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Kevin Spiegel
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Anne Braly
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Kevin M. Spiegel, Erlanger Health System CEO, has been credited with leading the financial turnaround of the hospital.

As president and chief executive officer of Erlanger Medical Center, Kevin Spiegel oversees every aspect of the hospital's daily operations. With 5,519 employees and 813 beds, Spiegel likens his job to that of any city administrator.

"I have a laser focus on enhancing the technology of medical care to be the best in the nation," says Spiegel, a native of Long Island, N.Y. "But we're also a city here at Erlanger. For instance, right now, we're looking at how we can economize and create our own electrical power system."

In days that can include gathering with outside entities such as the Electric Power Board to help devise Erlanger's power system, to meeting with surgeons, banding with four other hospital chiefs to make rounds in various units on Erlanger's five campuses, luncheons and dinner meetings, his days can be stressful. But, unlike other professionals who may relieve the weight of the day at the gym or on the track, Spiegel finds release in his kitchen.

"I've always had a passion for cooking," he says. "It's a way to balance life — a stress relief."

Spiegel credits his mother, Rosalyn Spiegel, for his passionate approach to food.

"He's a better cook than me," she says. "He's always liked to cook, and I think that's an asset. He likes to do things to please people, and cooking is one way to do that."

"My mother is a good cook. I've just taken it to the next level," says her son. "She looks forward to coming to my house for dinner."

"Yes, I do," Mrs. Spiegel says. "I'd rather eat Kevin's meals than go to a nice restaurant. His is so much better."

It's not uncommon to find Spiegel in the kitchen deboning a fish, putting the finishing touches on a whole tenderloin or adding squid ink to his homemade pasta for an added dimension of flavor.

He also entertains and loves to cook for his wife's gatherings, his friends and his family.

"I even made all my kids baby food," he says.

In spite of eating out several times a week — the demands of his job — Spiegel maintains a fit frame by adhering to a healthful lifestyle, one that includes making good food choices, even when dining out. His eye on healthful foods and their preparation is one that will be carried over into Erlanger's new dining program for patients, he says, as well as for hospital visitors and employees in its cafeteria.

"There are going to be dramatic changes," Spiegel says. "Our focus on bidding out food service to begin with was to have healthy choices. I think we'll have one of the most modern dining experiences in the country. It will be state-of-the-art. We're very excited about offering a new culinary experience at Erlanger."

The changes will be in place by early 2017, he says.

Spiegel's son, Josh, is a fourth-year medical student at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine and understands the importance of offering quality meals to those who have loved ones in the hospital.

"If people can find less stress through the comfort of food, it makes their time here a bit better," Josh says.

Back to Kevin Spiegel, a question: If he were to cook for himself — one last meal — what would it be?

He ponders this for about one second before his passion takes hold.

"Oh, roast duck. And maybe with wild rice and some fresh vegetables. And a good bottle of California wine."

For dessert? "Josh makes the best chocolate lava cake in the world."

Summer is a season most cooks relish. It's a time for fresh produce — tomatoes of all kinds and splendid herbs at their best — plucked from the garden to make a medley of tastes. This is one of Spiegel's favorite ways to coax their flavors to their peak. Since he uses bottled pasta sauce strictly from Mario Batali — "I love its flavor freshness and the lack of bad ingredients," he says — here's one of his summer meals that's simple to prepare.

Kevin Spiegel's Pasta Primavera

1/2 pound angel hair pasta

Olive oil

1 vine-ripe red tomato, diced

1 vine-ripe yellow tomato, diced

1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

1 (24-ounce) jar Mario Batali marinara sauce

1/3 cup water

Fresh basil chiffonade

Prepare pasta according to package directions to al dente stage. Drain and remove from heat.

Heat olive oil in skillet and add tomatoes, sautéeing until softened. Add water to pasta sauce, stirring to combine. Add marinara sauce to tomatoes in skillet and simmer till heated through. Toss tomato-marinara sauce mixture with pasta and garnish with fresh basil. Serve immediately.

WINNING WINES

Congratulations to two local restaurants: Chattanooga's 212 Market and Cleveland's Bald Headed Bistro. The restaurants have been awarded a coveted Wine Spectator Award for their outstanding wine selections.

"They should be very proud," says Marvin R. Shanken, Wine Spectator publisher.

The magazine, which bills itself as "the world's leading authority on wine," examines the world of wine from the vineyard to the table, exploring wine's role in our culture and delivering reviews of more than 18,000 wines annually.

Dine at either restaurant, take a look at their wine menus and judge for yourself. You should come away quite impressed. 212 Market is located at 212 Market St., and Bald Headed Bistro is located at 201 Keith St. in Cleveland, Tenn.

Contact Anne Braly at abraly@timesfreepress.com.

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