Three Michelin Star chef’s vision for hospital catering

Three Michelin Star chef Niko Romito has a strong vision for hospital catering

How haute cuisine can be socially disruptive

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. This is one of Leonardo Da Vinci’s most famous quotes and a philosophy that is often found at the heart of Italian culinary tradition. Niko Romito is no exception – a self-taught chef who in just seven years won three Michelin stars and numerous other awards. However what makes Niko different is that he is passionate about social change and truly wants to make a difference through his love of simplicity.

Located in a 16th century monastery in central Italy, Reale restaurant is where Niko showcases his skills and is also the home of his experiments which take place in a ‘laboratory’ of sorts. This talented chef has gained many accolades in Italy and has been awarded both the ‘Performance of the Year Award’ (with a score of 19.5/20) and was ranked as one of the world’s best restaurants.

EP recently met with Niko at Bellavita Expo to learn about his philosophy and approach. “The hardest challenge in the kitchen is finding the perfect balance between taste, lightness and emotion. There is a common belief in the kitchen that a good dish must be made from many ingredients, rather than focusing on taste and simplicity.”

Taking this straightforward concept to the next level is where Niko excels. He calls it Nutritional Intelligence, a project that puts social disruption, empowerment and simplicity at the core.

The aim of Nutritional Intelligence is to make food served in hospitals and large catering operations healthier and more exciting. By standardising processes and techniques, dishes are developed maintaining the same production cost and same ingredients. Niko’s vision is for haute cuisine to become accessible and share processes to generate better products for the general public.

The social and economic implications of the project are so powerful because it changes the perception around food and hospitality both for chefs and patients. Through Nutritional Intelligence, hospital catering becomes more efficient in terms of quality, service and process. Using the same ingredients with intelligent techniques, food is more appetising and the nutrients within the dishes are not depleted. Much attention is given to the way food is presented at a retail level so Niko’s idea is simply providing guidelines that ensure those standards are reflected in hospitals.

Research and training is a key element of this project that finally empowers chefs in hospitals. By giving them the tools to improve their technique, chefs are motivated to improve and grow.

“Chefs in hospitals are often unfairly at the bottom of the catering ladder. With this project they are motivated to deliver high quality and eventually requalify and progress through their career”.

Nutritional Intelligence is improving processes and maximising expression in the kitchens as well as exciting patients about food.

Patients are enthusiastic about the flavour, texture and colour of the dishes. Food is therapeutic not just because of the nutrients it contains but also because of the way it’s presented. Finding a harmony between taste and colour is what excites chefs as well as those who enjoy their creations.

The psychological and nutritional impact of the new menus has been positive. “What makes me especially happy is knowing patients will experience their hospital stay in a different way. I hope Nutritional Intelligence will become an integral part of a patients care, as well as becoming a valuable tool for dietary education”. Niko is putting much dedication and effort into what is an ambitious project and one which the industry should take note of.

For Niko food is about the balance between simplicity and richness, emotions and precision, wellness and indulgence, social interaction and constant improvement. The challenge ahead is to reinforce those values for the many.

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