CHULA VISTA, Calif. —
When you're in the mood for a nice meal, a hospital probably isn't your first choice. In this Zevely Zone, I visited Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center where they're trying to give hospital food a good name.
Executive Chef Justin Searle doesn't like to boast, but he's learned his craft from high powered kitchens at Loews Coronado, the Hard Rock Hotel, and Four Seasons in New York. "Yeah, I've been around the block a little bit," said Chef Justin.
When it comes to cooking food, Justin likes to raise the bar. "I try to elevate things a bit, yes, definitely," said Chef Justin. How else can you explain Herb Roasted Chicken with Sundried Tomato Jam & Cannellini Bean Ragout, Flank Steak served with Chimichurri Sauce and Fingerling Potatoes and Chicken Adobo all served in a hospital?
"Honestly, the flank steak sells like crazy," said Chef Justin.
Sharp Chula Vista created a menu makeover after hiring Sodexo experts who studied the healthiest regions of the world where people live beyond a hundred years old. They found the common ingredient in those foods were putting fresh ingredients on every plate.
I sat down for lunch with an ocean view, seven stories high at Chica's Cafe with Dr. Samer Khodor. The Chief Medical Officer at Sharp Chula Vista can remember bad hospital food dating all the way back to his medical school days. "You know fried chicken and french fries and hamburgers and that's fine occasionally but there are really no other choices," said Dr. Khodor.
There are now. Kattie Gregory, General Manager of Food and Nutrition dug into Chef Justin's Chicken Adobo. "I learn something new from him every day it feels like," said Kattie.
The hospital's Ocean View Tower has been mostly unoccupied since it opened in 2020.
The staff is so proud of their food, they hope that once the pandemic fades away the community will dine at their hospital. "That is exactly our attention," said Kattie. "I would say so, but we are confident in saying that and offering that to the community," said Kattie.
Bold just replaced boring and bland. You may like the prices too. The flank steak sells for $8.99. "It's a steal," said Kattie.
As for Chef Justin, he has no plans of going back to the Four Seasons. "No, I'm really happy here. It's been a great company."
For dessert we ate Coconut Chia pudding with mango. "We can't keep enough of it," said Kattie. "I love this one, we are very spoiled here," said Dr. Khodor. "Let's do one more course and film it just to make sure."
If you'd like more information about Chica's Cafe at Sharp Chula Vista click here.
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