Serving up healthy, tasty meals

Chef Jeffrey Smith’s salmon dish with asparagus and sweet potato souffle.

Oyster’s Pearl chef says he loves how St. Charles Hospital takes care of the community

Like paint on an artist’s palette, Chef Jeffrey Smith displays a tray with pink Atlantic salmon, fresh green asparagus and the appealing orange of sweet potato souffle – all about to become one of The Oyster’s Pearl Grill and Café favorite healthy dishes.

Selling an average of 30 pounds of salmon or 80 six-ounce portions a week, the public is increasingly putting healthier options on the lunch plate at St. Charles Parish Hospital’s restaurant in Luling.

“Of the healthy dishes, the salmon is the most popular,” Smith said. “It’s fresh Atlantic salmon, cooked to hold the nutrition and still taste fresh.”

As he tosses fresh herbs and spices on the fish, and then tosses it in the pan for searing, the tantalizing scent of the dish fills the air.

The ingredients and seasoning that become Smith’s tasty and low salt dish.

With today’s more health conscious consumer, other dishes like grilled chicken, light or dark, that’s been marinated in fresh seasonings is another popular dish. It doesn’t require as much salt or pepper, which fits the diets of many customers and hospital patients.

Smith said they make an overall effort to cook healthy and with fresh ingredients.

“We try to make one healthy meal and keep the other meals within the range of healthy with lower salt while still tasting good,” he said. “We take a lot of time making the product enjoyable for everybody.”

And diners like it.

“Of the healthy dishes, the salmon is the most popular. It’s fresh Atlantic salmon, cooked to hold the nutrition and still taste fresh.” — Chef Jeffrey Smith

The Oyster’s Pearl rates as one of the best restaurants in St. Charles Parish, and one that Smith said embraces the community by offering healthy, as well as tasty, dishes at a realistic price. The meals are so appealing that some customers buy two plates of different lunches to bring one home for supper or for family.

Smith demonstrating how he cooks salmon.

“This is the first time I’ve seen the hospital take care of the community – and I love the fact we can do that,” Smith said. “We know everybody from the people who mow the lawns to the teachers or janitors, we know everybody. It’s like one big happy family community.”

Patients and customers can suggest dishes that might end up on the menu.

Although patients and restaurant customers are two different sides of the business with separate service and separate menu, the goal is the same toward providing an enjoyable experience at the table.

“We try to work with any diet we can in order to make the food presentable and taste good,” Smith said of patients and customers. “You can try new ideas and have the public try it.

“We try to give the best quality food and service to the patients in order to better their hospital stay and nutritional diet so they heal better with a happier attitude.”

Variations of gumbo are well received, as well as their unique shrimp and okra stew.

Smith cooks the asparagus and plates the vegetable.

“We’re able to experiment and the public hasn’t seen some of this before and probably won’t see it anywhere else,” Smith said. “They love it here. We probably go through 10 gallons when we make that stew. It’s something different.”

Being at Oyster’s Pearl for 2-1/2 years, Smith brought more than 32 years experience to the position as chef.

He was trained by one of the best schools in the nation, the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. Smith moved from Florida to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and has been here since.

“I love everything about cooking,” he said. “I love the way food can be presented, and how you can take a little bit of product and make a meal out of it and you still feel healthy and full when you’re done. The smile you get and gratitude you get when you take care of people … Its a big rush to know you can bring someone that little bit of happiness and make the day a little bit better.”

Smith displays the salmon dish with asparagus and sweet potato soufflé.

Get to know Chef Jeff

  • Chef Jeffrey Smith as been with the Oyster’s Pearl 2-12 years. He enjoys cooking standard dishes, but also preparing some like gumbo with a twist.
  • A native of Oklahoma, Smith studied at the Culinary Institute of America in New York.
  • The restaurant and café is at St. Charles Parish Hospital in Luling. The lunch menu includes a variety of choices prepared with an emphasis on healthy dining.
About Anna Thibodeaux 1981 Articles
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