Tuesday, April 16, 2013

out with the lard, in with the olive oil

Try as I might to avoid it, the fact of the matter is that healthy eating is taking over. In the hospitality industry we seek to please our clients and guests, and in order to stay up to date with the current trends and food styles I am going to have to stop cooking with lard and start cooking with olive oil.
I am making this sound as if I am opposed to the healthy food choices, but the truth is that as classically trained French cook, I am just used to resorting to butter to make food delicious.
For the longest time in the restaurant industry, cooks and chefs have leaned on the classic ingredients,dishes and techniques to produce elegant, rich and flavorful food. Butter, sugar, carb heavy and meat heavy dishes with thick reduced red wine sauces were in the spotlight. If you ate at a fancy restaurant you were likely to find words like foie gras, butter basted, red wine jus and fried on the menu but as we roll into the spring and summer season of 2013 I am seeing these trends being replaced with terms such as salads, raw, vegetarian and gluten free.
Certainly when you visit a book store, the overwhelming majority of the books highlighted in the food section are based around healthy eating, diet trends, and what is local and seasonal. So if this is what the people want to eat, this is what I need to cook!
Recently the urban element hosted two Chefs from Montreal for a sit down tasting menu and I was pleasantly surprised by their menu. The dishes were mainly based around vegetable preparations, and had a big focus on light and balanced courses. What surprised me the most was the salad course. Not that they had a salad course but the fact that they served two of them and one of them was after the main course. This is a bit contrary to the classic tasting menu design and I was intrigued. When I asked the Chef why he decided to have a salad as a course after a main he responded “When I dine out I love to eat tasting menus, I just don’t want to feel over full and sick when I leave” Good point!

I can recount many times that I have eaten out and left feeling like I needed a nap and maybe some tums. As amazing as a dinner at peid de cochon can be, eating an entire stuffed pig trotter and chasing it with a heavy rich red wine was not the best decision I ever made. He was right. Food should be enjoyed for being delicious but also allow you to leave still feeling great.  With this in mind I am on a new mission. My mission is to provide balances menus and meals which are not heavy and rich, but provide meals that are still flavor packed and elegant.
With all of the interest in vegetarian food, smaller portions, gluten free and low fat options, I need to get in gear and trade out the butter basted steak for something lighter. Cooking without these heavy staples does provide a new challenge, and I am game.
Sourcing lovely raw products, working with farmers and choosing the healthier options for menus are on the agenda.
Here is where I am looking at you the reader for support. In order to broaden my spectrum of recipes and menus, I would love to hear from you. What healthy options do you love to cook at home? Got a recipe? Got a meal idea featuring delicious superfoods like kale and beans? Let me hear 'em!

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