Croissant Sandwiches, Chicken pesto, Reubens, homemade soups and fresh baked goods -- not the usual menu for normal hospital fare. But then not every hospital has its own chef and experienced caterer as head of the dietary division. Debra King, a California transplant, claims that title at Blue Mountain Hospital in Blanding where she has worked since it opened in 2009.
She is enthralled to be in San Juan County, and loves her job, and the “phenomenal cooks “ she works with whom include Denise Arthur, Megan Lacy, Holly Pederson, Rochelle Myrick and Nathan Begaye. Cheyna Shumway Palmer has also been on board as a dietary planner with this crew for 6 months, having graduated with a BS in Dietetics. She is responsible for determining nutritional needs, especially for dialysis patients.
“I just love it here and all the hospital staff,” Debra emphasized. “It is great working for an organization that has a vision for the future, big dreams and the desire to make this hospital something grand.” She credits CEO Donna Singer, for that drive and spirit of teamwork permeating the facility.
Besides preparing individual computerized diet cards for all hospital patients, the dietary staff also prepares food each day for the hospital staff and community walk ins, so they keep things sizzling in the kitchen. Though small and compact it meets the needs of the BMH. This gourmet group made their first public breakout dinner on Valentines weekend, followed in March with an evening “Spring Fling” dinner. Call 678-4835 for lunch specials or orders.
Debra and her mom moved from bustling California to San Juan County, east of Monticello in 2002, where they now have a little ranch with two horses. “I could never live in a town again,” she emphasized -- adding, “I love the open space, and looking at the Horsehead every day when I get up.“
“Deb King, Queen of cuisine” (as Dr. Mitchell calls her) began her food career as a produce buyer, then worked as a cinema chef at Universal Studio from 1983-1987. This consisted of feeding actors and crew on location at movie sites. She worked with an Australian chef, running one of the first gourmet food trucks in the business, and rubbing shoulders with the likes of Ernest Borgnine, Bert Reynolds, Martin Sheen, Danny Devito and Tom Selleck, often working at the Disney Ranch and Universal Studios back lot.
It was during that time that she also snagged her first big job catering for the 1984 LA Olympics at the Yacht Venue. She worked non-stop for 6 weeks and “had a blast” keeping the hungry competitors fed from 7 AM-midnight.
That same year she started her own restaurant, The Noon Room, on the back lot at Universal studios which she ran for 6 ½ years. During those years she also took many food specific courses learning everything she could about pastries and entrees. One of the best birthday presents she ever received was from a friend who gifted her a weekend pastry course in San Francisco. ”I just like to cook and that course was really fun!”
As much as she loved cooking, the next 15 years took a career turn for her, as she became cosmetics director for Robison-May Company, where she worked until 2002. By then her mom had retired and both were ready for a move to a simpler, quieter lifestyle. The Four Corners area had been part of their vacations for years, and was Debra was always intrigued by the Navajo culture. Finally she and her mom made the move. “My original goal was to have a herd of goats and make cheese,“ she added, “but that’s on hold for a while.”
She still has two married sons in California and five grandchildren, so the California connection is still strong, but for sure, her new San Juan County connection has bonded equally well.