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Nephi hospital cafe serves up food with healing touch

Posted at 7:58 PM, Feb 19, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-20 11:14:21-05

NEPHI, Utah — Inside Central Valley Medical Center lies one of the locals' favorite cafes: Central Valley Cafe. In the cafe, you can find executive chef Austin Buhler and his team making and serving creative dishes daily with much of the product locally sourced.

"Some of our breads come from Crumb Brothers Bakery in Logan, our meats come from Sunbo in Orem, we actually just started a buffalo burger a few months ago, our buffalo comes from the Ute Buffalo Ranch," Buhler said.

The menu at Central Valley Cafe changes weekly, with different specials daily. On Monday, they served up a delicious pork schnitzel dinner. During their most recent Mardi Gras menu, the cafe was packed full.

"Here the food that I'm serving to them makes a difference. Tt's the three parts of the day they actually look forward to in the hospital because we're bringing food, not just another shot or medication," Buhler said.

Hospitals aren't necessarily known for having the best or most inviting food, but for the last decade, Buhler has been changing the status quo, so much so, that dozens of community members come to the hospital to eat daily.

"When Austin came to Central Valley Medical Center, he said, 'You know, I want to take the patient experience to the next level,' and part of that is incorporating healing into the food he was going to provide for the patients," said Makenzie Memmott, the hospital's marketing director.

The hospital's patients, their families, and staff are top of mind in everything the cafe and hospital does. Buhler says a lot of people book their procedures and appointments at Central Valley Medical Center so they can get lunch at the cafe afterward.

"When you're in the hospital and the food's not good, then you're not going to eat. You're not eating, you're not going to heal, you're not going to get better," he said. "Our patient system is run on like a hotel style room service, so they call down and order what they want off our menu that has everything they can order, depending on their diet."

Central Valley Medical Center is just one of few hospitals that have taken this new approach to hospital food, and others are also starting to be interested in serving more than frozen chicken pot pies and peas to patients.

"I think there is an emerging market for that, and I'm seeing a few more of my colleagues interested in that, and the more accessible it's becoming to places like this, the more we'll probably see more," Buhler said.