand that good food is healing,” he says. “If the food doesn’t taste good, patients won’t eat and won’t get well.”

It can’t be forgotten, he says, that Mercy is a Catholic ministry. “Mercy values guide how to do the right thing the right way.”

Three years back, Mercy switched to hotel-like made-to-order room service that offers patient choice without sacrificing kitchen efficiency. It takes special staff and training, he says, to deliver freshly cooked food with the precision of a production line. Grace often sources young talent with good organizational skills and a passion for food through intern programs at local culinary schools L’Ecole Culinaire and Hickey College.

Five years ago, patient, staff and visitors still skewed toward less-healthful food choices. Today, that’s switched: About 60 percent choose more healthful dishes. Incentives help; Mercy employees get a 20 percent discount on healthful dishes.

Mercy baking supervisor Lloyd Allard says that Mercy’s Monster Cookies aren’t that sweet. “They have a wholesome taste, like a health bar or something. They’re good all-occasion cookies.”

Mercy has four locations in St. Louis plus some 46 hospitals in Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma. Monster Cookies are available in the cafeteria and cafés at Mercy Hospital St. Louis near Interstate 64 (Highway 40) and Ballas Road, what many of us still call St. John’s Hospital.

Mercy Hospital St. Louis

615 South New Ballas Road

Special Request is written by Town and Country resident Alanna Kellogg, author of the online recipe column KitchenParade.com and “veggie evangelist” at the food blog about vegetables, A Veggie Venture.

To request a recipe • Would you like to request a recipe from a restaurant that is still open in the St. Louis area? Send your request along with your full name and the city you live in to reciperequest@ post-dispatch.com.

Special Request is written by Town and Country resident Alanna Kellogg, author of the online recipe column KitchenParade.com and “veggie evangelist” at the food blog about vegetables, A Veggie Venture.  

To request a recipe • Would you like to request a recipe from a restaurant that is still open in the St. Louis area? Send your request along with your full name and the city you live in to reciperequest@ post-dispatch.com.