Every day the menu features at least 10 dishes, and the continuous favorite is Signatur’s homemade meatballs with mashed potatoes, cream sauce, lingonberry jam and cucumber salad. Empty plates and significantly less food waste than before are just a few indicators that the food is popular. Signatur by Coor cooks about 600 portions of food every day at Karolinska University Hospital in Solna, since the beginning of 2019. Despite the tenacious stereotype of boring, tasteless hospital food, it is possible to make it taste good, says Michaela Signorelli-Wallin, regional manager at Coor:
“It is possible! We make everything from scratch here—we get fresh fish once a week and the only thing we don’t make ourselves is the lasagna noodles. But something that is almost as important as the taste is that the food looks good, so we work a lot with color and texture. Because we eat with our eyes, too.”
“It’s very important that patients start eating during their hospital stay, so our food needs to whet their appetite.”
Meeting every need and taste at a hospital is not easy. Some patients have just had surgery and need food that is easy to chew and digest; others are taking medicine that changes their sense of taste.
“It’s very important that patients start eating during their hospital stay, so our food needs to whet their appetite,” Michaela says. “Many patients in hospitals are malnourished and it’s important to get them to eat. And because our patients come from all around the world, our menu contains classics from many different countries.
Apart from the empty plates, people show their appreciation for Signatur’s food in other ways. Michaela Signorelli-Wallin talks about parents in the maternity ward who described the food as something they would expect at a luxury hotel. She also points out that one of the best indicators is that the hospital staff buy and eat the food themselves, which they would be unlikely to do if it wasn’t good.
There are several reasons for the excellent flavors: quality ingredients, the restaurant background of Signatur’s chefs, and the cook-and-chill method, in which the food is cooked and immediately chilled to 0–3°C. It remains at this temperature the entire time it is being transported to the warming kitchen, where the food is heated just before serving.
“That keeps the flavor sealed in, and many hospital kitchens are starting to do the same thing,” Michaela says. “In the past, the food might be stored in a hot cupboard for 3–4 hours, after which it wasn’t very appetizing. That led to a lot of food waste. But the most important thing is that our chefs really taste the food, and we cook food that we ourselves would want to eat.”