Renown Health’s Justin Bart is honored as Chef of the Year by the High Sierra Chefs Association.
Justin Bart is Vice President of the High Sierra Chefs Association and has served on its board for several years. Which is why Bart — Renown’s longtime Supervisor of Food and Nutrition Services at Renown Regional Medical Center — was surprised when they kept him out of the voting process for Chef of the Year in 2014. It turns out the group had something cooking.
And that something was special recognition for Bart — the Association named him Chef of the Year.
Bart didn’t have a clue until, at the awards ceremony and banquet, when the winner was described before being announced. He heard “Bay area on his motorcycle” and “rock concerts” and thought, “Wait a minute — that sounds like me!” Bart chuckles recalling that moment, one peak in a career with humble beginnings that has definitely changed the face of patient meals and the connotation of hospital food at Renown Regional .
A fourth generation Reno resident, Bart is also a self-taught chef. He did, in fact, get his start in the kitchen — but as a dish washer. He moved up from there, eventually proving himself a leader in the kitchens of several local managed care facilities. Then on to Renown where Bart has worked for 12 years, starting with catering and then extending to his current supervisory role.
Bart’s love of food quickly transformed into a love of the job — the fast pace of the kitchen and especially the instant gratification he receives as a chef. “It’s making people happy right there,” he explains. Bart also finds fulfillment in coordinating special events, including a buffet for doctors on National Doctors’ Day in March and the annual holiday buffet for employees every December. Recently he even helped prepare lobster dinners for new parents at the hospital on Valentine’s Day.
But working with patients day in and day out is the greatest reward for Bart. “Food is what makes them happy, so I spend a lot of time with patients — visiting them and talking with them to find out what they want.” And it’s their influence that, in large part, guides Bart’s food decisions at Renown. Based on patients’ needs and input, Bart has been instrumental in diversifying Renown’s hospital menus over the years, offering a wider variety of dishes and healthier options. “If patients have enough choice, they are happier,” Bart says.
Bart has a personal belief when it comes to providing food at a hospital: keep it close to home. “You can heal with food, but I think a lot of people lose that. We get in a hurry so we cook more microwave things or hit the drive-thru. But I think if you can have at least one healthy meal a day, you are going in the right direction.”