March 1, 2011
“I like butter. I like red meat.” While not often heard from a chef employed by a healthcare organization Fort HealthCare’s newly appointed executive chef Colleen Miller explains, “It’s all good…in moderation.”
Miller has created an array of new recipes for main dishes and sides with ingredients and flavors many have never tried before to the newly remodeled Steel Away Café inside Fort Memorial Hospital. Recent menu items have included: Chinese Forbidden black rice with peas, asparagus and red peppers in a green tea-lime vinaigrette, quinoa with red curry yogurt dressing and avocado and artichoke spinach salad with lemon vinaigrette.
“Fort HealthCare has committed itself to the wellness of our community. Our employees, patients and visitors are an integral part of the group,” remarks Stephanie Nischik, manager of nutrition services. She continues, “We feel that the expertise of a chef trained in the art of cooking, who also embraces wellness, can help us meet our new mission to improve the health and well-being of our community.”
At one of her first community outreach presentations, Miller spoke to a group of patients and family members from Fort HealthCare’s Cardiac Rehab program. Participants were those who have had a recent cardiac event, and the focus for nutritional education was on low fat and salt recipes, while still cooking with flavor. Patients brought spouses or friends to learn about cooking in a more healthful way. Miller presents, with genuine enthusiasm, mouthwatering and appealing food that tastes great, too.
For the class, she prepared Tilapia En Papillote, or “fish in a package,” made by placing vegetables sliced thin and raw sprinkled with fresh herbs under a fish filet topped with a dry rub of brown sugar and cumin. The fish is then topped with the zest of lime, lemon and orange. Two tablespoons of reduced wine sauce is added and the package is folded closed, then steamed for seven to 10 minutes. Miller recommends serving the package on a plate so your guests can experience opening the package to fully enjoy the herbal-citrus aroma.
Miller was born and raised in Fort Atkinson, and returned home after being away for nearly 40 years. Her career began as an artist, designer and art director. She was responsible for the “Food and Wine” section of the Dallas morning News where duties included food styling, photography and designing layouts for print. “I was in contact with great chefs, food writers, critics and basic foodies every day,” she notes. At 19, she married and quickly learned how “Mamma Miller” did things in the kitchen. Her mother-in-law was trained by Helen Corbit, a contemporary of the famous chef Julia Child, and worked as a chef for Neiman Marcus. Every holiday with the Miller family was a celebration of well-planned, exceptional food.
“When my husband passed away, I was advised to ‘follow my passion’ to become a chef. To be taken seriously, I attended Le Cordon Bleu in Portland, OR and started as a caterer on the West Coast,” Miller adds. While in Oregon, she developed her knowledge of wine when challenged to pair foods and wines for parties and events.
Her passion is food and she is an advocate for educating the public about good food choices. “I enjoy teaching cooking classes and am grateful to have that opportunity here. I’m a firm believer in buying local, growing organically and cooking with fresh ingredients,” she remarks.
All are welcome to stop by the Steel Away Café the Fort Memorial Hospital cafeteria and enjoy the fruits of Colleen’s labor. Food choices are ala carte and range in price from $.65 to $3.00 on most days. Hours of operation are Monday through Sunday 11:15 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. and 5:15 to 6:30 p.m. The Steel Away Café is located on the ground floor of Fort Memorial Hospital.