Interview with our very own Dawn Cascia


Dawn Cascio wears multiple hats in the Healthcare food service industry.

In addition to her position as Director of Dining at Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, New Jersey, Dawn also serves on the board of The Greater New Jersey Society for Healthcare Food Administrators. After moving up from a small psychiatric rehabilitation hospital Dawn moved to a 250 bed community hospital and assumed the position of Assistant Manager before taking over at Valley Hospital. We had an opportunity to speak with her about the Healthcare service industry, her career path and how her occupation has evolved in recent years.

Ms. Cascio, How did you get into the healthcare service industry?

I started out as a clinical dietician. My first job was a mixture of covering critical care units, ventilator unites and a drug detox unit.

What sort of career path did you take to your current position?

I took a few positions, each with increasing food service management responsibilities. One position I had was in a small 90-bed psychiatric, alcohol & drug detox rehabilitation hospital. I functioned as the Clinical Dietitian as well as the Food Service Director. My time was spent fifty percent clinical and fifty percent food service. From there I took a position at a midsize 250-bed community hospital as the Assistant Director/ Patient Services Manager.

How have the dining needs of your patients evolved?

I think the patients in the hospital are more acute and they stay now for a shorter period of time. Most patients are elderly. You have to make sure food is classic comfort food that can be easily eaten. It cannot require too much cutting and it needs to be soft. It is also a balancing act to create a menu that pleases your very ill and older, and your younger maternity patients and their significant others.

What is your approach to building your team?

I think it is best to have a team that enjoys working with one another. Your supervisory team must have a say in who they think will be the best fit for the department. It is also important that work be a collaborative effort. Also, acknowledging a job well done is extremely critical.

What type of employees succeed in your culture?

People who are collaborative and will help each out even though it might not be their area. We really stress that we are one team and team work is essential in meeting and exceeding patient, employee and community expectations

What are you doing to attract the “next generation” of professionals to healthcare dining?

We are a host site for several Dietetic Internships in New Jersey. We take students from Montclair State University and Rutgers University. They typically spend four weeks with us.

I am amazed at the breadth of responsibility you and your department have beyond just food. What else falls under your managerial umbrella?

In July of 2010 we began a project of having our own beehives to make our own honey. Managing bees has been an interesting part of the job. We go up on the roof frequently to see how they are doing. Occasionally we get loose bees that we have to contain. It is always a nice reason to go outside, especially in the warmer months.

How do your foodservice, nutrition and dietitian all work together?

We have monthly department meetings. All staff, both clinical and food service, attend the meetings together. We also involve the staff when making menu changes for the patients as well as for the employee cafeteria.

What makes for a successful operation?

Communication and respect are essential. It is crucial to keep foremost in mind that we are here for one thing and that is to serve the patient.

From a menu standpoint there seems to be tremendous pressure to serve farm to table and local food. What is your approach to that?

I would not say pressure. We want to do local foods because of the superior flavor and freshness. We do as much local and farm to table as possible being in the northeast. We have a vegetable and herb garden on site. Our chefs grow a lot of heirloom vegetables. We also belong to a CSA (Community Supported) Agriculture in at Catalpa Ridge Farm in Sussex Country, New Jersey about fifty miles from the hospital. Jersey corn and tomatoes are amazing!

What role do your food and beverage vendors play in your success?

They are a great resource for ideas and inspiration. Their commitment to the healthcare segment is commendable. We know we can rely on them in any situation.

Do you go to bid constantly?

We are always checking price and monitoring the markets. If we know the price of an item is going up, we’ll modify the menu. Making sure we are getting the best possible value for the hospital is paramount to us.

Thanks for your insight Ms. Cascio and good luck in the future!






Original article

GNJSHFSA BBQ – Fun Had by All




Valley Earns Top Honors at National Healthcare Culinary Competition

July 19, 2016 – The Valley Hospital’s John Graziano, Manager, Executive Chef, and Jason Nyman, Manager of Food & Nutrition of Patient Services, were the top winners at the national 2016 Association for Healthcare Foodservice (AHF) Culinary Competition in Dallas, Texas.

John Graziano and Jason Nyman were presented with gold medals and the top award (the Silver Plate) at the Gala Banquet during the AHF annual conference in early June for their winning dish entry, Tex-Mex Chicken & Waffles.

AHF WinnersThe annual competition has a format similar to Food Network challenges. There is a time limit of 75 minutes to prepare, cook and present the entrée and sides.  Additionally, the winning dish had to use certain mandatory ingredients and had to fit within the stated guidelines: cost under $8 to produce and be appropriate to serve in a facility on a regular menu rotation, whether retail, catering or patient feeding. The teams and their dishes were judged on organization, culinary skills, taste and presentation.

The culinary competition is an AHF signature event where self-operated healthcare facilities across the country are afforded the opportunity to showcase their innovative and delicious meals. Part of AHF’s mission is to bolster the spirit of the best and brightest culinary talent and to provide an opportunity to showcase their skills and creativity. 

This year’s competition took place at 3015 Trinity Groves, Dallas’ landmark culinary event venue known as an incubator for innovation and entrepreneurism.

The event not only raises the bar for healthcare foodservice, but also helps to change the public’s perception of hospital food.   AHF’s culinary competition is a perfect illustration of healthcare foodservice having a positive impact and making a statement about the entire facility.  Healthcare organizations such as The Valley Hospital, continue to usher in a new era of hospital food that is both healthy and delicious.

Photo caption: Jason Nyman, Manager of Food & Nutrition of Patient Services (pictured left), and  John Graziano, Manager, Executive Chef,  (right) with Silver Plate awards for their winning dish at the 2016 Association for Healthcare Foodservice Culinary Competition.

Click for original article

Winners – Tapas With Attitude


Congratulations to all the winners at the Tapas with Attitude competition.

Fabulous dishes and presentation to our 1st place winner, JFK Medical Center.

Kudos to Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center for creativity and imagination in their tapas to achieve 2nd winning place.

This year an amazing tie for third between Atlantic Health Systems, Chilton Medical Center and Valley Medical center.

Also congratulations to Sysco foods for winning the competition for best tapas among business partners. Best booth design went to Valley Hospital for the imagination and beyond .

One of the toughest years of judging the culinary competition at RWJ for this year’s judges:

  • Nick Mercoglinao, Executive Chef, Peckina-Ferri
  • Thomas Andresakes, Corporate chef, Nestles
  • Todd Daigneault, Executive Chef, Overlook Medical Center
  • Lauren Diamond, Millennial Foodie

It was a great evening of taste, conversation and networking for all.

Gary Triolo in the News!

Our very own Gary Triolo and his team are highlight in an article from Catering magazine.

Click here to read the full article.

Here’s an exerpt…

Going it alone

While a hefty percentage of healthcare locations rely on companies such as Cura and Aramark for their foodservice, many prefer to keep it in-house.

Serving approximately 1,700 meals a day, Freehold, N.J.-based CentraState Healthcare System is a not-for-profit health organization affiliated with the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School Family Medicine Residency Program. In addition to a 284-bed acute care teaching hospital, it operates an outpatient center, and three senior living communities.

“Deanna Curry, our executive chef, and her staff are always looking for new, trendy items, and, thankfully, they’re very good at that,” says Gary Triolo, director of food and nutrition services.

“Our restaurant-style room service menu is measured through the Press Ganey patient satisfaction survey process, and our overall satisfaction scores range from the high 80th percentile to the mid-90th percentile. For the patients, we do our best to keep everything low-fat and low-sodium, but still tasty. As a result, many selections could be allowable for most diets.”

One of his proudest accomplishments, Triolo says, was “taking over a new, outsourced and failing café at our attached ambulatory campus. We transformed this café into a fresh-and-healthy-style café where a different ‘nutrilicious’ hot meal is presented daily. Each selection is nutritionally balanced, and the calorie count is under 550.”

Learning Had By All – Second Annual RWJ Live Cooking Class













The RWJ White Toque Culinarians led by Executive Chef Timothy Gee, CEC and Executive Sous Chef Michael Kasperek both of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital held their second annual RWJ Live Cooking Class with the assistance of Corporate Chef Nicholas Mercogliano, CEC on April 29, 2016 for the Greater New Jersey Society for Healthcare Foodservice Administrators.

This class was open to AHF Member facilities (GNJSHFSA) in New Jersey. The class was attended by 11 front line employees representing eight different healthcare facilities.

It was a great day with classroom presentation and hands on training in fish and meat fabrication, sous vide cooking, fundamental cooking techniques and 1

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Updated GNJSHFSA Event Calendar

Click for PDF of undated event calendar

GNJ Calendar of events 2016 updated PDF_GNJ Calendar of events 2016 updated


Installation Dinner – Great Time Had by All

Debra_Ryan's Instalation Dinner


The Installation dinner of our 2016 Board of Directors and New President, Debra Ryan, was held this year at the Old Mill Inn and Grain House Restaurant in Basking Ridge, NJ on January 15, 2016.

Over 35 GNJSHFSA members and Vendor Partners joined in welcoming in the new year filled with spectacular planned events to be had as an Organization.  A special thank you gift was given to Past President, Tonya Pizzuro, for her dedication, passion and hard work throughout the past year.

A night of fine dining, great conversations and networking left everyone in attendance with lasting memories and filled with excitement for the year ahead!



GNJSHFSA – Clinical Workshop – March 18, 2016

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The GNJSHFSA hosted an event on Friday, March 18, 2016 at CentraState Medical Center.  More than twenty people attended!

GNJSHFSA_WorkshopThis workshop focused on RD order writing privileges and the current trends on gluten free menus in healthcare.

Executive Chef Deanna Curry and her staff prepared a beautiful menu of small plates featuring all gluten free items.  Also, there was a live crepe demonstration featuring gluten free buckwheat crepes.

IMG_6411After lunch, Anthony Dissen, MA, RDN discussed the topic of gluten free menus in healthcare.  One of the main concepts conveyed was the idea that gluten free foods are likely already part of the facility’s menu.  

Providing patients with options and tweaking existing menus so that each day has a gluten free option are some ways to easily incorporate this dietary need into your kitchen.  Tips to avoid cross-contamination were provided.  Also, pre-packaged gluten free food replacements were discussed.

The second half of the seminar was an open discussion on RD order writing privileges which have been recently implemented in three area facilities.  The discussion was led by a panel:


  • Aimee Crant-Oksa MS, RDN, FAND from CentraState Medical Center
  • Rajesh Kumari MS, RDN, DSC from Overlook and Chilton Medical Centers
  • Laura Taddeo RD from Monmouth Medical Center

Each panelist discussed the successes, challenges and lessons learned from the implementation of RD order writing at their facility.

A Q&A session followed where other RDs and Clinical Nutrition Managers were able to glean further info on implementing the process in their own facilities.  Each panelist also provided printed materials used for “privileges” at their facility and what each of their advisory boards approved.

It was a lively, interactive, and insightful program, and the feedback from attendees was outstanding.IMG_6406 (1)



Successful Leadership Training Workshop

March 1, 2016 Leadership Training Workshop provided an opportunity for managers at any level to learn strategies to understand what occupational wellness is, the importance of effective communication via email, voicemail, face to face communication, text and social media.

We rounded out the day with the keys to leadership success – strategies that work.

The feedback from this outstanding workshop was very positive and attendees stated they felt the workshop was a value added opportunity to add to their leadership took kit!

A special thank you to Sysco Metro & Michael B for graciously hosting and providing a delicious and healthy lunch!

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