Chef at Seattle Children's tries to turn hospital food into gourmet experience

SEATTLE -- Seattle Children's Hospital head chief Ryan Garcia is a man on a mission -- to transform hospital food into a memorable gourmet experience.

Garcia brings 25 years of experience to the kitchen. He's worked with famed chef Wolfgang Puck and spent 10 years in the kitchen at Whole Foods.

"Always know where your food comes from. Always know how it's treated. And understand that food is life," he says.

That's something he was reminded of several years ago when his own daughter was admitted as a patient to Seattle Children's.

"Having a child there, admitted to the hospital, knowing food that was available, I knew it was a perfect fit, and I knew I could be part of that change."

Since taking on the job in early 2014, Garcia has been spicing things up -- from his Asian rice noodle salad topped with marinated beef loin to his marinara sauce, made with tomatoes from the hospital's on-site garden.

The challenge for Garcia and his team is not just picky customers, but the kids in the hospital who need good, healthy food to thrive.

"They're getting the best quality care, so we want to give them the best quality food," he says.

And to help accomplish that goal, Children's will open the new Forest kitchen in the fall of 2016, offering a made-to-order menu built to support a 600-bed hospital.

Lisa Brandenburg, president of Seattle Children's Hospital, said, "Our patients, our families, will be able to order what they want to eat, when they want to eat it, and what we find is patients who have been in the hospital, particularly for a long time, they eat better and get better nutrition when they're able to order the food when they're hungry."

That's a winning recipe for Garcia.

Part of his focus is creating meals for kids with immune deficiencies or for kids going through chemotherapy and radiation who might not be hungry. And he has to do that without a lot of salt and preservatives. So he cooks fresh.

If you would like to check out some of his recipes, just click here.