Foodie Friday today features longtime friend, Sandy Gould Kelly, RD, LD, FAND. Sandy is a dietitian with Kaiser Permanente’s Northwest Region where she supervises the food programs for hospital patients and those eating in their cafeterias.
What is your role in the food industry?
As regional director of Food and Nutrition Services at Kaiser Permanente in Portland, OR, my team and I work to build menus and source local products that support healthy eating for our patients and cafeterias. As the intersection of healthy food and nutrition become mainstream topics, we are in the position of driving supplier performance that supports our mission to improve the nutritional status of our communities.
How did you first get involved in the food industry?
As a child I spent a lot of time in Southern Oregon at Steamboat Inn and fell in love with the business of tapping into local food to create memorable meals for the guests. At age 11, I spent time working in their kitchen sparking a keen interest in the foodservice business. The pace, energy and rewards of the business was intoxicating for me. It was there I was introduced to food made from scratch that had the power to improve health and planted the idea of one day becoming a registered dietitian.
What/who inspired your current role in the food industry?
As a dietitian in a leadership position, I am fortunate to interface with many other nutrition and culinary experts in the delivery of healthy food. Several years ago, we made a decision to improve the quality and variety of menu choices at our hospital and I was able to recruit top local area chefs to work on our team. They continue to inspire me to find the resources and tools to create amazing food for our patients and customers that result in an improvement in health outcomes.
If you had one message for people who don’t live and breathe food like we do, what would that message be?
Everyone eats. It’s what we select to put in our bodies that nourishes our quality of life.
What food trends are most influential in what you do?
In the years I have been a registered dietitian, I’ve seen the topic of healthy eating move from a fringe discussion to mainstream media. We are now aware of the importance of selecting food that improves health as opposed to just eating to satisfy hunger. As a R.D., I must keep up with the never-ending diet trends that claim to improve human health. I am hopeful plant-based eating will continue to grow in popularity.
What is the most significant change you’ve seen in the food industry?
Probably one of the most significant changes I’ve seen is that the culinary world is now working on sourcing food from sustainable sources to ensure we support local economies, reduce our carbon footprint and retain nutrients in the foods we eat. In healthcare foodservice we partner with our suppliers and other commercial foodservice customers to find products that meet our sustainable standards that ultimately drive the market and have set the goal of purchasing 100% sustainable food by 2025.
Describe a food fad/trend you would love to start.
Smaller portions across all types of restaurants.
What's your big splurge food item? Any particular brand you're willing to pay more for?
Biggest splurge item is organic meat and produce. These products eliminate artificial pesticides, are fresher and better for the environment. They are becoming more mainstream in the marketplace and I anticipate they won’t be a “splurge” item forever. By supporting farmers, ranchers and local entrepreneurs who provide us these products, we’ll see increased variety and improved price point over time. It starts with consumer demand.
What keeps you motivated as a food professional?
The ever-changing landscape of the profession and my ability to have a small influence to help people improve their relationship with healthy food. The community is engaged in talking about food and how to improve access to healthy food for everyone and those discussion are expanding to public policies that influence the communities in which we live.
What do you view as your greatest achievement to-date as a food professional?
My greatest accomplishment was spearheading the effort to a place where our patient meals are prepared by professional chefs. Options for freshly made, culturally relevant food are now easily accessible to patients during their recovery at the hospitals. This service involved the design and build of a new commercial kitchen, recruiting and training over 40 new foodservice professionals, and growing our menu selections to reflect the local food scene.
What’s your favorite food to make at home?
Bowl food is a great way to integrate nutrition into fun and creative meals while making it look amazing at the same time. We do eat with our eyes after all! Combining a protein, veggies, grains with a yummy homemade sauce is a surefire way to get all those important nutrients in without a lot of fuss. Favorites of my family include the ever-present tuna poke bowl. In fact, my son requests this for his birthday dinner meal!
What’s your favorite meal to order in a restaurant?
Anything new, different and chef recommended! It is so fun to expand my palate and learn about the many food cultures available to us.
What three foods/ingredients could you not live without? Why?
Extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt and fresh produce as these three together are an amazing meal!
Tell us about a memorable meal you’ve had.
I have a dear friend who grew up in India and happens to have amazing culinary skills. A dinner invite from him is always a special treat of a lovely Indian menu that warms the senses.
Who in the food industry do you most admire? Why?
Alice Waters because she had a vision in opening Chez Panisse in 1971 with organic, locally grown food and continuing to be a public policy advocate for universal access to healthy organic food today.
What food or meal makes you happiest? Why?
There is nothing better than gathering with good friends for a scratch prepared meal that builds friendship and memories.
Tell us about food or ingredient would you never use or eat.
My team would tell you I am not a fan of hot dogs. While they continue to be prolific in our culture, I can’t find any redeeming value in processed meat.
What cookbooks or cooking classes are most important to you? Why?
While I tap into online recipes, there is nothing like a beautifully written cookbook that gets fingerprints and splatters of oil on its pages! Some of my favorites include: At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen, Amy Chaplin, The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook, Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins, Farm to Table Cookbook, Ivy Manning.
Where would you most like to live? Why?
I grew up living all over the county but am happy I’ve settled in Portland where we are fortunate enough to have access to amazing restaurants, culture and outdoor activities. Of course, living in Italy would also be a great experience!
Tell us about your favorite vacation destination.
One of my favorite vacations was went I went to a secluded Zihuatanejo villa on the Pacific where 18 of us had a personal chef preparing meals that included local ingredients right out of the ocean and local farms. The experience provided me with insight about how to create great meals without going to a large box grocery store and reinforced and highlighted eating as a group to build a sense of community and connection.
LinkedIn: Sandra Kelly