Fletcher Allen, a Vermont university hospital and medical center, serves all of
Vermont and the northern New York region. Located in Burlington, Fletcher Allen is a regional, academic healthcare center and teaching hospital in alliance with the University of Vermont.
Career Corner -William Cosman
Q & A
William Cosman is a line chef in the Nutrition Services department at Fletcher Allen Health Care. William cares deeply about the food he serves to patients, employees and customers. Last year, Fletcher Allen served over two million meals—making it the largest restaurant in the state of Vermont. Here, William reflects on the importance of serving local food and how Fletcher Allen is aiming to have the most sustainable hospital food service in the nation.
Q: What inspired you to begin a culinary career?
A: I studied communications at Northeastern University in Boston before returning home to the Burlington area. I’ve worked in restaurants and the food service industry for about 12 years, starting out as a dishwasher and eventually becoming an assistant general manager. My mom worked at Fanny Allen in the 1980s and encouraged me to apply to Fletcher Allen when I was looking to make a change a few years ago. I really enjoy the art of preparing food and the fast pace of the kitchen, so cooking ended up being the right career choice for me.
Q: Fletcher Allen is nationally known for its innovative food program. Can you talk about Fletcher Allen’s commitment to sustainable food?
A: When I started working at Fletcher Allen, I learned all about sustainable food and fell in love with the concept. We partner with more than 70 farmers and food producers throughout the region. Nutrition and food systems are connected to the health of people in our community, and I believe that some of the best medicine in life is eating a good, healthy meal.
From an environmental perspective, we need to focus on the health of our planet, too. Our local partnerships help us reduce transportation distances, which significantly decreases our environmental footprint. It doesn’t make sense to waste millions of gallons in fuel and generate pollution to ship food across the country when we can grow it right in our own backyard.
Q: Why are Fletcher Allen’s partnerships with local farmers and producers so important?
A: Our partnerships mean so much, especially when you get to know the farmers at places like Savage Gardens, Boyden Farm and Lewis Creek Farm. We go on farm visits so we can see how food is grown and raised; and when you see the process from start to finish, it reminds you how much work goes into preparing the food that we serve. It also makes you truly appreciate the hard work of farmers and producers that makes our food service so successful.
Q: Fletcher Allen served more than 2 million meals last year, making it the largest restaurant in Vermont. What are some of the particular rewards and challenges in working at such a busy place?
A: One of the biggest rewards is that we’re purveyors of change. We serve so many meals and interact with so many people on a daily basis that we really help raise awareness about the local food movement. About half of the meals we serve come from locally sourced food, and it feels incredibly good that we’ve made such an impact.
Q: What are some of your favorite foods to prepare?
A: Recently, I’ve been really into preparing anything Greek or Italian. Anything full of olives, olive oil, orzo, or goat cheese is great. I also love vegetables, local cheeses and artisanal breads.
Q: For folks thinking about a career in Nutrition Services, what advice would you have? What specific skills are you looking for in a candidate?
A: To work in Nutrition Services at Fletcher Allen, a candidate needs a compassionate personality and a passion for promoting change and working with local food. A culinary degree or several years of restaurant cooking is helpful, as is line or production experience.
Q: What do you look forward to the most when you come to work?
A: Having someone thank me or show appreciation for what we’re doing is always nice. As cooks, we take a lot of pride in a job well done. Also seeing the entire process that goes into preparing the food really inspires me. Farm to table is such a special concept, and I hope it continues to grow in the food industry.