by Erin Wegner
Sam Sawyer has been a Sous Chef at Boone Hospital Center for almost a year. His introduction to cooking started at a young age, but his love for cooking grew, as he did. He is now passionate about cooking because it’s a form of art and a way to express himself in the dishes he creates.
As a 14-year-old, Sam knew he was ready to work. On his 15th birthday, as a present to himself, he got a work permit and a bus pass, then got his first job. While he was washing dishes at a little greasy spoon, he got his first invitation into the kitchen where he learned how to cook a hamburger. He also learned he enjoyed being in the kitchen and was already thinking about going to culinary school.
At 17, Sam had moved on to a steakhouse where he learned how to make things from scratch in a high-volume corporate setting. But as he got older, and life happened, instead of pursuing his culinary school dream, Sam continued traveling and cooking in different establishments to learn everything he possibly could. As his knowledge grew, so did his love of cooking.
Sam’s on-the-job training has given him a chance to grow inside the kitchen. Before he was 20, he worked alongside a chef at an Italian restaurant who taught him invaluable lessons. This is where he learned knife work and knife techniques, as well as fundamental culinary skills. These opportunities have led to his rise from line cook to executive chef. He learned the corporate management side of things as a kitchen manager at a seafood restaurant and enjoyed complete freedom and unlimited resources as a sous chef in a casino kitchen.
Sam has found his new home here at Boone, where he oversees all of the production in the cafeteria, from what is served to the patients, to what is offered on the salad bar. This includes the 951,000 meals served every year by Boone Hospital’s Nutrition and Food Services team.
This new role in the health care world has taught Sam the importance of dietary restrictions and the risks of giving the wrong patient a straw (some patients can aspirate if they try drinking through a straw). On any given day, the department has to accommodate for over 22 different diet restrictions, such as low sodium, gluten free or low cholesterol.
Food allergies are another challenge, impacting as many as 20 patients per day. Allergy alerts and cross-contamination practices help Nutrition and Food Services staff keep sensitive patients safe. Attention to detail is key.
Sam has developed a family-like professional relationship with his peers and loves working with them every day. He also loves spending time with his wife, Tiffany, and their three kids. Being able to be home with his family in the evenings was very important to Sam, so his work-life balance is another reason why he loves working at Boone. The Sawyer family can be found doing scavenger hunts, going to the park and taking trips to the zoo and the beach.