ST. CLOUD -- In the first installment of our new series, "Cuisine Unseen," we check into St. Cloud Hospital which offers delicious food prepared by award-winning chefs.

The idea of "hospital food" is generally not a very positive one, but St. Cloud Hospital's Riverfront Dining Room -- led by Executive Chef Paul Ruszat -- looks to reject that notion with its ever-changing menu.

Ruszat says that he and his staff do their best to contribute to the hospital's mission: to make that people are as comfortable as possible while they are there.

"They love the food, they sit down, they're talking," Ruszat says. "It's great food, [and something] that they don't have to worry about."

The Riverfront Dining Room features several stations offering everything from subs and burgers to homestyle comfort food.

"We have all walks of life that come through here - it's a hospital, [so] one of the things we try to do here is make sure that they're comfortable," Ruszat says.

"They're usually here not for a great reason, [but] people tend to communicate through food pretty well."

At over 1,000 square feet and a staff of nearly 200, the Riverfront Dining Room is perhaps the largest restaurant in the area.

"We have a ton of variety...something for everybody" Ruszat says.

The constant changing of the menu is something that any chef would appreciate, and Ruszat is no different.

Every Friday at the Riverfront Dining Room, Ruszat and his staff prepare for "Fresh Fish Friday" - a unique meal-of-the-week utilizing fresh fish that they get the night before.

This particular Fresh Fish Friday featured fish tacos made with cod (marinated with orange juice, lime juice and cilantro), a jalapeno-infused coleslaw, guacamole, and homemade chipotle sauce.

"You know, most people don't get that in a hospital, [but] we have the talent level to put that out."

Ruszat says that there have been a few cases where people first tried the food when they were at the hospital going through a tough situation, but loved the food so much that they keep coming back.

"Two brothers [whose father was in the hospital] were here and unfortunately he passed away, but they decided they were going to keep coming here to eat," Ruszat says.

"They loved the food, they loved the variety, so they make it at least once a week here."

 

Chef Paul Ruszat. Photo by Isaac Schweer, WJON