SWMC Café Featured in Sonoma Living

Rob Hogencamp

By Heather Irwin, Bite Club

Rob Hogencamp

SWMC Café Chef Rob Hogencamp

Laughter may be the best medicine, but being stuck in a hospital with nothing but tapioca pudding and mushy green beans certainly isn’t funny. That’s why Sonoma West Medical Center’s chef, Rob Hogencamp, has created one of the best hospital menus in the region, both for patients and staff. A former Ceres Community Project chef, Hogencamp knows a thing or two about the healing power of whole foods, fresh ingredients and meals that plain old taste good.

On a recent visit to the cafe, we found staff flocking to the sweet scent of chicken tikka masala, lemon rice, saag paneer, dahl and pita bread with cucumber yogurt sauce.

Even after lunch was over, diners were helping themselves to whatever could be scraped out of the pans, extolling the change.

“Food has to have integrity,” said Hogencamp. “That’s a no brainer for me, and this hospital wants to really set itself apart.” He has worked with the hospital dietitian to retool some of the old menus and is coming up with new cafe menus inspired by what’s fresh and in season.

Hogencamp is the first to admit his is not an original idea, but he has found inspiration from chefs such as Alison Negrin (formerly of Chez Panisse), who has helped revamp several Bay Area hospital menus. “People are really looking for this kind of food,” Hogencamp said.

The hospital cafe is open to the public for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with most meals under $10. 501 Petaluma Ave., Sebastopol. We’ll take a look at some other top-notch dining at other local hospitals in the coming months.

Still hungry? Check out Heather’s always- updated food and dining blog at BiteClubEats.com.