WRMC Chef whips up a recipe for success in Café V despite COVID

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With a quick wit and a mental library full of culinary creations, Robert Haddad arrived as White River Medical Center’s (WRMC) Executive Chef, ready to take on any challenge that came his way. After his arrival, he promptly began working with a clinical dietician to provide patients with food that tastes good, helping with healing while staying within the dietary restrictions of the patients’ conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and kidney disease.  No one anticipated the additional challenge that would come. Just two short months after starting at WRMC, Coronavirus (COVID – 19) interrupted life as we know it.

New guidelines in place due to COVID -19 limited access to WRMC’s cafeteria, Café V, to employees. Chef Haddad and his team worked to develop a new plan that not only meets our patients’ needs but also provides food that brightens the day of our employees during these difficult times.

“Our hospital staff is working hard under stressful conditions,” said Chef Haddad. “I want to provide meals they can look forward too.  I send out emails that hopefully gets a laugh from some, and provide a WOW meal that makes their day better.”

Chef Haddad has much experience in the culinary field, as well as healthcare.  He grew up in the restaurant business and has been a General Manager in establishments ranging from fast food to family, to upscale restaurants.  He was Director of Training for 14 years for an IHOP franchise in Centreville, Virginia.  He entered the healthcare field in 2014, and for five and a half years was the Chef at a health system in Watertown, South Dakota.  In 2018, he was promoted to Multi-Service General Manager, handling all food and environmental services.

“I enjoy the healthcare side of the culinary field,” said Chef Haddad.  “It allows me to have more freedom to create plates that people can enjoy.”

He also creates grab and go options for those in a hurry, and nutritious options for those on a journey to better health.

Chef Haddad has experienced the effects of a healthy diet on a first-hand basis.  He and his wife have been on a weight loss journey for the last eight months.  He has lost 80lbs to date.  His personal experience provides him with a good perspective for healthy, yet delicious, cooking.

“I try to provide lower carb options for the people who may be going through a health journey like me. I am focused on providing options that are health conscious but delicious like the Lemon Posset dessert, meat and cheese, and chicken salad plates that are offered.  But I also have the mouthwatering, shoulder dropping, head rolling desserts like the Raspberry chocolate cheesecake parfaits.  My goal, today and when we can open to the public, is for Café V to be the place to eat, whether you’re a patient, visitor, employee, or just someone out and about.”

Chef Haddad has gathered many experiences from the many places he has lived: Ohio, Michigan, Virginia, and South Dakota.  Searching for a warmer environment, he decided to bring his culinary skills to our area, bringing his wife, Deborah, with him.  He and Deborah have one daughter and three granddaughters who live in Southern Virginia. When Chef Haddad is not mixing up delicious eats for the staff at WRMC, he is most likely out enjoying a motorcycle ride with his wife through the Ozarks.

Café’ V is open to employees, and our visitors are allowed under current restrictions.   Chef Haddad plans to expand menu options in the coming weeks as visitor restrictions are lifted.

“The COVID-19 crisis began and closed Café V to visitors just as I came on board at WRMC. This situation has allowed me time to focus on our employees and patients and listen to their wants and needs.  I have been able to give them a small taste of what I can do.  I am ready to ramp up my cooking so I can show them all that I have got!”

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