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Hospital food fresh, local and made from scratch
Fare to come from area farmers
Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton Chef Dontaze Armstead prepares sweet potatoes inside the kitchen of the new hospital.

Braselton hospital’s Cafe 1400

Breakfast hours: 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Lunch and dinner hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Coverage of the opening of the Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton

Imagine leisurely waking up after a good night’s sleep. As the sun begins to pour through the window, you pick up an in-room menu and, with the click of a button, place an order for some scrambled eggs and bacon ...  and add a blueberry muffin for good measure.

Once your meal is delivered to your room, you realize the eggs and bacon are fresh and piping hot. The blueberry muffin is made from scratch, using fresh blueberries.

This isn’t a vacation. This is a regular meal at Northeast Georgia Medical Center’s new Braselton campus. And it’s a little bit different from the plastic-looking (and sometimes plastic-tasting) hospital food that seems to be the cliche in TV shows and movies.

“All of our patient food will be cooked to order, like a restaurant,” said Chris Garrand, regional executive chef for Northeast Georgia Health System. “Up on the floors, they’ll take orders with an iPad and those orders will come right down to our monitors and print out a ticket. We’ll start making food. From the time you order to the time we serve, it’s about 35 or 40 minutes.”

The menu revolves around fresh, locally sourced ingredients to create a healthier meal for patients, guests and hospital staff. From the croissants to the molasses cookies, from the chicken noodle soup to the flatbread pizza cooked in the kitchen’s wood-burning stove, it’s all made from scratch.

“We make anything that we possibly can from scratch in-house,” Garrand said. “All the salad dressings, you name it, everything’s made from scratch.”

This is good news for patients who might be placed on special diets, particularly cardiac patients in need of low-sodium options.

“It’s a lot healthier,” Garrand said. “We can control the ingredients, and from the patient perspective, what that allows you to do is that a lot more patients can have our food because it’s not laden with sodium and preservatives and those sorts of things. They’re allowed to have a good portion of everything that’s on the menu. Which isn’t necessarily always the case, because preservatives always have some amount of sodium in them.”

Along with making as much as possible from scratch, the food coming out of the kitchen likely won’t have traveled very far to get there.

“What we want to start doing, now that the growing season is going in full swing, is start to talk with … our produce purveyor and have them communicate with local farmers and co-ops so we start to get more greens, carrots,” said Fred Duggan, executive chef at the Braselton location. “We’re not an enormous facility that’s going to require a ridiculous amount of product, so we won’t just be rushing these farmers. We want to stay more local than what’s considered local; what’s considered local normally is 500 miles. Being that there’s a lot of farmland around here and a lot of farms, we want to try to stay more local.”

Along with the regular patient menu, the hospital’s Café 1400 will feature daily specials, often depending on what locally sourced ingredients the chefs have at their disposal. Those will also often be available to patients.

“What we try to do is tie in daily specials together, so if you’re a patient up in the room and today’s Wednesday and (we have) lasagna and that’s what you’re craving, we have that available,” Duggan said. “Or if it’s stir-fry day, we have stir-fry available that fits with your diet.”

Patients who can’t chew, swallow or digest food easily won’t miss out on the dining experience, either. The kitchen can puree any dish and recreate it so it still has the appearance of the original meal. It will still consist of the typical ingredients for spaghetti and meatballs, but will be much softer and easier to ingest for the patient.

Another unique selling point for the kitchen is all meat is smoked in-house; all luncheon meat is made in the kitchen, so even the deli meat isn’t heavily processed.

“We’re able to control what goes in them and then sodium content,” Duggan said. “You’re not going to really be worried about too many nitrates.”

Breakfast is served 6:30 a.m.-7 p.m.; lunch and dinner service begins at 11 a.m. and also goes until 7 p.m. Cafe 1400, located on the hospital’s ground floor, is open to visitors.

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