Michael Pollan famously wrote, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants” as a way to simply explain his philosophy for better eating. That plant-based component was the star at a recent competition for hospital chefs from Glen Cove Hospital, Glen Cove, NY.

For the third year in a row, the Ultimate Chef Challenge required participants to showcase a meatless entrée centered around a surprise plant-based protein of either seitan (wheat gluten), tempeh (fermented soybeans), tofu or chickpeas. Teams were paired with a registered dietitian from North Shore-Long Island Jewish Hospital to ensure each dish came in at 500 calories or less, with no more than 600 mg of sodium.

Thirteen hospital culinary teams representing hospital systems in Queens, Long Island, Manhattan and Staten Island competed in the Glen Cove Hospital auditorium, which was equipped as a culinary battleground.

Spicy Pesto Sauce with Zucchini Radicchio Salad and Melon ShooterAll entrees and side dishes were judged for taste, nutrition, originality and presentation. Judges included two doctors, Jennifer Mieres, MD, and Robert Graham, MD, along with Executive Chef Todd Daigneanult of Overlook Medical Center of Atlantic Healthcare Systems in New Jersey.

The entrée that blew the judges away turned out to be Seitan Polenta Croquette, Spicy Pesto Sauce with Zucchini Radicchio Salad and Melon Shooter, an elaborate plant-based dish prepared by Chef Lyndon Espiritu and Chef Dalton Christopher, both of Glen Cove Hospital.

“Our dish was totally different,” Dalton says. “It looks and tastes great and it’s nutritious, too.”

Lyndon said creating meatless dishes forces him to think outside the box, something that really sets apart great vegetarian and vegan entrees.

Earning second place in the competition was Forest Hills Hospital with Tempeh Stuffed Eggplant with Carrot Puree and Blackberry Coulis. Huntington Hospital won third place with Raspberry Tofu Blintzes.