Author Archives: Ryan Conklin

Building a Late Summer BLT

Ryan ConklinRyan Conklin is a Chef Manager for Culinary & Nutritional Services at Rex. His mission is to bring healthy, gourmet cuisine to the Rex community & shed the label of “hospital food.”

As I get older in my culinary journey, this phrase starts to become more important to me everyday. There is a tendency on our world to construct dishes that are over-complicated and definitely neglect to highlight the quality of the individual ingredients.

Very often, as with making a quality pizza, less can actually become more! That was our inspiration today as I worked with guest Chef Tessa Nguyen to artfully craft a sandwich that was a little bit salty, smokey, sweet, and crunchy. With the help of two grill cooks, who handled all the orders, today I watched dozens of customers walk up to our grill station and all order the same thing one after another: The Ultimate BLT.

In the spirit of the late North Carolina summer, I really wanted to highlight this sandwich for lunch, and what a success it was. It all started with the bacon, which was house made from fresh pork belly that we cured for a week in a flavorful brine. It was then cold smoked for two hours using applewood chips. I sliced it nice and thick which gave it a meaty texture as this was one of the highlights of the sandwich.

After that, there was some really sexy (that’s right, I said it) heirloom tomatoes that were hand picked in the morning at the State Farmers Market in Raleigh. Today’s variety were all locally grown, and included Cherokee Purples, Marvel Stripes, and Brandywines. They were absolutely delicious, being both perfectly ripened and juicy. We sliced them rather thick, with the hopes of the tomato juices bursting in your mouth as you take your first bite.

To top it off,  we used a couple young red leaf lettuce fillets on each sandwich. They were plush and crisp at the same time, still having a rich flavor, which is not something achieved when using Iceberg lettuce.

As we layered these ingredients atop of our lightly toasted  Wheatberry bread, the top piece was brushed with a generous schmear of a lovely lemon basil mayonnaise that Chef Tessa made with basil picked right from our herb garden just five minutes prior. This spread that she made was perfectly seasoned with just a hint of fresh garlic.

What a sandwich, perfect for this time of the year when the tomatoes are at the peak of freshness here in North Carolina. I was happy, and I’m sure the 40 plus people that enjoyed one for lunch in Raleigh today felt just the same.

Five layers of Love,

Chef Ryan

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It’s Not Your Average Cup of Tea

Ryan ConklinRyan Conklin is a Chef Manager for Culinary & Nutritional Services at Rex. His mission is to bring healthy, gourmet cuisine to the Rex community & shed the label of “hospital food.”

If you’ve been reading this blog for any time now, you’ll most likely agree that it’s obvious that our team takes healthcare cuisine seriously. In addition, we are also always looking for ways that go beyond food quality to elevate the hospital dining experience.

Recently, we’ve instituted our Afternoon Tea, available to select patients on a daily basis throughout the hospital. The new system, developed by Ben Kesterson, the newest member of our leadership team, was designed to create yet another “wow” dining event for our patients and families. Read more…

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It’s Cibo Time!

Ryan ConklinRyan Conklin is a Chef Manager for Culinary & Nutritional Services at Rex. His mission is to bring healthy, gourmet cuisine to the Rex community & shed the label of “hospital food.”

The Rex Chefs are at it again… this time revolutionizing the typical “hospital cafeteria grill.”

The term cibo (pronounced- chee-bow) can be described as a non-pretentious person who enjoys all food. Either talking about food, or eating food, a Cibo is happy with all things food. Cibo also was used in the form Cib/o taking from the Latin word cibus and was used as a medical term for meals. The two blended together to produce the first venue of its kind in a hospital. Our approach, was to break through the chains, and steer away from fried food, and in return, create a unique dining experience focused on fresh bold flavors, high quality ingredients, and simplistic and clean cooking techniques. Read more…

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Unsung Heroes

Ryan ConklinRyan Conklin is a Chef Manager for Culinary & Nutritional Services at Rex. His mission is to bring healthy, gourmet cuisine to the Rex community & shed the label of “hospital food.”

My first job in a professional kitchen wasn’t too glamorous. I definitely wasn’t hand trimming beef tenderloin, chopping fresh herbs, or making a port wine porcini mushroom sauce. As a matter in fact, I never even handled a knife. One thing is for sure, I was going home every night extremely exhausted, feet soaking wet from mopping floors, and my clothes smelling like garbage. At the time, it was all I knew and It was my job. But I did have an extremely important role, I was a potwasher.
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Black Hat Chef Herb Garden

Ryan ConklinRyan Conklin is a Chef Manager for Culinary & Nutritional Services at Rex. His mission is to bring healthy, gourmet cuisine to the Rex community & shed the label of “hospital food.”

I’m so proud to talk about our herb garden with everyone -as it’s one of the most unique things we do in our department. It’s the herb garden”s 4th year, and our very own “Garden Guru’s” this time took it to another level. They rototilled new soil and last years crop under, as well as installed a new irrigation system which created an optimal bed for the herbs to thrive in. Paul, the official “Black Hat Carpenter” hand crafted custom planter boxes to finish it all off. To the right, is Paul Berens and John Steven Longe–the ones who make it happen.

Now, our herb garden just isn’t something for display, it’s actually a functioning part of the kitchen. Read more…

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Whole Grain Recipes

Ryan ConklinRyan Conklin is a Chef Manager for Culinary & Nutritional Services at Rex. His mission is to bring healthy, gourmet cuisine to the Rex community & shed the label of “hospital food.”

Black barley edamame saladThanks to everyone who came by the Courtyard Cafe this week to sample some of our whole grain dishes. What a success it was! We hope you can incorporate some of these delicious and healthy foods into your regular diet. So, without further ado, here are recipes for the two faves from this week:

Black Barley and Edamame Salad (serves eight)
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Behind the Glass

Ryan ConklinRyan Conklin is a Chef Manager for Culinary & Nutritional Services at Rex. His mission is to bring healthy, gourmet cuisine to the Rex community & shed the label of “hospital food.”

5:00am- Raleigh North Carolina. Marjorie McPhail awakes to the sound of her alarm clock. After waiting in bed for an extra few minutes, she fully awakes…it’s time to go to work.

5:30am- Marjorie gets in her Honda, and proceeds onto the hustle and bustle of Raleigh’s outer belt line for her 20 minute commute. This is a daily routine for her, as she listens to her music and thinks about her busy workday ahead. “I usually am in my car, thinking about the food the chefs are cooking, I hope they make it look good for me”.

6:00am- The customers start rolling in. At first, it’s one by one, then as we creep more towards 7:00am, they start arriving in small groups. Read more…

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Memorable Meals

Ryan ConklinRyan Conklin is a Chef Manager for Culinary & Nutritional Services at Rex. His mission is to bring healthy, gourmet cuisine to the Rex community & shed the label of “hospital food.”

Cliffs of MoherBack in January of 2003, I went on a brief trip back to Ireland, a place I had lived in previously and worked as a young aspiring chef. This time when I went “across the pond”, it wasn’t to cook. I was eager to enjoy all the beauty and fun that this country has to offer with my soon to be wife Heather. We rented a tiny car and stayed at various Bed and Breakfasts throughout the Cities of Dublin and Limerick, as well as in the lush Irish countryside. In the middle of the week, our destiny was the Cliffs of Moher, located on Ireland’s southwest coast. Read more…

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Bringing Whole Grains to High School

Ryan ConklinRyan Conklin is a Chef Manager for Culinary & Nutritional Services at Rex. His mission is to bring healthy, gourmet cuisine to the Rex community & shed the label of “hospital food.”

I had a unique opportunity this past week that I wanted to share with you. The Rex Healthcare Chefs were invited back to high school. It had been over fifteen years since I’ve strolled through any high school hallways, so as I was on the way there, candid memories of my days at Warwick Valley High School started to kick in. But this was special, we were coming via invite to help educate students about whole grains, which was a very unique chance for a hospital chefs to touch base with the community. Read more…

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Bringing Spaghetti Squash to the Main Stage

Ryan ConklinRyan Conklin is a Chef Manager for Culinary & Nutritional Services at Rex. His mission is to bring healthy, gourmet cuisine to the Rex community & shed the label of “hospital food.”

It’s one of those items that you usually walk right past in the produce section of the grocery store. In professional kitchens, it’s hardly used on menus, mostly because cooks or chefs have never used it. I’m going to do my part in trying to change that, because roasting a spaghetti squash is where it’s at. The next time you are out at the market, take one home, as I will now share the simple technique of how to cook this. Trust me, it’s really not as intimidating as it looks. Read more…

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