Culinary Health Education Fundamentals (CHEF) Coaching for Individuals and Health Professionals

By Madeleine Kates

Patients often hear from their health care professionals that they need to make a change to their diet by eating healthier to lose weight or manage a chronic health condition. However, this is easier said than done since there is more to healthy eating than just a bit of advice. Shopping, prepping, cooking, and portioning are all important steps that medical professionals or patients may not have experience in.

“Not everyone loves or knows how to cook, but everyone has to eat,” says Laura Klein, professional culinary coach and chef, and faculty member for the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Harvard Medical School CHEF Coaching program. The CHEF Coaching program, which stands for Culinary Health Education Fundamentals Coaching, incorporates coaching and culinary training skills taught in an online format by a variety of medical professionals, health coaches, and chefs. “The goal of the program is to give medical professionals the tools they need to take control of their health in their own home, and then share this information with their patients who need to make a change,” says Klein.

The CHEF Coaching program aims to fill the knowledge gap that exists between getting advice and putting that advice into practice. Participants who are enrolled in the course learn skills to train patients how to use what they have learned in their own homes, either in-person or through telemedicine. The course also teaches skills in reading, replicating, and adapting recipes, as well as how to improve kitchen confidence and start conversations with patients and their families.

Many of the training recipes shared during the course involve using fresh, unprocessed ingredients, that you then learn how to break down, prepare, and store. There are also topics about time-saving cooking techniques that include batch cooking or utilizing the fridge or freezer to prepare several meals in advance so that you only do the cooking a few times a week, but always have fresh, healthy meals.

Many CHEF program participants include medical doctors, health coaches, allied health professionals, social workers, nurses, personal trainers, and students. Unlike a traditional college course or degree program, certificate programs offered by major universities, such as CHEF Coaching from Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Harvard Medical School, provide working professionals with a great way to expand their skillset in an area that is important to their careers. There are weekly meetings, and the program is offered during different dates and times to accommodate busy schedules.

“Food is medicine, but also preventive medicine, and people who consume scratch-made food are healthier than those who don’t,” says Rani Polak MD, MBA, professional chef, and creator of the CHEF Coaching program. “Making these lifestyle changes is possible, and it starts with our care providers.”

Learn more about the Culinary Health Education Fundamentals (CHEF) Coaching – The Basics Program, including the nominal fee required for the program at, or email

Madeleine Kates has degrees in Environmental Science, Life Science, and Psychology from Niagara University, and certificates in Plant-Based Nutrition from Cornell University and Harvard University’s CHEF Coaching program.