Chefs show Alaskans they have heart
On Feb. 21 Glacier BrewHouse chef Scott Hoskinson will lead a free demonstration from 6-7:30 p.m.
Ruth Townsend, director of Alaska Regional’s health management center, asked the restaurant operator to consider leading programs for hospital patients. So far, two programs have been held.
"Our diabetic patients felt like nice restaurants were off limits because they were watching their diet," she said. "We wanted to show them restaurants do not have to be off limits."
Townsend, along with the restaurants’ executive chef Farrokh Larijani and marketing director Marion Hurst, coordinated the sessions. The first cooking demonstration, in November, addressed the nutritional requirements of people with diabetes and featured a seafood stew called cioppino, Townsend said.
January’s session covered healthy eating in general for people who resolved to make eating changes in 2001. The chef prepared halibut for the participants to sample, Townsend said.
For Larijani, the demonstrations are part of the community service his company encourages. He also works with the University of Alaska Anchorage Cuddy Center and the Anchorage School District King Career Center.
The demonstrations also benefit the restaurant since participants could be potential patrons who once considered eating at the restaurant taboo, he said. After the January demonstration, five to six participants made reservations in the dining room, he said.
Larijani reports that he and his staff are learning from the Alaska Regional dietitians.
"No. 1, it opens up your eyes to be more sensitive to guests’ needs," he said.
The chefs also are learning more about food chemistry and the amount of carbohydrates people need, he said.
"For me personally, it’s a lesson for my own diet," Larijani said.
Diners with special diet needs have an advantage at restaurants where food is made to order rather than pre-cooked, Townsend said.
During the demonstrations, Larijani and the chefs have recommended ways to modify menu items to meet the needs of diners who have health concerns, Townsend said. For example, if vegetables are typically sauteed in butter, the chef can steam them instead.
"We get special requests all the time," Larijani said.
The chef encourages diners to carry a laminated index card listing possible food allergies or restrictions. Diners can give the card to the server who can pass it to the chef so he can recommend menu items appropriate to the person’s health condition.
The card can be important for people who are serious about their diet, especially people with diabetes, he said.
Alaska Regional’s Townsend hopes to plan additional cooking demonstrations for this spring. The sessions might take a break for summer since Ristorante Orso and Glacier BrewHouse are typically busy at that time, she said.
According to Townsend, patients have enjoyed the cooking demonstrations. "It’s been a great hit. Everybody loves it."
Sessions are limited to 25 participants. Reservations are required and can be made by calling Townsend at 907-264-1823.