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Why We Do What We Do: Eating Eco-Friendly at Epic with Sustainable, Healthy Food

Epic chef Christina Zentmyer serves cutting-edge dishes with an eye for responsible sourcing

Epic chef Christina Zentmyer sees every meal as an opportunity to get creative and do good—for fellow Epic staff and customers, for the local community, and for the environment.

“Our goal is to create healthy, exciting meals that fuel and inspire staff as they go about their everyday work,” she said. “Because we’re cooking for so many and have a big impact on our local community, it’s our mission to do that sustainably, encouraging the growth of local farms and reducing our environmental footprint.”

For Christina, that starts when she creates a new recipe. Sustainable dishes at Epic are plant-focused, eschew ingredients like beef that have a high environmental impact, and use whole foods rather than processed ones. Christina welcomes the challenge of reinventing classics and creating new dishes with a fresh, healthy spin.

“In the kitchen, I’m known for my Cali vibe because I gravitate toward plant-based food that incorporates the cuisine of many different cultures,” she said. “I attended culinary school in California, so I have a lot of fun coming up with interesting vegetarian and vegan dishes, like beet ‘poke’ bowls or soba noodles with green chile pesto.”

Epic’s kitchens focus on local ingredients and supporting an ethical, eco-friendly supply chain.

“We do as much local sourcing as we can,” Christina said. “68% of our vendors are local businesses from right here in Dane County, and 90% are in the Midwest. We’re also hoping to completely do away with single-use items.”

This commitment at Epic helps make local, responsibly sourced products more accessible to residents throughout Dane County. Epic’s large orders help incentivize suppliers to provide these products and support local farms and businesses.

“We can make a big impact by choosing to buy these products for the more than 6,000 people we cook for every day,” Christina said. “That helps make them more available to the surrounding community, including our local schools.”

The best part of Christina’s workday, she said, is seeing great ingredients and innovative dishes delight Epic’s customers and staff.

“What gets me up in the morning is providing really wonderful service and putting a smile on someone’s face. We have an opportunity to make good choices for sustainability and push boundaries with our food every day.”

“Why We Do What We Do” is a series of stories from Epic staff about how their work relates to their personal missions to help our community members serve their patients and transform healthcare delivery.

Photo: Christina serves Southern-inspired corn cakes and broccoli salad to trainees in Epic’s learning center.