"People start asking, "Are you going to do it again?" even before the order forms are posted."
Stress levels can really rise this time of year, especially for people faced with putting on a Thanksgiving or Christmas spread for a large group.
However, there is an antidote available at Providence Hospital in Washington, D.C. in the form of made-from-scratch pies, whole cooked turkeys with all the trimmings, salads, cobblers, cakes, wing ding platters and much more.
“We take all their worries away,” says Beth Yesford, MS, FACHE, FMP, senior director, Food & Nutrition, Environmental Services, Laundry & Linen at the hospital.
For more than a decade, the hospital has started taking orders a few weeks before the commencement of holiday-season craziness.
“People start asking, ‘Are you going to do it again?’ even before the order forms are posted,” Yesford says.
The process for employees and others in the neighborhood is simple: grab an order form and check off what you would like. A turkey dinner with stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans or collard greens, cranberry sauce and a dozen dinner rolls that serves eight to ten people costs $55.
Then, starting the Friday before Thanksgiving, the orders are picked up. The turkey can be kept whole for carving yourself, but the hospital's catering operation, Fresh Fare, will also slice the turkey and put it on a platter.
“We always make a lot of extra dishes, in case someone forgot something,” Yesford says. The pick-up area is a conference room that becomes a hive of activity all through the month of December. In the days before Thanksgiving, the hospital's farmers market co-located for the first time this year, giving people a chance to also stock up on fresh fruits and veggies to go along with their meal. A table with many of the items for last-minute sale without an order form boosts business even more.
“There's a mad rush leading up to Thanksgiving, but the whole month of December is like that, because people are buying more platters for parties throughout the whole month,” Yesford says. An especially hot seller has been a curried chicken salad, and vegetable platters with dip are also big.
All catering employees pitch in, and “everyone has a specialty. One of our people does all the pumpkin pies from scratch; that's her thing. It's ‘all hands on deck’ during this time, and that adds to the ‘home-made’ feel of it.”
At press time, 300 pies for this year have already been sold, along with about 40 turkey dinners with sides and about 40 cobblers.
The holiday meal ordering frenzy rakes in as much as a couple extra days of regular cafeteria business, Yesford says, with pumpkin pies and sweet potato pies leading the pack in sales.
“It began just as a pie sale, with a special sweet potato pie that was made by a chef here who passed away a few years ago,” Yesford says. “We picked up the tradition and we're keeping it going strong.”