The WellSpan Spotlight

WellSpan chef blazes his own path to health, success in the kitchen

WellSpan chef blazes his own path to health, success in the kitchen

Dexter Tabb played trumpet for hours with his garage band during his teen years as he aspired to be Louis Armstrong.

"I wanted to be somebody," Tabb recalled.

Tabb's work ethic eventually spilled over into the kitchen where he mastered cooking, but after spending several years as a chef in the local restaurant industry, he was ready for a change.

Little did he know an employment transition would lead to a healthy makeover.

Less than two years and sixty pounds later, Tabb is healthy and fulfilling his professional dreams as a sous chef at WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital. He now puts the same level of passion he approached music and cooking into his own healthcare journey.

"Healthy eating is not only important for members of the Black community like me who are very prone to high blood pressure, heart attacks and diabetes, but all of us as we age," Tabb said.

In honor of Black History Month, WellSpan is recognizing Black Health and Wellness as a theme by sharing opportunities to learn more about health disparities that have impacted Blacks for decades as well as ways to mitigate those disparities through specific interventions.

Chefs, dietitians and leaders from the Food and Nutrition Department at WellSpan had a lot of fun coming together to put a healthier spin on two traditional African American dishes.

On Feb. 10 and Feb. 24, Honey Turmeric Skillet Chicken Thighs and Stewed Okra and Tomatoes with Chicken Sausage will be served to our team members in cafeterias across the health system. By modifying just a few ingredients, the team was able to maintain the delicious flavors of the original dish while significantly reducing the sodium and saturated fat.

Pre-employee screening leads Tabb on healthy path

In January 2020, Tabb was well on his way to being hired as a chef at WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital when his employee screening process yielded some unexpected results.

"My blood pressure was at heart attack and stroke level. … After seeing a physician, they also revealed I had type-2 diabetes," explained Tabb, who weighed more than 270 pounds at the time and was admittedly devasted by the news.

In that moment, Tabb's attention quickly shifted from his new job to his two children and five grandchildren.

"I immediately considered how serious my condition was and how important it was for me to be around to play games with my grandchildren," the 51-year-old Tabb said.

While Tabb had to make some lifestyle changes which included working out five days a week, it was culinary arts skills that positioned him best for a healthy diet.

He started his healthy-eating plan by using less butter, while cutting out sugar and salt from the meals he prepared for himself.

In less than two years, Tabb lost more than 60 pounds and is currently not required to take medication for diabetes.

"I found ways to put more love into my cooking and my life," said Tabb as he prepared brown fried rice and shrimp in the kitchen at WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital.

While Tabb prepared his meal, he expressed the importance of the brown rice in his recipe as well as not using salt or butter. He pointed out that putting more "love" into his cooking really meant more cooking and more simmering to ensure a great taste despite leaving popular ingredients out.

Tabb encourages anyone facing the same challenges he encountered to use their resources and cut out unnecessary ingredients such as sugars and salts. He also recommends healthy meal plans that are available for those that don't know their way around kitchen as well as he does.

"I am not sure I would be alive right now if it wasn't for the pre-employment screening and intervention by WellSpan to help me get on a healthy path," Tabb said.

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