John O’Brien

Sept. 13, 2021
John O’Brien, left, shares his cooking tips with culinary team members Cindy Pech and Parnell Hollie.

Chef turns minutes into perfection

Two minutes isn’t very long. Just 120 seconds. But if you’re part of a team cooking 1,500 patient meals daily, every minute counts.

John O’Brien, executive chef at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital, knows this thanks to a long career over the stove in high-end restaurants, hotels and clubs. He can make anything look or taste good. At UCH, his job, however, is a little different.

“I look for what’s behind the food and what it offers the human body,” said O’Brien. “I’m part of their ticket out of the hospital.”

That doesn’t mean he can’t get creative.

Indeed. When a patient called the kitchen asking for two-minute eggs, O’Brien did what he often does. He went up to the room to get more details.

“A meal can change someone’s day and I want to get it right,” said O’Brien.

And if he happens to stay for a while to talk with patients about food and cooking, he doesn’t mind. He knows how powerful those moments can be. Patients, he said, are so often told what they cannot do. But with thousands of pounds of fresh vegetables, fruits, meats and herbs at his fingertips, O’Brien likes to be the guy who says “yes, I can do that for you.”

Two-minute eggs are essentially poached eggs, “but a little runnier,” said O’Brien. He spoke with the patient for a few minutes before heading back to the kitchen. He grabbed some eggs and gathered his staff around the massive stove while he demonstrating exactly how to cook the meal to the patient’s liking.

Every day for the next week or so, the patient received the personally prepared egg dish, just the perfect amount of runny. And not a minute too soon.

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About the author

Molly Blake is a communications specialist for UCHealth. She joined the team in 2019. Molly spent much of her journalism career freelance writing for various publications including The New York Times, NBC news, alumni magazines and more. She is the proud spouse of a United States Marine Corps veteran, and wrote extensively about their life in the military.

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