Syosset Hospital Chef Russ Ficke has had a transformational healthcare journey as part of our team. He’s lost 50 pounds by exercising and looking at food in a different way. His drive to make healthy lifestyle changes and better food choices have also helped him become even more passionate about his work as a hospital chef. That’s why we couldn’t wait to share his perspective on our wellness initiatives, get the scoop on the quality of chefs Northwell Health is looking to hire, and hear his advice for those starting out in the culinary industry.
What’s it like to be Chef at Syosset Hospital?
It is a real honor to be able to care for people who are giving you the opportunity to make them healthier. Most of our patients at Syosset Hospital choose to come here for a procedure. They selected us over many other facilities. We must rise to the occasion in service and hospitality in every instance.
What advice do you have for someone just starting out in a career in your field?
Work hard and learn every aspect of the culinary industry — beyond dining, travel and tourism. I have worked in fine dining, catering halls, country clubs and hotels. I also taught Culinary Arts at a vocational school. There are many institutional facets of this industry. By accumulating knowledge of these various business lines, I am a more rounded chef.
What should people know about your team? How does this speak to the quality of chefs that Northwell Health is looking to hire?
I am grateful to work with a group of professionals who share the same focus: providing world-class service to our patients, visitors, and coworkers. I partner with my leadership team, as well as with the clinical nutrition team, to assure we are delivering the best service. I spend a lot of time with my culinary team teaching them new techniques, trends, and skills. I even learn things from them.
What is Northwell’s Ultimate Chef Competition?
Chefs from 17 of Northwell Health hospitals have competed in the Ultimate Chef Healthy Cooking Competition for the past seven years at Glen Cove Hospital. Chefs are challenged with serving up delicious, restaurant-quality meals, but without the added high fat, calories or sodium. I have three first-place finishes and a third-place finish. For the past two years, I’ve helped run the event instead of competing in it.
Each appetizer and dessert had to be less than 250 calories with no more than 250 milligrams of sodium and less than 35 percent total calories from fat. Entrees needed to be under 450 calories, with no more than 500 milligrams of sodium and 35 percent of total calories from fat. Teams are also sometimes given a mystery ingredient to incorporate into their original three-course meal.
How do you as a Chef promote Northwell Health’s commitment to wellness?
Northwell health is committed to providing healthy meals and options to our 66,000+ employees. This focus on wellness extends from our patients to our cafeterias and internal catering, all the way to our vending machines. We also provide educational sessions and cooking classes around these initiatives to promote healthier nutrition.
What is something that people should know about Northwell Health as an employer that they might not know already?
Northwell Health values and promotes many different training opportunities to assist us in our career growth. I am fortunate to work for an organization that invests in me.
Like what Chef Ficke is cooking up at Northwell Health? Join our passionate and growing culinary team. Explore job opportunities today!