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Taste the Difference
What’s Happening? NIH Chef Mark Gavriel and the NIH Dietary Staff take meals to new highs.
Top row, left to right, Mark Gavriel, Rick St. Louis, Asia Gonzalez, Robert Lopez and Richard Dunchock.Sitting, Susan Pernal, Emilia Lopez, Maria Lawrence and Cesar Cardelas Acosta. Photo by Barbara Laughon

As a young cook, Mark Gavriel’s mentor told him real chefs always added steps to their cooking and never took any away – words that still resonate with Mark today. Whether he is toasting raw garlic in olive oil; or making trés leches and strawberry shortcake from scratch, adding steps doesn’t necessarily mean Mark is in the back churning butter either.

Coming into the NIH kitchen, Mark saw the staff had the knowledge and potential to take the quality of the food to a much higher level. In order to help the staff adapt to the two additional prep hours his approach brought to the kitchen, Mark worked right beside the staff.

Based on feedback from patients and employees, Mark and the kitchen staff fine-tuned the menu and added new recipes.

“We are now making more from scratch,” Mark said. “I try to encourage the crew to think: ‘What is our contribution to this recipe? Why will people remember it compared to other places they may have had it before?’ I remind them, too, we cook because we love to cook, and we want people to taste our efforts every single day.”