Many diners tell Ronnie Barker, Head Chef and Foodservice Director at Kindred Hospital Sacramento, that they feel like they’re on vacation rather than at work. He takes this as “a great compliment to me and my amazing team,” including his assistant, Tifiny Andersen.

“Most people only have 30 to 60 minutes to eat. Tifiny and I want them to come here, relax and have a first-class experience,” says Barker.

Instead of frozen food and bland ingredients, Barker uses fresh produce purchased from local vendors, and specialty items like Persian cucumbers and Japanese eggplant.

In addition, he and his team transformed the atmosphere with flowers on the tables, professional-looking culinary clothing for his team, restaurant-style menus with appealing descriptions, and an exquisite buffet line and salad bar with locally grown organic produce. The music complements the specials, such as Frank Sinatra music for Italian food or Spanish guitar for Latino food.  Food is often sautéed to order at chef stations, the large television screen airs the Food Network, and live action from Barker’s kitchen is displayed nonstop on an iPad.

Chilled herbal water layered with items such as mint and kumquats is available throughout the day, as are fresh barista-brewed mochas and cappuccinos. And a local bakery supplies a wide variety of breads including breakfast favorites blueberry and raspberry as well as sugarless and gluten-free varieties.

And there’s more to come. Barker wants to add fresh fish, barbeque and more seasonal items. He’s also planning evening cooking classes for employees.

Barker and his team’s exceptional food has drawn high kudos in Sacramento. He now caters all physician, employee and marketing events and is helping the hospital evaluate patient meals.

On a national level, Barker is working with Quincie Grounds, Corporate RD, and a team of dynamic Food Service Managers, chefs and RDs to create a new, innovative food program that will offer our patients and families a very diverse menu. The team is focused on menu items that are fresh and rich with local ingredients. They want to provide a database for Food Service Managers nationwide that will enable them to create menu cycles that are nutritious, fun and exciting.

A typical lunch at Kindred Hospital Sacramento.The salad bar abounding with fresh greens.Hard poached egg briocheScallop BLTRed Quinoa Garden Steak