Sept/Oct 2008
Pg 29

Space Coast Medicine Magazine
By Maria Sonnenberg

Gourmet Docs

Medical Professionals unwind by creating and partaking of fine cuisine.

   On a whim a few years ago, the family of Dr. Bobby Clayton presented him with a copy of Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French cooking.”  The Clayton clan must have realized that beneath the scrubs of the Health first gynecologist beat the heart of a French chef. “I enjoy cooking for people,” said Dr. Clayton, who used Child’s legendary cookbook to fire up his culinary passion for French dishes. From the Julia Child cookbook, Clayton tweaked a to-die-for Beef Wellington recipe that has become a signature dish, together with his Caesar salad. “I have my own Caesar salad dressing,” he said.  No one outside the Clayton inner circle is privy to its contents.  “I only give it out to family,” said the doctor. Clayton cooks about 75 percent of the meals at his Merritt Island home.  His Merritt Island ceviche is a family favorite, as is Carottes a la Concierge, Clayton’s recipe for eating your veggies. “Even if you don’t like carrots, you’ll love this one,” he said. During the holidays, Clayton is the designated chef for family gatherings.  “Our families come together at Thanksgiving and I’m always asked to make my apple jack brandy maple syrup glazed turkey,” he said. “I want to try new turkey recipes at Thanksgiving, but my family never lets me.  They always insist on that turkey recipe. ”Many Brevard physicians share Clayton’s passion for good food.  Some take it to the next level.

Life-long Passion
My wife and I are going to be taking our sommelier exam,” said Dr. Harold Cordner, of Florida Pain Management Associates in Sebastian. Cordner, a member of the local chapter of the venerable gastronomic society known as La Chaine des Rotisseurs, represents the chapter at La Chaine functions around the world. With a father and grandmother who savored fine dining, Cordner follows a family tradition.  “It’s been a life-long passion,” said Cordner. Although his three children haven’t even hit double-digit ages yet, they’re also little gourmands.  Even while in college, Cordner knew his way around the kitchen.  “My roommate’s parents would rave about what I cooked,” he said. “They wanted me to write a cookbook.” Like many Brevard gourmets, Cordner’s passion for fine food and wine was fueled by events at the award-winning Café Margaux in Cocoa Village, owned by Alex and Pam Litras. “I started going religiously to wine dinners,” he explained.  “Alex does an incredibly great job.” From the Margaux dinners, the next logical step was joining La Chaine.  With more than 8,000 members in more that 70 countries, la Chaine events tempt the palate of even seasoned gourmets like Cordner.

Commitment to Good Eating
Brevard forensic psychologist Dr. Todd Poch was also drawn to La Chaine events.  “Most of the people who belong to La Chaine have a commitment to good eating and like great wines,” said Poch.
Both men recall with fondness one of La Chaine’s best dinners, a special event held at Seasons 52 test kitchen in Orlando.  “They brought the culinary talents of their executive chefs together to try something different,” said Poch. “We also got to enjoy world-class wines that in your wildest dreams you wouldn’t have thought you could have.  Not only was it a good dinner, but I learned at the same time.” Dr. Poch considers gourmet groups like La Chaine great educational experiences.  “It’s a learning experience if you want to learn about the world of food and wine,” he said. “Just because a wine costs $150 doesn’t mean it’s any better that a $10 or $15 wine.”
After living in most corners of the world, Poch has an affinity for Asian-inspired dishes he developed in Bangkok and a love for French food honed during a stint spent in Paris while remodeling a country villa in the Loire Valley, a time in his life he still recalls with fondness.  “It was great eating and drinking,” he said.

Go-to Guy
Dr. Ruben Moreno, another La Chaine enthusiast, agrees with Dr. Poch’s enological philosophy.  “I like to find wines for $10-$12,” said Moreno, who veers towards nontraditional grape varieties such as malbec.
Moreno is the go-to guy in the family when grilling is on the menu.  “One of the few truths about cooking is that women like to cook indoors and men like to cook outside,” said the Melbourne dermatologist.
Although all health care professionals are pressed for time, those who love to cook consider the time spent in the kitchen very valuable. “I love to cook, it is my therapy,” said Parrish Medical Center geriatrician Dr. Pamela Tronetti. “I cook everything from extraordinarily healthy to down-home “if you are my patients I forbid you to eat this” comfort food.  The lasagna I prepared for the church Easter buffet is still being spoken of in hushed reverent tones. ”What do gourmet docs consider the perfect meal? “The perfect dinner is something that reaches out to all the sensory perceptions,” said Poch. For Moreno, pictured below with his wife Rita, a to-die-for meal needs to connect him with his Hispanic roots.  “If I was going to die tomorrow, my last meal would not be ostrich,” he said. “White rice, picadillo (Cuban ground beef), black beans and sweet plantains does it for me.”