Sometimes only Grandma’s macaroni and cheese recipe will do and that’s especially true if you’re a little kid going through treatment for a catastrophic illness. Chef Miles McMath, Director of Culinary Operations at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and his team go the extra mile on a daily basis in order to influence children lacking appetites to eat. If that means calling Grandma for her special macaroni and cheese recipe, they’ll do it.
At St. Jude, food is much more than just breakfast, lunch or dinner. Meals provide comfort when far away from home, a sense of enjoyment during a difficult time, and nourishment to keep kids strong as they fight to live.
It’s a challenging job, but one that Chef McMath finds particularly rewarding. Because St. Jude caters to families across the globe, the culinary team is also often tasked with preparing exotic dishes from overseas. They’ll source recipes and hard-to-find ingredients–whatever it takes to make families feel at home. Chef McMath also believes that if you allow kids to participate in making food, they’re more likely to eat it. He’s developed some hands-on projects that allow kids to make their own pizza (chef hats included), decorate cupcakes and get excited about food.
In order to serve the most nutrient-dense food possible, Chef McMath maintains 60 raised garden beds onsite, composts and hosts a weekly Farmers Market that includes over 15 farmers and food artisans. Most of the ingredients making up the 2500 meals a day produced in the hospital’s Kay Kafe kitchen are tirelessly-sourced from areas that are within a 100-miles radius.
Now, back to the mac and cheese. I had the opportunity to nosh on it at St. Jude and fully understand why the little boy craved it. It’s essentially a perfectly-cheesy, classic mac and cheese dish with a neat story behind it. Enjoy!
- 4 quarts water
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 1 pound elbow macaroni
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1?2 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
- 3 cups 1% milk
- 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese
- 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- If you'll be baking, preheat the oven to 350 F. In a large stockpot, bring salted water to a boil for cooking the pasta.
- While waiting for the pasta water to boil, melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the flour and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
- Stir in the milk gradually and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for 15 minutes.
- While the sauce is simmering, boil the macaroni in the salted water until al dente, according to package directions.
- While the pasta is cooking, stir the cheeses into the sauce until fully melted and remove from the heat.
- When the pasta has finished cooking, drain it in a colander and add it to the cheese sauce. Mix to combine.
- Pour it into a 9 x 13 inch baking dish and bake for 30 minutes (for kids who don't like "crusty" macaroni and cheese, this need not go in the oven).
- Allow to cool slightly and serve hot.
Recipe provide by Miles McMath CEC, CDM
Director of Culinary Operations, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, TN
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The protocols that St. Jude has helped develop have increased childhood cancer survival rates to 80%. Let’s help them reach 90% in the next decade by raising money. No family pays St. Jude for anything, ever.
*My visit to St. Jude was courtesy of Expedia in order to help share the news about the fundraising drive. It was life-changing.