Friday, April 07, 2006

Chef Deane and Dominican Hospital

If you read newspapers, listen to or watch the daily news, you may feel, as I do, frustration, anger or despair about all of the tragedies and depressing issues going on in the world. In fact, there are many very serious problems and untold tragedies, but that isn’t all the news or all of what is occurring daily. Apparently news of doom and gloom sell papers and draw listeners and readers. About ten yeas ago there was a man somewhere in the Midwest who started a newspaper that focused on all the good news; the paper went out of business!

As my blog isn’t a newspaper and I can write about whatever I wish, I’ve decided to write about issues that are hopeful or have the possibility of positive outcomes. Fortunately, I don’t have to look far a field to find stories about people who are making a difference and bringing about positive change, locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.

Chef Deane Bussiere is one of our Chefs in Residence ( He has been the Executive Chef at several critically acclaimed restaurants and is known for his innovative cuisine. However, after becoming a parent, he realized that he never was home to read his sons bedtime stories, and his hours were very long and demanding. It was time for a change.

One and a half years ago Deane went to work as the Executive Chef at Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, as his hours were built around a regular workday. But he also went to work at the hospital to bring about positive change for the patients and the community. As any of you who have experienced standard hospital food, it’s anything but haute cuisine. So one of the first things he did was to teach the kitchen staff how to cook vegetables properly and how to create more palatable food for patients. The staff got permission to build a vegetable garden and he worked on expanding it with them and organizing the planting and harvesting so they could utilize the produce. Once the land was secured, they set up a program for students to work in the garden. The entire garden is grown organically. While the produce has not yet been approved by the health department for patients’ meals, the medical staff and hospital employees may dine on fresh carrots, lettuce and other delectables. The hope is that approval will occur soon so that everyone can benefit from the garden. The garden has since doubled in size and fundraisers have made it possible to expand garden projects as well.

Recently, while visiting a friend at Dominican, I saw Chef Deane and asked what was new. He told me about the recycle project and how they are using worms to compost all of the kitchens produce trimmings (an additional 90,000 pounds of waste is now being diverted from the land-fills from when he first arrived), the classes he’s teaching on nutrition for cancer patients, and that Dominican would underwrite his getting a degree in nutrition. New patient menus using Deane’s recipes and organic whole-wheat pasta and other organic produce should be up and running by June 21st. He has time with his boys who, along with his wife, are involved in the garden project, he’s happier than he’s ever been, and he’s changing the way hospitals deal with food, nutrition and the extraordinary amount of waste that’s generated maintaining a large facility.

The following article by Chef Deane gives a nice overview of the recycle project they’ve set into motion and how the entire community is affected by the shift in consciousness of the local hospital. If you would like more information about Chef Deane’s work at the hospital or how to get a similar program underway, please contact Deane at

We Shall Recycle the Earth
By Chef Deane Bussiere

My thoughts are on the future and what Dominican Hospital is doing to protect the environment around it, to secure that future for our children. I am so proud of the ecology task force and those who promote and maintain the efforts of recycling, reducing and reusing materials. The kitchen has made huge strides in this area. We are using worms to compost all the produce trim created during our daily production, and this is being put to use in our garden near the BHU, enhancing the soil quality on our grounds, the food we eat and the air we breathe.

Dominican Hospital is now a drop site for ALBA's CSA (community supported agriculture) program. Employees can pick up a weekly box of organic goods right here at work. (See for more information.)

Tin cans are washed and flattened, and lids are recycled, as we’ve switched to the new safety can openers. Used kitchen grease from the deep fryers and the cooking of meats is recycled and we using trans-fat free oil in the fryers. Milk and egg containers are now being accepted by the county and recycled as well. Tetra-pak containers are also rinsed and flattened to conserve space in the blue recycle bins. All glass bottles and jars are washed and recycled. All plastic trays, tubs and jugs are crushed and recycled, and our engineers and other staff are reusing the 5 gallon pickle buckets.

Another program we have is Dominagain. Dominagain is actually the garage of Sister Beth's house, which she makes available for all the unused products, which have been phased out by the hospital, or packaging materials and anything else that can be used for another purpose rather than being recycled or thrown out. Then it is opened to the public once a month on the first Thursday from 1:30 to 4:30 pm, first come, first served. Everything from chairs to paper is available. Local teachers are finding out Dominagain and putting these free materials to good use in our kids’ classrooms, where materials are becoming scarce and art classes are going by the wayside due to lack of funding.

Finally, by supporting the local organic movement through the purchase of produce from ALBA, Dominican is helping to maintain a future generation of family farmers, who in many cases were poor farm workers stuck in low paying, high risk jobs. We have had to increase the number of recycle bins that are dropped here by waste management twice now, and are diverting another 90,000 lbs of materials from the landfill annually!


Tana Butler said...

Darn it, you scooped me! I called him last year for an interview...oh well, I'll still go and I'll take pictures. He's using kids from Soquel High in the garden. Pretty inspirational.

I encourage people to use to find CSAs, too, as well as farms, restaurants, farmers markets, and other purveyors or growers of sustainably produced food. Just plug in your zip code!

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