Busiest chef in town

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Renown executive chef Justin Bart is the man behind the healthy food items available at the hospital

Renown’s kitchen staff was stretched thin during the pandemic.

In March 2020, the COVID-19 virus threatened to overwhelm hospitals across the nation. Justin Bart, executive chef at Renown Health in Reno, helped put a thorough emergency plan together to keep patients and health care workers fed. Part of that plan included partnering with local company Roundabout Catering, which provided meals for Renown employees so Bart and his team could focus on taking care of patients. However, after a few months, the hospital kitchen’s preparedness turned out to be excessive.

“We are forever grateful to Roundabout for its service,” Bart says.

Fortunately, though, Renown never experienced the surge in patients that was expected that spring, and the partnership established from expected need came to an end.

“We loved working with Renown and will continue to be available when they need us,” says MaryBeth Smith, Roundabout Catering’s co-owner.

At the time of this writing, Bart and his staff were preparing for another increase in patients following a post-holidays surge.

“We are now feeding two near-capacity hospitals, along with patients in our Alternate Care Site in the Mill Street parking structure,” Bart says.

The hospital would need to utilize an emergency strategy after all, and amid shutdowns, Bart may have become the busiest chef in town.

“In the 18 years I have been with Renown, I’ve never worn so many hats at the same time,” Bart says about his role during the pandemic.

Renown kitchen employee Christina Solorio de Martinez adds dressings to salads in the hospital’s kitchen

Renown’s regular food vendors have dutifully stepped up, but there’s only so much a vendor or kitchen staff can do in the face of national supply chain issues. Bart and his team have been forced to be resourceful and adaptable when determining menus and obtaining basic supplies such as food and water.

“It is no easy feat to change menus and pivot when you are serving 3,500 to 4,000 meals a day,” Bart says.

He adds that although health care and hospital workers “all signed up for this, no one had any idea what was in store for 2020.”

Bart, a proud and compassionate team leader, is concerned for the physical and mental health of his team. Despite the added challenges of “keeping their families safe, coordinating daycare and school closures, general exhaustion, and so much more,” his team of essential people “continue showing up every day, ready to fight for our community and ready to win.”

Emma Schmitz is a writer living in Truckee. She has been in an exclusive relationship with craft beer for almost a decade and is studying to be a beer sommelier.

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