Would you choose hospital fare for your next date night? Maybe you should. Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, which opened its doors just over a year ago, features not only a restaurant, Henry’s Cafe, where chefs are on-hand to craft your meal as you watch, but they also offer a state-of-the-art kitchen demonstration area, where you can learn a variety of cooking techniques and nutritional helps to improve what you offer at home.
The chef behind the new concept of tastier, better-for-you hospital food is Frank Turner, a Michigan native and a passionate advocate for locally produced, sustainable products. Chef Turner has a long history in Michigan’s top restaurants as well as volunteering in Detroit-area food kitchens. Today, as the director of food and nutrition and executive chef at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, Chef Turner is helping patients learn how to choose foods that will help aid in their recovery – and he’s lending his expertise to cooking courses offered to the public at the demonstration kitchen. Classes fill up quickly, so enroll early. But to get your own experience with fresh fare, head to Henry’s Cafe any night of the week or stop by on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when there’s a farmers market open onsite.
What three ingredients do you always keep stocked in your pantry?
Olive oil, quinoa and dried fruit. I love dried Turkish apricots, as long as they’re sulfate free.
How about your favorite meal?
Chicken dumplings. It’s my grandmother’s recipe and she always served it, and then my mother. You make it by poaching chicken in stock (gently simmering the meat in the flavored liquid). Then you take out the chicken, pull the meat off the bone and reserve it while you cook the dumplings. Once the dumplings are cooked, you take them off and cook down the broth until it thickens – and there’s your stock. The chicken is always tender. And my mother would serve it with some sort of braised vegetable to the side.
We all have a favorite indulgence; for a foodie like you it must be something spectacular?
Snickers! I don’t have them very often, but I like a great big, king-size classic Snickers bar with a glass of milk. But it’s a toss up between that and Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies.
What’s one of your worst cooking mistakes?
I’ve done it all – burnt the soup, opened the blender when it’s going, burned the heck out of myself. The silliest thing I ever did, though, was when I forgot to label some stock [broth] that I made for a sauce that went with a special recipe. It was a short-rib lamb dish. I had to get the pieces cut especially for the dish. I had created this stock using boar bones and fowl venison. It was probably the best stock I’ve ever made. Well, someone used it in the soup that day and I didn’t have anything for my special dish so I had to improvise. The dish turned out fine, but I must say that was one really good soup. Great beef barley!
There are so many great Michigan-made food products. What is your pick?
Asparagus. Michigan asparagus has a distinct flavor that you don’t find anywhere else. It has a nutty flavor. I like to grill it and then serve it with cracked pepper, citrus zest and a splash of Manchego or Parmesan cheese.
What do you suggest for first-timers to Henry’s Cafe? What menu item should they make sure to try?
The American station, burger of the day – you’ll find that it’s never a beef hamburger. It’ll be something besides ground beef – white fish burger or a chickpea burger, quinoa and black bean burger – but it won’t be a ground beef burger. (There are seven chef-manned stations to choose from.)
If you’d like to sample one of Chef Turner’s recipes at home, try putting together his nutritional-packed spinach brownies. The dessert includes a puree of blueberry and spinach for a boost of anti-oxidants that blends perfectly with the intense chocolate flavor.