In our newest series Top (Spa) Chef, we’re going to be introducing you to some of our favorite culinary masters and sharing some of their personal favorite recipes and cooking tips! To kick things off we’d like to introduce you to Executive Chef Anthony Stewart of Pritikin Longevity Center and Spa, known for its low-sodium, nutritious menu and recently described in the The New York Times as the longest-running (established in 1975) “granddaddy of health-based wellness spas.” When not in the kitchen at Pritikin, Chef Anthony is a master teacher in Pritikin’s award-winning cooking school and has inspired thousands of guests over his 12-year tenure at Pritikin “to have some fun!”
“Nowadays, most people think cooking is a burdensome, time-consuming affair. Not so!” shares Chef Anthony, who received his culinary education from Cornell. “Our Pritikin guests leave our cooking classes amazed at how simple and delicious healthy cooking can be. Our classes are designed to make life easier, and to bring out the creative side in everyone.”
Chef Anthony has won accolades worldwide, including five gold medals in top culinary competitions, for his masterful use of foodstuffs like fresh seafood and tropical fruit from his native Jamaica. Before coming to Pritikin, his career included years at the Cayman Resort Hotels in the Cayman Islands, the American Restaurant Association in New York City, and Premier Cruise Lines as chef or food/beverage director.
“I love to cook,” he says. “Food is my life, my profession, and my passion, and I love nothing more than helping others ‘catch’ that passion.” For guests at Pritikin, the passion begins in the dining room, where they sample Anthony’s innovative dishes, such as Citrus Fennel Mango Salad, Roasted Bison With Rosemary and Vidalia Onions, and Tia Maria Parfait.
“Many people mistakenly believe that healthy eating means self-sacrifice. Here in our dining room at Pritikin they learn that healthy eating is self-indulgence.”
To help guests at Pritikin get past any phobias they may have about pulling out the pots and pans and turning on the stove, Chef Anthony and his team of sous chefs recently instituted a new cooking program at the health resort called “Cooking 101 – Simply Healthy.”
These new classes aren’t about recipes, explains Chef A. “People hear the word ‘recipe’ and they get nervous. They think we’re talking about 12-plus ingredients and two hours in the kitchen. Our focus is much, much simpler. It’s all about taking the foods you already love and putting them together in new and exciting ways. Every dish we teach has 6 ingredients or less, and each is finished in 30 minutes or less. Never was food prep so simple and quick! These classes are perfect for people who want to eat healthy but don’t have time to cook.”
3 Healthy Food Tips from Pritikin’s Chef Anthony
1. Veggies and herbs
Once vegetables and herbs are cut, they start to lose their flavor. So don’t cut them too long in advance. The closer to cooking time, the better.
To get a good sear on your food, from fish to veggies, don’t cook a lot of servings at once. “You don’t want to overcrowd the pan,” explains Chef Anthony. Also, make sure your pan is very hot. Once hot, put your servings in. Then leave them alone. Do not turn them or stir them until you see some browning about one-quarter of the way up.
3. Love red meat? Try bison – the healthier red meat
Game meat like bison (buffalo), venison, and elk, preferably free range and grass fed, is leaner than other red meats, which means it’s lower in artery-damaging saturated fat – in fact, almost as low as white, skinless poultry. Many guests at Pritikin, trying bison for the first time (it’s served every Thursday at the health resort) are often surprised at its deliciousness. “No one misses out on Thursday night dinner here,” laughs Pritikin Chef Anthony Stewart. “We get a big kick out of all the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ rising up from the dining room tables!”
For grass-fed tenderloin cuts of bison, “the cooking time should be short and fast,” recommends Chef Anthony. “Because the meat does not have any marble (fat pockets), searing is a good way of cooking it. By searing at very high temps on each side for about 90 seconds, you create a nice crust and seal the juices in. Let it sit for another two to three minutes, and it will cook more, reaching a medium-rare doneness. For grass-fed meat products, we don’t recommend cooking them beyond medium doneness.”
Get into the holiday spirit with Chef Anthony’s recipe for Merry Berry Parfait:
Merry Berry Parfait
1 cup raspberries, fresh or frozen
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
1 cup mangoes, diced, fresh or frozen
1 cup fat-free sour cream (or plain fat-free Greek yogurt)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Splenda, to taste
4 sprigs of mint for garnish (optional)
1. In a saucepan, add raspberries and blueberries, and cook over low-medium heat until berries are thickened and softened, about 10 minutes. Stir regularly. In a separate saucepan, cook mangoes the same way. Remove fruit from heat and allow to cool
2. In a medium mixing bowl, whip together sour cream and vanilla extract using a wire whip until smooth. Add Splenda to taste
3. In martini or parfait glasses, layer with berries, then the sour cream mixture, then the mangoes. Chill. Serve garnished with a sprig of fresh mint
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