A tantalizing aroma escapes from the coffee at Woman’s Hospital.
This is no ordinary fast food. But, again, this is no ordinary chef.
Chad Matrana is the hospital’s new executive chef, and the New Orleans native brings 15 years of fine dining experience, including a stint at Commander’s Palace, to his job.
On this day, Matrana prepares a healthy and tasty dish to introduce herself to the staff and others.
âThe culture here is exceptional,â he said of Woman’s. âIt’s not just a hospital, I can’t even describe it. â¦ This is not good food, but good quality food.
Matrana, who most recently served as executive chef at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, mixed fresh butternut squash in a saucepan, adding ginger, garlic, and a handful of other ingredients to create delicious. Spicy Butternut Squash Lettuce Wraps.
As he prepared them for the curious and the hungry, Matrana spoke of his plans.
While most of Woman’s Way Cafe’s food is served to those who come to the hospital for one reason or another, there are those who stop just to have a meal. Others order food to go through Waitr.
Spicy Butternut Squash Lettuce Wraps
And that, Matrana said, is the culture he’s going to build on.
âNo matter where you are, you can always deliver exceptional food – if you are up to the challenge,â he said. âNot good food, but fine cuisine.â
He also wants to take his cooking show on the road, getting as involved in the community as possible.
âThere are a lot of opportunities to set the bar high and that’s what we plan to do,â he said. âYou don’t really know how a dish is going to be until it’s prepared. And when people like it, that’s the ultimate goal.
In addition to her debut at the famous New Orleans restaurant, Matrana also worked with celebrity chef David Burke and completed a six-week apprenticeship in Florence, Italy.
Growing up, Matrana said she was introduced to fine dining by her parents. Divorced, they often took the youngster to eat at some of Crescent City’s best restaurants, he said.
âAt a young age, I could identify flavors and flavor profiles,â Matrana said. “I guess you could say my love of food started at these restaurants.”
When he was 7, his stepfather filmed him baking blueberry muffins for his mother. Looking at him, he realized what he had done and how much he appreciated it.
âI started connecting the dots and making career choices in the culinary world,â Matrana said. âEvery kid has this story of learning to cook with their mother or grandmother, but I really didn’t realize that was what I wanted to do until I got my first job in a restaurant.
However, he learned a lot from his grandmother, with whom he lived.
âIt was around the time that the shrimp man came home,â Matrana said. âI grew up hunting and fishing. â¦ My grandmother was a baby with depression, and she could take something inferior and make it superior. Learning how to do this gave me an edge when I went to culinary school. This, coupled with my creativity, has worked to my advantage.