Making Bacon: Culinary Invention in Ministry’s Kitchen

Ministry’s culinary services department not only feeds hundred of employees, patients and visitors each day, but they also believe they can lay claim to the title of the only hospital in Wisconsin to cure and smoke their own bacon. Chef Eric VanAlstine leads a talented team of chefs, and he encourages them to do what they do best. That means pastry chefs Rebecca McDowell and Sandy Smith are always mixing up a creative dessert, while Chef John Vreeke uses homemade stocks to make mouthwatering soups. And Doug Meyer is curing the bacon.


“We acquired this wonderful Combitherm oven that roasts meats and keeps them moist. It’s great for leaner cuts such as pork butt,” says VanAlstine. One day Doug got the idea to smoke some of the pork’s “cap” to make “leaner” bacon, and it was a hit with patrons. He currently has 80 pounds of bacon curing in the walk-in cooler in preparation for Ministry’s holiday party. “We’ll use it for rumaki (bacon-wrapped water chestnuts), and to flavor other dishes as well,” he says. He will also smoke cheeses such as English cheddar and gouda to add extra flavor.

Doug’s ingenuity has led to ideas such as using the oven’s smokebox to smoke poblano peppers right on top of some of the pork bellies.  “This yielded some nice smoked poblanos, but we also tried to impart some of the pepper’s heat into the meat,” says Doug.


VanAlstine says that keeping things fresh in the kitchen is the key to keeping his employees engaged and pleasing his customers. “We really emphasize fresh-locally, made foods,” he says. And because VanAlstine has gathered culinary talent from some of Door County’s finest restaurants, there’s no shortage of creativity. “I can truly say that there’s not a restaurant I’ve worked at where I enjoyed working as much as I do here.”

Chef John Vreeke was inspired by Doug’s bacon to create this sandwich that was a hit during a recent lunch hour at the Ministry Cafeteria.


Grilled Apple, Bacon, and Cheddar Sandwich

Makes two sandwiches


4 slices bread of your choice (we use sourdough)

3 Tablespoons butter

8 oz. cheddar cheese, grated

1 apple, peeled and cored, sliced thin (about ¼ inch)

6 slices cooked, high quality bacon (or even better: Doug’s bacon!)

Butter one side of each slice of bread.  Place bread butter side down on a medium hot griddle or pan.  Top each slice of bread with 2 oz. of cheese.  Add a layer of sliced apple to two of the slices of bread, and three strips of cooked bacon to each of the other two slices.

When cheese begins to melt, combine an apple-topped slice with a bacon topped slice to make two sandwiches.  Continue to cook until golden brown, flipping once, for a total cook time of 5-8 minutes.

The Ministry Cafeteria serves breakfast from 7:00 am -9:30am (Mon-Fri), lunch from 11:30 am – 1:30pm (Daily) and supper from 5:30 pm -6:30pm (Daily). The public is welcome!