Kitchen moves to fairgrounds

Thais Oliveira
Posted 8/2/23

In an ambitious and challenging decision, Jefferson Healthcare recently relocated ...

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Kitchen moves to fairgrounds

Julian Harris prepares salads at the temporary Jefferson Healthcare kitchen at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds to be transported to patients and staff at the hospital.
Julian Harris prepares salads at the temporary Jefferson Healthcare kitchen at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds to be transported to patients and staff at the hospital.
Courtesy photo

In an ambitious and challenging decision, Jefferson Healthcare recently relocated their entire kitchen operation from the hospital in Port Townsend to the Jefferson County Fairgrounds. The move is part of a comprehensive remodel including the demolition of a circa 1965 building nestled in the middle of the hospital that until now hosted the kitchen and cafe, the express and OBGYN clinics, and three administrative departments. 

The two-year project is scheduled to be completed in the second quarter of 2025, and includes the complicated logistics of ongoing construction without interrupting critical meal service for up 24 in-patients and around 400 staff. One of the first options explored included retrofitting semi-trucks into makeshift kitchens and parking them on location. This proved to be expensive, and after all the funds were used the equipment would be gone. While looking for alternatives, the hospital came across the fairgrounds galley kitchen, complete with an existing hood system. 

“When you are looking at prime real estate of kitchens, that is what you need,” Arran Stark, hospital head chef said. “This option was a better deal financially for the hospital and had the great advantage of leaving a functional commercial kitchen as a permanent community asset when we vacate,” he said. Stark has served as head of Jefferson Healthcare’s dietary team for 11 years. He is also part of the new board at the fairgrounds and dreams of what this new kitchen could mean for the community. 

“We can't have a vibrant food truck or small food businesses without commercial kitchens,” Stark said. “After we are done at the fairgrounds, that will be one more option. My dream is to revitalize the four existing kitchens and the grill pit for future community use. For classes, events, weddings, business incubators, job training, manipulating food for the food bank, etc.”, he added. 

As part of the intricate move, Lead Cook Chanda Johnson, Dietary Supervisor Bobby Deen and Stark collaborated on the new kitchens at the fairgrounds and the permanent one at the hospital, with a lot of input from the rest of the team. “I have the best and most resilient staff in the world,” Stark said.

Construction started in April at the fairgrounds. All of the  equipment from the old kitchen was moved in stages so the dietary team could adapt their onsite critical food service to a mobile option. An outfitted van transports grab-and-go and hot meals to the hospital four times a day in a 2.7-mile journey. 

“When it comes to our priorities in food service for breakfast, lunch and dinner our patients come first, staff second, and the community third,” Stark said. When choosing the best menu during this long transition, the chef decided that soups and stews were not only the most nutrient packed and easily digestible foods, but also the safest to transport. In addition to hot options like oatmeal and breakfast sandwiches, the makeshift staff dining hall at the hospital now also offers grab-and-go options like salads and sandwiches. “The selection is not what it used to be for our staff, but it is the best we can do now, and we will be able to refine our options as we go,” he said. 

Daring logistics for more service

The planning for the kitchen  construction project at the hospital officially started in 2016 when the city requested the rest of the campus be brought up to code in a certain time frame in order to get the permitting for the newest ESSB  (Emergency Services and Specialty) Building. That meant the single story 58-year-old building nested between two up to code structures had to come down; not an easy feat considering the logistics of continuum service and safety as the building is lined in asbestos. 

“We have an expert team licensed under state and federal law on how to take down and dispose of asbestos as this is a  delicate move,” Jake Davidson, hospital chief of operations said. 

It seems the whole project presents logistical challenges. The kitchen relocation was the first hurdle. Next will be relocating the MRI department to a trailer on hospital property, followed by the move of several clinics and administrative offices to preexisting spaces. Passed demolition starts in October. 

Come 2025, the dining room kitchen should be twice the size and will be reopened to the community: New care services will be added with the addition of around 20,000 additional square-feet. All non-clinical departments are slotted to move permanently to the second floor of the Sheridan Clinic building at 915 Sheridan Ave. The dermatology department will double in area. New critical specialty clinics (Ear, nose and throat, pulmonology and neurology) are in the works, and oncology radiation therapy will be added, making Jefferson Healthcare the first critical access hospital in the state of Washington to offer this service. 

“Our goal with this new building is to add more specialties and services so patients don’t have to travel two hours to get treatment,” Davidson said. “We understand that can mean a lot of people never get those services if they are not able to travel. With the new space, we will serve around 3000 more patients a year and will be able to keep it local”, he said.  “To guarantee the best design and construction possible, Jefferson Healthcare was able to get approval from the state to use progressive design-build instead of the common government low-cost bid design. The architect and construction firms were hired based on qualification and have been working in a collaborative way for 15 years now,” he added. “Healthcare is a complex and highly regulated industry and progressive design is allowing us to build in the safest, most durable and cost-effective way."