A Michelin-starred chef who has cooked for royalty and at the wedding of Donald Trump and second wife Marla Maples is stirring up a plan to make hospital food restaurant-worthy.
Northwell Health, the New Hyde Park-based health care system, recently hired Bruno Tison to overhaul the dining experience for patients and more than 60,000 staff at 22 hospitals statewide from Riverhead to Syracuse. His mission: to teach Northwell’s army of cooks to be better chefs.
The French-born Tison, 58, spent 14 years running the kitchen at the tony Plaza Hotel in Manhattan before moving to California wine country, where he was awarded a Michelin star each year from 2009 to 2011 at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa resort for his farm-to-table, French-influenced fare.
At Northwell, though, there will be no foie gras two ways, Cabernet braised beef poutine or chestnut souffle. Instead, Tison will work to cook healthier, restaurant-quality meals without raising costs, while making kitchen staff accountable for the food they serve, Northwell officials said.
On Tuesday, Tison was at Long Island Jewish Valley Stream, teaching cooks to make soup from scratch instead of using powders, cans and frozen ingredients. Since he was hired in October, Tison said he has removed deep fryers from all kitchens. French fries are now baked. He has reduced canned and frozen ingredients by 80 percent and plans to ban sales of sugary beverages.
“I want restaurant-quality food in the hospital industry,” he said. “That’s my vision and my duty.” He added:
Tison, 58, began considering a change after receiving a visit from a former colleague at the Plaza Hotel who had made the jump to Northwell. After 40 years working in fine dining, Tison decided to make the switch. “It’s a very, very competitive and selfish industry,” he said of his former life. “I decided I want to cook for people who truly need better food,” Tison said.
Tison and company officials declined to disclose his salary. He serves as the assistant vice president for food services and the corporate executive chef, and has direct or indirect oversight over every food and nutrition employee in the health system.
Hiring Tison is part of a larger plan at Northwell to overhaul the dining experience, which has received failing grades in surveys, said Sven Gierlinger, the company’s chief experience officer. He said the company hopes to fill open positions with top restaurant chefs and woo culinary school students to hospitals instead of restaurants, hotels and resorts.
Gierlinger, who has a background in the hotel industry, was himself hired three years ago for a newly created position to focus on patient experience and satisfaction in hospitals. He said he was “embarrassed” to find basics like coffee being served pre-made and reheated instead of freshly brewed.
The move to look for someone like Tison, a chef with fine dining training, and skills in procurement and purchasing for multiple kitchens, began a year ago, Gierlinger said.
“We can say we are going to do fresh food, but if you don’t have the skills in the kitchen, then you are not going to be successful,” he said. “[Tison] brings an outside perspective. He can bring the pride of culinary excellence to hospital food.”