Brian Vandermause donned a chef’s hat in some of the most esteemed New York City hot spots before becoming the executive chef at Los Robles Hospital & Medical Center in Thousand Oaks.
He worked as a line cook under chef and television personality Bobby Flay at the restaurants Bar Americain and Mesa Grill, and helped open an upscale eatery called G-50 before returning to his home state.
Brian now oversees a kitchen staff that prepares food for an average of 1,200 people a day. Depending on the daily census, about an eighth of those people are patients.
The chef, who says his position at Los Robles is nothing like the bustling New York restaurant scene, enjoys the challenge of providing patients with meals that defy the bad hospital food cliché. His food supports the notion that delicious and healthy can be one in the same.
“I knew this position would test my creativity and that was intriguing,” the 29-year-old says. “At one of the restaurants in New York, when we made bacon at breakfast, we would reserve all the bacon fat to cook our vegetables with at dinner. Here the approach is more, ‘We want to come up with this new dish, but it needs to be low in sodium and have less than 15 carbs.’”
Brian works closely with Tori Cohen, the director of food and nutrition service at the hospital, and a team of dietitians to ensure patients get the nutrients they need.
Examples of newer entrees on the ever-evolving menu include pork tenderloin with an apple mango salsa and baked tilapia with a mango pico de gallo and wild rice.
Tori says those who work in the kitchen understand how important a good meal can be to the healing process.
“Food is not just about putting something on a plate. It’s about the entire experience, from the moment the food is delivered through the back door, to the preparation, to when it is put on a tray, to when it is delivered.”
“We serve mostly comfort food,” Brian adds. “Foods that are meant to warm people’s bodies and souls.”
But although most people equate comfort food with copious amounts of cream and butter, the chef says it doesn’t need to be that way.
Brian began modifying some of the recipes he cooks at home for his fiancée, Courtney Miller, after she told him she wanted to look and feel her best before their nuptials next fall.
The chef, who earned his bachelor’s degree in restaurant management from East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C., before attending Napa Valley’s Culinary Institute of America, says delicious food and fattening food don’t need to be mutually exclusive.
Brian says most of the dishes are made with light meats as opposed to darker or red meats and he chose not to sauté or fry the chicken wings, as dry methods of cooking, such as grilling, are healthier than wet.
“You just need a little bit of oil to get the seasoning on them,” he says of the wings. “Grilling meat will always be healthier than cooking it in oil or butter.”
His favorite item on the menu is his pork tenderloin sandwich, seasoned with a barbecue spice rub containing onions, garlic and chili peppers. His use of tenderloin instead of the typical pork shoulder helps lower the fat.
“It’s just the vegetables, lemon and lime juice. It’s a fresh and crisp coleslaw you put on top of the sandwich to enhance the natural flavors.”
The executive chef said he looks forward to cooking up some of the recipes on the day of the game.
“I’m sure we will be at home watching the game. I’d be shocked if I’m not making some of the stuff on that list.”
Written by STEPHANIE SUMELL Photos by MICHAEL COONS
- Cheese-Stuffed Chicken Meatballs
- Grilled Chicken Wings
- Roasted BBQ Pork Tenderloin Sandwich with Citrus Slaw
- Turkey Chili
- White Bean Spread
8 oz. smoked provolone cheese, whole chub
½ cup diced onion
½ Tbsp. minced garlic
½ Tbsp. Chardonnay wine
1 lb. ground chicken
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. black pepper
½ cup plain breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese
¼ cup milk
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
24 oz. canned marinara sauce
Cut cheese into 1/4-inch cubes. Return to refrigerator until needed.
- Sauté onion and garlic in pan until soft and translucent. Add wine to the onions and garlic and allow to reduce until almost dry. Set aside and cool.
- In a large bowl combine meat, onions, garlic, salt, pepper, breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, egg, milk and parsley until blended.
- Remove cheese cubes from refrigerator.
- Scoop 1/4 cup of meat mixture from the bowl and form it into a ball. Push a piece of cheese into middle of ball; re-form ball.
- Repeat with the rest of the meat and cheese until all meatballs are formed.
- In a sauté pan with just enough oil to keep the meatballs from sticking, sear the meatballs on all sides.
- Place meatballs in slow cooker and cover with marinara sauce. Cook on high for two hours.
- Serve hot, directly out of slow cooker.
40 chicken wings**
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. Old Bay seasoning
24 oz. buffalo sauce***
- In a large bowl, toss wings in oil and Old Bay seasoning to ensure they are well coated. Cover bowl and place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Remove wings from refrigerator and allow to warm slightly on counter.
- Heat outdoor grill to around 300° and place wings presentation-side down on grill. After about 3 minutes, depending on size of wings, turn and cook an additional 3 minutes.
- Once wings have reached an internal temperature of 165° and they feel firm, remove and place in a large bowl.
- Toss with buffalo sauce and serve with ranch and/or bleu cheese dressing for dipping. For a lighter, healthier option, choose a low-fat or nonfat dressing.
NOTE: This dish is spicy!
**If you purchased the wings unbutchered, separate the two edible pieces (wing and leg) and dispose of the wing tip before beginning.
***Buffalo sauce is available for purchase at most major supermarkets.
1.8 oz. BBQ spice mix
3¾ lbs. pork tenderloin (about 1 to 1½ lbs. each)
1½ cups BBQ sauce*
1½ lbs. citrus slaw*
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
12 whole-wheat hamburger buns
- In a bowl, assemble BBQ Spice Mix.
- Trim excess fat from tenderloin and pat dry. Coat tenderloin with spice mix and place in refrigerator to marinate for 30 minutes.
- Prepare BBQ Sauce and Citrus Slaw.
- Take pork out of refrigerator and allow to warm to room temperature.
- Preheat oven to 425° (400° if using convection).
- Spray tenderloin with nonstick vegetable spray.
- Heat oil in an oven-safe pan and sear pork over medium-high heat until browned on all sides. Place pan in oven and finish cooking tenderloin until an internal temperature of 155° at its thickest part is reached, about 15 minutes.
- Remove tenderloin from pan and allow to rest on cutting board for 5 minutes.
- Slice tenderloin, then dice into 1/4-inch cubes. Place diced pork in a bowl and toss with BBQ sauce.
- For each bun, serve 4 oz. of pork with 2 oz. of citrus slaw.
BBQ Spice Mix
Makes 2½ oz.
2 Tbsp. paprika
2 Tbsp. chili powder
2 Tbsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. chipotle powder
½ tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. garlic powder
Combine all ingredients and store in a tightly sealed container. Mix will keep up to one month.
BBQ spice mix can also be purchased at most major supermarkets.
Makes 2 cups
1 cup ketchup
½ cup tomato puree
1⅓ Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. onion powder
1 pinch kosher salt
1⅓ oz. cider vinegar
1 tsp. chili powder
½ tsp. chipotle powder
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. paprika
Combine ingredients in a saucepan and place over low heat on the stove.
Simmer, occasionally stirring, until ingredients are completely blended. Use water to adjust thickness if necessary.
6 Tbsp. lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
4 Tbsp. lime juice (about 2 limes)
½ cup orange marmalade
2 Tbsp. Tapatio hot sauce
8 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 lbs. cole slaw mix
Mix lemon juice, lime juice, marmalade, hot sauce and oil in a large bowl.
Add cole slaw mix and toss until coated. Cover and refrigerate until ready to eat.
Remove from refrigerator, taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.
2 cups chopped onion, chopped
¾ cup diced green bell pepper
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. ancho chili powder
1½ tsp. chipotle powder
2½ Tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried oregano
1½ tsp. kosher salt
¾ tsp. black pepper
4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3 lbs. ground turkey
2½ Tbsp. tomato paste
1 pint beer
2½ cups diced tomato
1½ cups no salt added tomato sauce
2½ cups canned black beans, drained
- Place onion and green bell peppers in a large mixing bowl.
- Thinly slice the jalapeno (for milder chili, remove seeds or omit jalapeno completely). Place in bowl with onion and pepper. Add the minced garlic.
- In a small bowl, combine spices.
- In a large pot, heat 2 Tbsp. oil over medium-high heat and brown turkey. Season with salt and black pepper. Once fully cooked, remove turkey from pot.
- Saute onion, peppers, garlic and jalapeno in additional 2 Tbsp. oil until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
- Add tomato paste and stir to coat vegetable mixture. Continue to cook and stir about 2 minutes until the ingredients turn dark red.
- Pour in 1/2 pint of beer and allow to boil down by 2/3, about 2 minutes.
- Place the cooked turkey back in the pot and combine.
- Add spice mixture and stir to coat meat and vegetables.
- Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and the remaining beer. Stir to combine.
- Lightly simmer for 40 minutes on low heat, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in beans and heat through, about 5 minutes.
- Serve with green onion, shredded cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips or any other toppings you desire.
- For a lighter option, consider using low-fat cheese, low-fat or fat-free sour cream and baked tortilla chips.
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
15 oz. canned cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. water
1 tsp. thyme, dry, chopped
½ tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
⅛ tsp. cayenne pepper
- In a small skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and turn off immediately.
- Allow garlic to sit in oil for 30 seconds to a minute and then strain out the garlic pieces, reserving the oil. Set aside and allow to cool. Discard garlic.
- In a food processor, combine beans, flavored oil, lemon juice, water, thyme, salt, pepper and cayenne. Process until smooth.
- Dip may be refrigerated a few hours before serving. Serve at room temperature with your favorite chips.