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Chef Michelle Bernstein, 46, from the USA, is creating a line of food for adults and children cancer patients receiving chemotherapy at Memorial Regional Hospital, where she was born. Her mother, who is struggling with lung cancer, inspired Bernstein’s idea.
“We are just trying to make the foods a little tastier, a little fresher, maybe throw in a little brightness. This is close to my heart because my mother is going through chemotherapy now. Through her, I have learned some of what she can and cannot eat, what affects her palate,’’ said Bernstein. “We are trying to give the patients a little gift, something that says we love you, we are here to take care of you.’’
As part of the one-year partnership, Bernstein is developing signature recipes — and adapting a few from her repertoire — including snacks, soups, sandwiches and salads to help cancer patients ease their way through treatment. Among the dishes: triple crumb berry muffin, raw chocolate cashew and almond energy bar, margherita quiche and cauliflower soup.
“This has oats, flax seed, pistachio, walnut, almonds, dried strawberries and blueberries. All kinds of good stuff, but I made it with a little less sugar,” Bernstein said, pointing to a large bowl overflowing with the mixture. “It’s all about options. Here during chemotherapy treatment, you might be able to get chicken broth. Now, you can also choose to have my carrot miso soup, which is also soft but filled with miso which is amazing for the body and it has a little more flavor.”
Much of what separates this food is that it is created with a cancer patient in mind. The dishes are more plant-based, some with less sugar and less acid and with more antioxidants. The recipes are designed to be gentle alternatives so patients are more likely to eat; nourishment is critical for tolerating the chemotherapy and healing. Before, patients were offered a box lunch which typically included a turkey, ham or tuna sandwich, a piece of fruit and chips or cookies.
“Our patients might have nutritional side effects from treatment such as nausea, vomiting or taste alterations,” said Cynthia Wigutow, a Memorial dietitian specializing in outpatient oncology nutrition. “We wanted creative recipes that addressed their nutritional needs. Many patients complain of loss of appetite so we made sure the food is more nutrient dense with lots of flavor. We added some healthier options like chopped salads or the tuna on pita for patients who are concerned about gaining weight.’’
Wigutow said the hospital worked with Bernstein on an oncology nutrition symposium for health professionals last January. That led to discussions about how to combine her cooking skills with the dietary needs of oncology patients. A James Beard Foundation Award winner of Jewish-Latin heritage, the homegrown Bernstein is among the marquee chefs in South Florida. Among her culinary endeavors: Michy’s, Crumb on Parchment and Seagrape, the latest venture with husband David Martinez at the new Thompson Miami Beach.
Bernstein’s contract, funded by the Memorial Foundation’s Pink Angels, a cancer support group, marks the first time the chef has teamed up with a medical facility. She chose the hospital of her birth.
More info: http://chefmichellebernstein.com/
Watch the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qaPV0idvJIA
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