America’s next top hospital chef

Noriel San Pedro on plant-forward menus, serving comfort in COVID-19 times, and new twists on traditional meals

The winner

The finalists

Meet the winning chef and his team

“Always cook with your heart and your intention and love will show in the food you cook.” — Noriel San Pedro

Why did you choose to become a chef? Why a hospital chef?

“I pray for my food. I want it to be delicious and every time the patients eat it, the pain goes away at least for a little while.” — Noriel San Pedro

What is your approach to hospital food?

“I feel blessed every day to be part of this organization, where I have the opportunity each day to provide a moment of respite through this delicious food.” — Noriel San Pedro

Why do you choose to create and serve plant-forward menu items?

“I based my recipe on the way my mom made the recipe, what I learned from watching her in the kitchen as a kid, but with my own creative twist, making it plant-based.” — Noriel San Pedro

Where do you find inspiration?

“It was through my mom’s cooking that I began to gain understanding of living off of the land and develop my love for the preparation of delicious meals.” — Noriel San Pedro

What is your favorite plant protein? Why?

Why did you participate in the contest?

“The contest challenged Noriel to create a familiar meal, but to make it a plant-forward version without losing any of the robust flavors people are used to.” — Steven K. Olesen

How did the recipe go over? Did you reach people who had not heard of it?

The typical reaction was something between ‘I didn’t know that it would taste the same as the original version’ or ‘I can’t believe this is made from plants’ and ‘[This] takes me back to home.’ When you hear comments like that, you know you’ve got it right.” — Steven K. Olesen

What was your reaction to winning?

We’re so proud to be a part of it. All the effort and creativity that Noriel put forth to make this happen — it certainly is an incredible accomplishment.” — Jodi Krefetz

Would you recommend the contest to others?

How has your work changed due to COVID-19?

You don’t know what your customers are experiencing at work and in their lives. The pandemic increased everyone’s responsibilities and stress. We aim to make them smile and provide a moment of respite through our food. We hope to comfort.” — Noriel San Pedro

Any words of advice for your fellow chefs?

Words of support and gratitude from Stanford leadership

What does plant-forward mean to you?

Charge into the #plantforwardfuture

Health Care Without Harm seeks to transform health care worldwide so the sector reduces its environmental footprint and becomes a leader in the global movement.