In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

February 28, 2019

Mayo Chef Finds Her Niche by Throwing Down for Health, and Charity

By In the Loop


As a hospital chef, Kristine Wolner works hard to make food healthy and flavorful for Mayo patients. Her culinary skills resulted in two top awards at a recent Foodie Throwdown competition.

Kristine Wolner was at a crossroads. A stint in college had been enough to convince her that her childhood dream of becoming a lawyer wasn't meant to be. When she returned home to Austin, Minnesota, her parents gave her two other choices: Go back to school and find something that did interest her, or stay put and take over the family farm. "That wasn't something I wanted to do, either," Kristine tells us of her farming prospects.

So she gave college another try, this time choosing a different "field." (See what we did there?) "I'd worked in the restaurant industry as a dishwasher and bartender for quite some time at that point, so I decided to go to culinary school," Kristine tells us. She planned to get a management degree, "but then cooking ended up being my niche," she explains. "Things just kind of progressed from there."

Including a recent job offer at Mayo Clinic, where Kristine is now in charge of all things food and beverage at Mayo Clinic Health System in Austin and Albert Lea. "It's been great," she says. "I love working here."

Before coming to Mayo, Kristine spent more than seven years as the retail chef for local grocery store chain Hy-Vee in Austin. Aside from her mad cooking skills, one of the things she brought with her to Mayo is her love for giving back to her community, as evidenced by her continued participation in Austin's "Foodie Throwdown" competition. "It's an annual fundraising event for the Hormel Historic Home in Austin," Kristine tells us. "I've been involved since it began, and this year I was representing Mayo Clinic and Morrison Healthcare."

And represent she did. Kristine won both the entrée and dessert competitions in this year's event. "I was pretty excited because it's a people's-choice sort of thing, which made winning pretty special," she tells us.

And what did the people choose as this year's winning dishes? "My dessert was a sangria sorbet with a candied half orange slice and sugar-coated blueberries," Kristine says. "For my entrée, I did a bacon-wrapped scallop with a crab cake topping and finished it with a creamy white wine sauce."

We know what you're thinking. Not exactly the kind of fare one would expect from a typical hospital chef. But then again, Kristine and her fellow chefs and food service staff are anything but typical. "What my staff and I have tried to do here at Mayo is to make sure that everyone has food choices that align with what they want and need," she says. "We're trying to make everything as appealing, flavorful and healthy as we can, because we're all about the power of food and what it can do for healing."

Even right down to that age-old hospital cafeteria stand-by, Jell-O. "I like Jell-O," Kristine tells us. (We had to ask.) "I'm actually a pretty big fan of it because not only is Jell-O really colorful, but most of the time it's low in calories and saturated fats. I really don't know what else to say."

Nor do we. But you can say what you'd like about this story and more by sharing your comments below before using the handy social media tools atop this page to share this story with others.



Tags: Community, Employee Stories, Food Services, Health and Wellness, Kristine Wolner, Mayo Clinic Health System, Morrison Healthcare

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