FORT LAUDERDALE — When Jasmine Norville first arrived at Chris Evert Children’s Hospital, she was only 5 years old. Suffering from sickle cell, she was regularly readmitted to the hospital whenever she suffered a sickle cell crisis. Now 22, Norville estimates she was a patient at Chris Evert Children’s Hospital well over a dozen times while growing up.
Today, Norville works at the hospital where she was once a patient. Known affectionately to Chris Evert Children’s Hospital’s pediatric patients as Chef Cupcake, Norville works in nutritional services, but has a much bigger role than cook or baker.
Once a week, Norville dons her chef’s hat and coat, packs up supplies from the kitchens and heads to the pediatric unit to spend an hour sweetening spirits. She and the children will be making, baking and decorating cupcakes, all from the comfort of the hospital’s playroom.
Once each child, including patients and their siblings, is garbed with apron and hat, mixing bowls are set out and ingredients are blended. After the cupcakes — both sugar and sugar-free — are baked, bags of icing, sprinkles and other décor are placed in front of the excited children, and they are led through the process of decorating their own cupcakes, which only a few moments later will be devoured.
DESIGNS AS THERAPY
Norville can often be seen bending over a sitting child, her arms around them as she guides tiny hands that are stirring with spatulas or frosting with icing bags. And while the
children’s concentrated expressions may not reflect their emotions, Norville says she can tell immediately whether a child is having a good day or needs more of her attention to brighten his or her mood.
“When I get to see them trying to ice the cupcakes, it’s the best part of the
cupcake program. It’s their little mini creations. Their designs reflect their emotions at this point,” she says.
“As long as I could remember, I loved it,” Norville says of her own early days at Chris Evert Children’s Hospital. “I’ve learned so much. They were my second home.”
As for the future, Norville hopes to use her persona as Chef Cupcake as a way to educate children on proper nutrition, which is a priority in personal as well as her professional life, due to her continued battle with sickle cell and a diabetic father.
“I want them to know that what we’re doing isn’t just for attention. It’s important to make food fun. It can show them to eat fun, healthy things, and they’ll take it home with them,” Norville says.
Chef Cupcake and her program are part of a larger initiative currently being unveiled at Chris Evert Children’s Hospital. Nutritional Services has overhauled the entire pediatric menu, making recipes amusing, healthy and filled with opportunities for discussion on proper diet. Chef Cupcake complements the new menu’s agenda by providing an entertaining — and tasty — outlet for children to learn about cooking and baking, as well as nutrition. If nothing else, her charismatic persona invites conversation with the children and parents.
While Norville hopes to someday open her own bakery, she is currently enjoying working at the hospital where she spent so much time as a child and the impact she is having on children and their families.
“There are so many things I want to voice about proper nutrition, and in this role I have a face. People are listening to me. I get to work with the kids, and I like working where it all started. This is my thank you note to Chris Evert Children’s Hospital.”
Photo: COURTESY OF CANDACE WEST PHOTO
INFLUENTIAL: Jasmine "Chef Cupcake" Norville, from left, and patient Trevon Gibson are joined by Gibson's sister and brother at Chris Evert Children’s Hospital.