Read - Johnson and Wales

November 15, 2014
Doctoring recipes in kitchens at JWU
Pilot program pairs culinary and medical students
to create healthful meals people will actually want to eat
PROVIDENCE — Aileen Bui, a first-year medical student at Brown University, makes a
precise incision as sharp-edged steel slices through fatty tissue.
She studies her work for a moment, and makes a second cut, parallel to the first.
Then she adds salt and pepper.
Bui is part of a pilot program by Johnson & Wales University and the Warren Alpert
Medical School at Brown to teach the next generation of doctors how to cook healthful
foods in the hope that they will pass along that knowledge.
Johnson & Wales student Brianne Cidras,
center, coaches Brown medical student
Supriya Shah, right, while Aileen Bui
tastes sauce for the duck breast she
The program features a series of
lectures on nutrition at Brown
and a series of workshops at
Johnson & Wales that match
students at both schools.
The medical students learn how
to prepare meals — that taste
good — featuring fruits and
vegetables, lean proteins and
whole grains.
“We know obesity’s a problem,” says Bui, “but we don’t know the best way to combat
“If you just put a pile of quinoa on a plate, you look at it, and it’s not really that appetizing,”
says Todd Seyfarth, head of the culinary nutrition department at Johnson & Wales and
director of the pilot program. Patients “might not be apt to stick to that diet. Hopefully, our
students can make it look better, our students can make it taste better.”
Brown medical student Justin Yu gathers some spices from the
pantry at the Johnson & Wales kitchen that will be used in the
meal he helped prepare.
The culinary students can attend the lectures at
Brown, says Seyfarth, but one of the biggest benefits
of the program is that they teach cooking
techniques to the medical students. That forces
them to master the subject, so that they can teach it
to someone else, he said.
The culinary students also get a sense of
accomplishment from teaching the medical
“I think it’s great how excited [the medical students] were to come in here and cook,” says
Brianne Cidras, a Johnson & Wales senior from Germantown, N.Y. “For them to be so
excited to learn something we wanted to teach was just so rewarding.”
As Bui transfers her duck breast to the stove, Cidras goes over the finer points of searing
the meat.
Duck has a lot of fat because ducks are coldwater animals, and the layer of fat under their
skin acts like a coat. The first step to searing the meat is to heat a cast iron pan until it is
smoking hot. Then the meat is placed fat-side down.
“We just let it render,” Cidras said.
As the heat starts to penetrate the meat, the flame is turned down to let more fat render in
the pan. Finally, the meat is transferred to an oven to finish cooking, rendering more fat.
"We don’t want it to be too fatty,” Cidras said.
The trial program is the brainchild of Brown medical students Dave Lieberman and Annie
Wu, and Johnson & Wales professors Seyfarth and Michael Makuch, who had discussed
individual community outreach efforts they had made, as well as the need for better
nutrition training for doctors.
“We study nutrition at the medical school to some degree,” Lieberman said.
But that largely focuses on the science of food, such as how lipids are metabolized in the
"We were more on the theory side,” he said. “We saw a gap in the knowledge in what is
being taught.”
"The traditional doctor does not get much education on nutrition,” Seyfarth said. “None of it
is in food. We look at it much more food-centric. When you really focus in on nutrients, you
lose the potential to get people to eat healthier.”
Claudine Yee, a Brown medical student, prepares an apple for the
meal she'll help to create at Johnson and Wales.
After a lecture on the effects of sodium on
hypertension and health, the program had a workshop
on how to reduce salt in food without losing flavor.
Other workshops have included how to use purees to
replace fats in food while still making them satisfying,
how to cook with fiber, and how to incorporate
healthier fats into dishes.
Makuch says the program has turned out better than
he expected. “You bring medical school students into a
culinary lab — I really didn’t know what to expect.”
But culinary student Kristen Pizzi, of Rockaway, N.J.,
saw no problem. “Actually, their knife skills were
pretty good.”
Which bodes well for the trial program. “We’re looking to continue it on.”
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