Chef Looking To Bring Community Back To Hospital's Cafeteria

RUSTON, LA (AP) — Northern Louisiana Medical Center's new chef wants to bring the community back to the hospitals cafeteria.

         Food Nutritional Director Tarouse Pea, who joined the NLMC back in June, said the community regularly came to the cafeteria, especially after church on Sundays.

         "A ton of people would show up and come eat what the hospital was offering," he said. "It was good food. And a lot of families would come after church. I want to bring back that atmosphere here."

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         Pea said he joined the hospital staff after the company he works for, HHS, a service line, was awarded the contract to NLMC.

         "I was in San Antonio when they asked me to come back here and I was like, 'Of course. I would love to go home," he said. "I want to be able to cook for people who are familiar with my food."

         When Pea arrived, he created a plan to better serve patients, staff and customers.

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         "I sat down and talked with everyone I needed to talk to and created a plan to tend to the needs of the hospital, while also serving people who come and in out," he said.

         Pea said he added several things to better serve those demands.

         "We created a chef's table, where every day we have something different for people to eat and create," he said. "We also added packaged wraps and sandwiches for those trying to find something quick to eat."

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         Pea said he describes his meals as "comfort food."

         "I'm from the region," he said. "I like to cook good Southern comfort food. I also recently started experimenting with Asian Fusion, which fuses Asian food with a twist. I can create Italian, Tex-Mex and of course Louisiana food."

         Pea said the most challenging part about his job is trying to find a health, nutritionally-balanced meal while also serving good food.

         "You want to make sure you think of all the patients' needs," he said. "Every single patient is in need of different ingredients or they have a certain diet. We want to make sure we tend to those needs."

         Pea, who was born in Shreveport and attended Louisiana Tech University for three years, said he is happy to return to the area.

         "I love this area," he said. "I grew up here and it has some of the best food in the world. Ruston changed a lot as well. It is bigger, but the community still remains the same. They are friendly and they love good food."

         Pea has experience in hospitals as well as restaurants, he said.

         "I worked in San Antonio for the company I work for now," he said. "I worked at Copeland's Seafood and I like to experiment with all sorts of different items."

         Pea said he hopes the community will notice a difference in the hospital's food and wants to bring back the community he loves so much.

         "I want to be a part of this community," he said. "We want people to leave the cafeteria more satisfied than they were when they arrived."

         – by AP/ Reporter Derek J. Amaya with The Ruston Daily Leader

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