Colorado hospital chefs compete in a cooking challenge to break the stereotype of hospital food

Chefs who lead the kitchens of some of Colorado's biggest hospitals are trying to change the low expectations people often have about hospital food.

LAKEWOOD - Hospital chefs from across Colorado are prepping for the first-ever Colorado Hospital Chef Challenge, an event designed to demonstrate how good hospital food can be.

The chefs are painfully aware of the low expectations many people have for hospital food.

“That drives me nuts,” St. Anthony Hospital Executive Chef Joe Colcleasure said.  “I spent many years in fine dining and resort hotels and I came to health care and I still get that look, ‘Uh, hospital food?’”

Although many of their recipes have to follow a doctor’s orders, Colorado hospital chefs can still be creative with their ingredients and combinations.

“We get fresh salmon in daily – cut it to order, grilled fresh,” Chef Colcleasure said.  “If you notice the trinity quinoa – so, we believe in grains and good starches and good vegetables.  And for the sweet tooth, Haagen-Dazs French toast – dipped in Haagen-Dazs ice cream, a nice brioche bread with fresh berries and honey orange butter.  Yo, you can’t even find this stuff in a lot of the good restaurants.”

So, not all the food has to be healthy.

“We believe in balance and choices,” Chef Colcleasure said.  “Most people aren’t on healthy diets when they come in.  Most people want something they recognize.  They want some comfort.  Everybody deserves a sweet treat every now and then.”

The inaugural Colorado Hospital Chef Challenge will be held next Thursday, September 14, at the Falls Event Center in Littleton.

The challenge for each chef will be to create a three-course meal – an appetizer, a main course and a dessert – all with a Colorado theme.

Guests will get to see the competition close-up and sample each dish.

A panel of culinary experts will declare a winner.

Ticket sales will benefit the children of parents with cancer.  All proceeds will be used to bring Children’s Lives include Moments of Bravery (CLIMB), to more hospitals.

The Children’s Treehouse Foundation, a Colorado-based international nonprofit, runs the CLIMB program. 

Executive Director Denis Murray says children are often overlooked when a parent is diagnosed with cancer.

"It's not uncommon at all for kids to think that something they did or for some reason it's their fault that their parent has cancer,”  Murray said.  “And our program is aimed at helping kids know that that's not the case.  And helping crack open that conversation between the parents and the kids."

The Challenge runs from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. next Thursday night at 8199 Southpark Court in Littleton. 

Tickets are $65 each. To purchase tickets and to learn more about The Children’s Treehouse Foundation, visit

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