Home Academia & Research Iron Chef, Dysphagia Style

Iron Chef, Dysphagia Style

by Melanie Potock MA
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pan with picadillo beef

What do a coconut-milk-infused shake, spicy risotto, and macaroni and cheese have in common? They are just a few examples of recipes from a cooking competition created for people who have difficulty swallowing. Sampled by professional and celebrity chefs in New York City, these culinary creations were developed by students taking Interdisciplinary Care-Based Management of Dysphagia.

This short course was offered between terms for students enrolled in the master’s in speech-language pathology program  and those seeking a master’s in nutrition at New York University, Steinhardt. The course was taught by Erin Embry, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders (CSD) and director of Speech@NYU, and Lisa Sasson, clinical assistant professor of nutrition.

“The course was founded in the belief that although individuals may have limitations in their diets, they should not be deprived of the joy and satisfaction of healthy, delicious food,” Sasson says.

For the Iron Chef-style contest, students received a patient profile, which they used to create a plan of action aimed at helping the patient experience the joy of food. Student contestants carefully analyzed medical diagnoses, recommended diet and cultural/psychosocial considerations in determining what flavors, textures, and consistencies were appropriate, nutritious, and safe for the hypothetical patient. Profiles included a woman with anxiety-related swallowing difficulties and a young nonverbal child with autism. Judging the resulting recipes were chef Rocco DiSpirito—a James Beard award-winner—and other professionals chefs and university faculty, including Sonja Molfenter, a CSD assistant professor researching disruptions in swallowing function.

Recipes were chosen based on easy-to-swallow foods, as well as ease of preparation and enjoyment for everyone participating in the meal—but especially for those with swallowing issues. A sampling of the recipes were compiled into an e-book, Dining with Dysphagia: A Cookbook. The book is free for anyone to download

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Vivid images of rosemary mashed potatoes, picadillo ground beef and chocolate chia seed pudding entice the chef in all of us to create these flavorful dishes. On the cookbook website, Sasson’s quote captures the essence of the students’ intent in creating the book: “Food should always nourish the body and soul. We should never assume that because a patient has swallowing problems that their food choices will be limited to pureed mush.”


Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP, treats children birth to teens who experience difficulty eating. She wrote the upcoming book, “Adventures in Veggieland: Help Your Kids Learn to Love Vegetables with 101 Easy Activities and Recipes.” Potock also co-authored “Raising a Healthy Happy Eater: A Stage-by-Stage Guide to Setting Your Child on the Path to Adventurous Eating (2015), “Baby Self-Feeding: Solid Food Solutions to Create Lifelong Healthy Eating Habits” and “Happy Mealtimes with Happy Kids, and produced the kids’ CD “Dancing in the Kitchen: Songs that Celebrate the Joy of Food!” Potock’s two-day course on pediatric feeding is offered for ASHA CEUs. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 13, Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders (Dysphagia). mymunchbug.com/contact-us/

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1 comment

Hannah Grassie June 6, 2017 - 12:00 pm

Thank you for this! I love having a palatable resource for my patients with dysphagia.

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