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Vidant welcomes Chinese chef as part of global exchange

Diners at Vidant Beaufort Hospital’s cafeteria got a true taste of China this week.

Guest chef Qi Zhang served up shrimp tempura on Monday and shrimp fried rice on Tuesday as part of a global exchange of taste and tradition, recipes and cooking practices. Parent company Sodexo, which provides food service operations on a global scale — including through the Vidant Health system — offers the month-long international chef residency to its top chefs worldwide.

“It’s to show our clients the global reach, to mix diversity and bring a ‘wow’ factor by introducing different cuisines, flavors and profiles,” said Ben Battle, culinary director of Vidant Health System.

Battle cooked alongside Zhang on Monday and Tuesday; on Thursday and Friday, Zhang will again be doing demonstrations and cooking lunch, this time for those dining at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville.

In their off hours, Battle is also introducing Zhang to American cuisine with an eastern North Carolina culinary tour including Greenville restaurants Starlight Café and Ford and Shep in Greenville and The Bank Bistro in Washington.

Through interpreter Hui Wang, Zhang said he’s enjoying his food experiences and described the meals he’s had as healthy.

“The flavor is very good,” Zhang said.

CULTURAL EXCHANGE: (Left to right) Vidant Beaufort Hospital President Harvey Case, Vidant Health System Culinary Director Ben Battle, interpreter Hui Wang, Chef Qi Zhang, Interim General Manager Mark Krynock and Clinical Nutrition Manager Michelle Smith take a break from lunch on Tuesday.

Zhang has worked for Sodexo for 18 years, but as head of the food services program at the hospital in China, he had not had time to take part in the Global Chef Program before now. While he’s been to many European countries, this is his first trip to the United States. However, he said he plans to return with his wife to visit Yellowstone National Park next year.

Zhang said he was impressed with both Vidant Beaufort Hospital and kitchen protocol. He said he’ll be taking the practices of washing hands immediately after entering the kitchen and wearing gloves back to his hospital in China. In addition to exchange of culinary cultures and flavors, the exchange of best practices is part of the program, as well, according to Battle.

For those who’ve had the opportunity to sample Zhang’s cooking, Battle said the results have been overwhelmingly positive.

“People are saying they better see this again on the menu,” Battle laughed.