Doing my job

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August 9, 2004 // UPDATED 3:00 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Scott Russell
Scott Russell

Isaac Owens, Cook, Hennepin County Medical Center, 701 Park Ave.

Isaac Owens says a typical day on the job includes making 40 gallons of soup, "and jokes and a friendly atmosphere."

Owens has worked in Hennepin County Medical Center's kitchen for eight years, he said.

Each day, Owens helps cooks for approximately 360 hospital patients, as well as the 150-180 workers and visitors who eat at the cafeteria.

On this day, Owens is working the kettles, mixing 35 gallons of marinara sauce for ravioli. The recipe calls for 22 No. 10 cans of tomato puree, eight cans of chopped tomato, four cans of tomato paste, five pounds of grated parmesan, four pounds of sugar, three cups basil, four cups minced garlic, two cups each salt and pepper and nine gallons of water.

Owens works rotating shifts, but on this day he got in at 5:30 a.m. The day started (as all days start) sanitizing equipment. Then he cranked out 50 biscuits, two gallons of sausage gravy, two gallons of oatmeal and 36 blueberry muffins, he said.

His favorite thing to cook is beef stew. "Although I am a vegetarian, I prefer to cook meat products," he said. "It brings the best out of me and the meat product. Because I can't eat it, I'll make sure the patients and the employees have the best."

The kitchen does special orders -- including hamburgers, cheeseburgers and pizza, he said.

(Assistant Director Lenora Olson said the kitchen does special orders for patients with poor appetites or those on long stays who have had the same hospital food over and over. Foods may include fruit plates, vegetarian meals and items to meet dietary laws of a particular religion.)

Owens, a Ghana native, attended school in Germany, got his degree in electronics and telecommunications and has a pilot's license.

He still flies and will take coworkers on fishing trips or fly colleagues, for free, if they have a family emergency, he said.

He hopes to open a small caf/ someday, using what he has learned in the kitchen, or to fly with Life Link, a medical transportation service owned by HCMC and a consortium of other hospitals.