Tell me about your role here at NewYork-Presbyterian.
My patients are my guests, and our servers give top customer service. The people staying here have butlers and private chefs, and we really just try to make this an extension of their homes. We try to make their hospital stay as positive of an experience as possible. It’s all about quality and fresh ingredients.
What kind of food do you serve?
Everything’s homemade. Our New York strip steak is very popular, as it the tomato, basil, and buffalo mozzarella appetizer. We’ve had a lot of Middle Eastern patients, so I’ve created an international menu that is Arabic-based.
The soups are very big:they’re warming, they’re comfort food. The rigatoni and meatballs is also a very popular dish. When you’re in a hospital you don’t want foie gras or to smell seafood. So we work to make everything look really nice and sexy with good plating, but not take it too far. Here, you want what mom would make you when you’re sick. So if a patient isn’t interested in the menu items, I tell him to put it aside and tell me what he would want if he was at home. If we don’t have whatever it is in the house, I’ll make it my business to go out, procure it, and bring it back. I will make it. We’re healing with food here. Food is medicine as far as I’m concerned.
When did you get started in the culinary world?
I got started in the industry at 14 years old, stocking refrigerators and doing dishes at a local delicatessen at my hometown in Westchester. Everything was made from scratch there, so from a young age I knew that quality really matters. Instead of buying Boar’s Head, we roasted our of 30 pound turkeys and sliced those for sandwiches. I was interested in learning how to help out, and next thing you know I was roasting the turkeys and doing our catering events.
At the same time I got involved with another catering venue, whose owner taught me everything he knew. I continued to work for him while I went to the Culinary Institute of America. I did an internship in Italy and had apprenticeships from the North to the South of Italy, and fell in love with traditional Italian cuisine. I worked all over: Italy, Spain, America, Korea. I was a guest chef sent from Milan to Soeul, Korea to represent Italian cuisine at a Korean-owned trattoria. When I came back, I got into corporate dining.
You participated in the Art of Food event last year.
Yes, I really loved how many people appreciated my dish, and told me how they saw the connection between what I prepared and the Warhol I was paired with. It was wonderful.
What’s your number one cooking tip?
There are two parts: keep it simple, and use good, fresh ingredients. That’s the number one thing I learned working throughout Europe. If the ingredients are good, they’ll speak for themselves and you won’t have to do much to them.
The most rewarding part of your job?
When a patient or family members communicate to me what a great experience they had in a hospital setting here at NewYork-Presbyterian.
What’s next for NewYork-Presbyterian’s culinary scene?
We are, and will be the trendsetters of healthcare in regards to culinary arts. You’re going to see a lot of amazing things coming out of this institution in the near future.
Check out what Chef Ross is serving up for The Art of Food at Sothebys, Feb. 4: www.artoffoodny.com