UC Davis Medical Center Kitchen Going Farm-to-Fork

SACRAMENTO -- UC Davis Medical Center began serving farm-to-fork meals to patients this week.

"Having the fresh ingredients, having things in-season, you get the peak flavors out of them. There's no preservative and you get clean labels," said sous-chef Jet Aguirre. "We know what's in it. We actually can pronounce what's in it."

"We are a hospital in Sacramento, which is the farm-to-fork capital," added Sky Baucom-Pro, patient services manager and a registered dietitian at UC Davis Health. "And so that makes it very possible, and almost necessary, to really try to reach out and make partnerships with the local ranchers, the local farmers that are growing all the produce. And try to bring them on as vendors so that we can serve local food for our patients."

The hospital is rolling out the farm-to-fork patient menu items gradually. Different meals are offered on different nights of the week.

The first offering this week was a short rib sandwich made with grass-fed beef.

"It has a local bun with a braised short rib that we cook for about three to four hours, really nice and tender," Aguirre explained. "And then we have our chimichurri sauce that we mix in it and kale slaw with citrus vinaigrette that goes right on top."

Also unveiled for patients this week was a risotto vegan burger with patties that also include mushrooms, roasted red pepper sauce and black bean vinaigrette. The burger is topped with chipotle pickles, Divina tomatoes and arugula with a balsamic reduction.

"They're surprised that it's actually hospital food," Aguirre said of the reaction to the fresh new menu additions.

The farm-to-fork items were the vision of executive chef Santana Diaz, who spearheaded a similar gourmet effort at the Golden 1 Center before joining UC Davis Health. He has also added fresh local ingredients to the menu at the hospital's cafe.

"People from the community may choose to come and eat at UC Davis Health," suggested Baucom-Pro.

"Our team takes a lot of pride in preparing these meals and we're all excited to move forward with more menu options and offerings," Aguirre said.