"Bon Appetit!"

Professional chefs, like French culinary master Michel Stroot, lead the way to healthful prepared foods that please even the most discerning gourmet palette.

by Randl Rupar
[Editor's note: Randl Rupar's true passion in life, his vocation and advocation, is health and healthy foods. For the past 25 years, he has been dedicated to educating himself - and others - about the value of a healthy diet. Mr. Rupar has taught food and nutrition awareness classes at various institutions, including the University for Humanistic Studies and the International School of Professional Bodywork. He is the owner and operator of Real Meals on Wheels, a catering truck that delivers delicious, healthy food instead of the typical "roach coach" fare. Recently, he has been working with the Carlsbad Unified School District to bring healthful meals to students. He is currently writing a book advocating the lifestyle of eating soundly, breathing rythmically and living compassionately.]
ave you ever considered the significant role a chef plays in your own personal well-being? In addition to learning the skills of culinary magic, chefs are starting to seek creative methods of preparing healthful foods.
This has not always been the case. Chefs educated in the orthodox schools of culinary arts have not been required to study nutrition. (Unfortunately, this also applies to medical schools, where doctors have not been required to learn the preventive aspects of diet, nutrition and the relationship to degenerative disease). Slick marketing techniques by the processed food industry have directed attention away from what is delicious and healthful to what is convenient.
Fortunately, the public mindset has started shifting from a model of illness and disease to one of wellness and self-responsibility. This shift has catalyzed a renaissance in food, diet and self-healing, inspiring chefs to develop delicious foods that are also good for you. A growing availability of locally-grown, pesticide-free foods supports gourmet taste balanced with healthful choices. Healthy food isn't just bland-tasting cardboard and rough grains; it's alive and tastefully invigorating. You can have your cake and eat it, too!

Master chef Stroot

On November 10, health-minded gourmet chefs in San Diego will gather to participate in the signing of the Chefs Collaborative 2000 Charter [see article on page 7]. This watershed event will be hosted by Michel Stroot, French culinary master and head chef of the acclaimed Golden Door Health Spa. I recently spoke with chef Stroot, and I think his words typify the position of many forward-thinking chefs:

RR: How long have you been a professional chef?

MS: In 1957 I began three years of training at Hotel School in Brussels, Belgium.

RR: Were you as food conscious then as you are now?

MS: I was intrigued with food preparation, yet was not aware of the connection between diet and well-being. Twenty years ago, when I started at the Golden Door, my diet was that of the typical French gourmet: red meat, heavy sauces, liquor, beer and wine. I didn't know what I was doing, but I began a different dietary approach. I experienced an immediate shift in energy level. From then on, I have followed this way of life.

RR: Your current position as head chef at The Golden Door Health Spa affords you the freedom to create healthful gourmet foods. What suggestions can you offer to other gourmet chefs within the restaurant community who wish to become more health conscious?

MS: A chef with skills understands flavor, texture and eye appeal. A chef needs to analyze a recipe. Proper balance of carbohydrates - including pasta, whole grains, sweet potatoes, etc. - with proteins and fats is necessary. Eliminate red meats and reduce as much meat and dairy products as possible. The process of weaning out the use of animal products takes place over a period of time.

RR: The Chefs Collaborative 2000 Charter signals a major shift in a chef's previous duties of preparing eye-appealing and taste-satiating foods without consideration of nutritional value. How do you see this transition taking place?

MS: We chefs are at the helm of making this transition possible. Our curiosity with what is available seasonally, locally and organically will be to our advantage. Everyone knows fresh foods make more appealing and tasty meals. We can make our guests and customers surprised and interested in our foods. This process is done gradually and subtly, to make sure anyone we serve is not feeling deprived.

RR: What effect do you think the Fall Health Classics event - the signing of the charter, the experience of the gourmet vegetarian dinner and the presentation by John Robbins - will have?

MS: Most of the people who attend this event will believe and want to conform. It is important to bring in new converts, new chefs and new talent into the [Health Classics] organization.

RR: Do you believe that this food renaissance is transforming the way we view the role of chefs in our health as well as our culinary enjoyment? Is it here to stay?

MS: Yes. It is just a matter of time - it takes several years. Most will come to understand by economics. They will learn that diets high in animal fat and protein makes them ill; that a diet abundant with fresh vegetables, grains and legumes keeps them healthy. The adverse effects of an improper diet has tremendous costs regarding health care, and people will not be able to afford it.

With leadership from chefs like Michel Stroot, we can all look forward to a healthier - and tastier - future.

Randl Rupar lives with his mate in Oceanside, California , where he counsels, gardens and surfs.