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Lee Health hospital chefs compete at the Vegetarian Chef Challenge

November 10, 2017
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

An annual tradition now in its fourth year, Lee Health's culinary team celebrated October's National Vegetarian Awareness Month with the Vegetarian Chef Cook-Off. This year, four chefs - including Mark Benenati from Cape Coral Hospital, Cathy Berner from Gulf Coast Medical Center, Jack Brown from HealthPark Medical Center and Jason Goetz from Lee Memorial Hospital - traveled to each hospital and prepared plant-based dishes.

Tasters at each campus cast their votes for their favorite dish and the top two chefs advanced to the final cook-off, which was held on Nov. 1 at HealthPark Medical Center, coinciding with the start of the American Heart Association's Eat Smart Month.

Berner and Brown advanced to the grand champion cook-off, where they each had 20 minutes to create a hot entre for the four guest judges, using plant-based ingredients.

This year's judges included Leslie Amick, Executive Director, American Heart Association of Southwest Florida; Michael Pistella, Photographer/Page Designer, Cape Coral Breeze; Josh DeTillio, Chief Administrative Officer, Gulf Coast Medical Center; and Dr. Ivan Seligman, a local food writer.

The judges enjoyed both dishes: Berner's Classic Diner Meal that included vegan bean burger with carrot bacon and chipotle mayonnaise served with butternut squash fries and a vegan vanilla milkshake, and Brown's jackfruit Marsala and jackfruit parmesan with parsnip mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables. For the second year in a row, Brown's dish took home the top prize.

"The Vegetarian Chef Cook-Off is always a fun and interactive way to introduce people to plant-based food choices," explains Larry Altier, Lee Health System Director of Food and Nutrition Services. "The chefs enjoy this because it allows them to be creative with these healthy ingredients. We hope this annual event inspires people to try to incorporate more plant-based options into their meal choices."

Balanced nutrition is a key component of a healthy lifestyle; and a vegetarian diet can help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and obesity.



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