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. As you can see in the picture below, this is a popular tourist destination in Ireland, mainly because of its majestic views and natural beauty overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

Vaughn's Anchor InnOn our way to the Cliffs, we glided through the countryside in search for a place to eat lunch. About thirty minutes away from the cliffs, we entered the small fishing village of Liscannor, located in County Clare. This small town was nestled right on Liscannor Bay. I can remember getting out of the car, and the air actually smelling like the soap I use, “Irish Spring”. I can still hear the sounds of the seagulls in the distance. Where we chose to eat was a small restaurant right on the main street, Vaughn’s Anchor Inn.

Mainly because of the location near the sea, we both ordered fish and chips, the ultimate Irish comfort food. About fifteen minutes after ordering…I was in heaven. What is often a simple dish that is inconsistently prepared in the industry because of different fry times, quality of the fish, and type of oil used, this version was executed perfectly by the chef, who in turn created my most memorable meal to date. The freshness of the buttery cod fillets, the airy, yet crunchy beer batter crust, the tangy tartar sauce, and the golden brown potatoes seasoned with salt & malt vinegar all worked in harmony to create a work of art. After my first bite, I said out loud “This is the best fish I’ve ever had in my life”. This was memorable.

When you say that something is memorable, what does that mean to you? To me, it means something that has made such a strong impact that I can relive the event over and over in my head for years to come. When it comes to a memorable meal, you should be able to close your eyes, remember the smells, tastes and company you were with. You can also remember the specific details of the day such as the weather, your waiter’s name, or even the clothing that you wore. Food is powerful and when you’ve had a memorable meal, you’ll be eager to tell others about it.

In a hospital, chefs continually need to aspire to make all food memorable. This holds true especially because with many of your patients, food is often one of the most important things they look forward to in the day. Chefs need to create menus with love. The details need not be ignored while cooking. If the feedback on your menu is mediocre, survey your issues and make changes, which will help create memories for your patients and co-workers. Ryan and HeatherChallenge the culinary team to make food memorable.

Here is a picture I took of us that memorable day in January 2003, at the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, Ireland.