In the first ever Wellness Travel Awards, Miraval Resort & Spa, the award -winning luxury destination retreat in Tucson, Arizona, took home the award for Culinary and Healthy Cuisine so naturally we had to spotlight Miraval’s Executive Chef Justin Macy as our Top (Spa) Chef of the month! Chef Macy enjoys exploring the nuances of cultural cuisine, allowing him to combine the unique flavors found in international fare with the healthy and nutritious groundwork of spa dining. His food mission is simple: “I enjoy the challenge of taking delicious, but highly fatty dishes and transforming them into meals with sensible calorie counts and full-flavored, complex tastes. It really blows people away.”
Chef Macy began his culinary career and his journey with Miraval at the young age of 17. “I didn’t plan on doing this for a living, I really just wanted a job. I had never cooked in a professional kitchen before. A home town pizzeria and McDonald’s are the only kitchens I had been in, if you even want to call those kitchens. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but it was exciting and I found my passion.”
While working in a professional kitchen began in his late teen years, his passion for the culinary world was already in his blood, as both his mother and grandmother cooked in various commercial kitchens throughout Arizona. After beginning his professional career, Chef trained under notable spa chef mentors including Chef Chad Luethje, Bill Wavrin, and Cary Neff.
During his time at Miraval, Chef has appeared on broadcasts of Oprah and Millionaire Matchmaker. He has also developed the “Evening with the Chef” weekend series which features cooking demos and wine pairing suggestions as well as the In-Villa Culinary program for Miraval residential Villas which caters to private owners, celebrities, and high profile guests. In addition to his culinary duties, Chef Macy is a contributing author to Miraval’s cookbook Mindful Eating and is co-author of the cookbook Sweet and Savory.
When asked about the future for food, Chef responded that he believes that “big fast food chains will become a way of the past” thanks to people becoming more educated about the food they are eating. “People are becoming more aware of the lack of nutrition in fast food. I predict that we will see growth in farm-to-table options for people on the go. The desire to grab a quick bite to eat won’t go away, but companies and entrepreneurs will respond to consumer demand for healthy eating. My personal passion this year is revitalizing comfort food and bringing it back to the forefront with a healthy twist.”
On the flip-side, when we asked about what food trends have seen the last of their time in the sun, Chef didn’t hesitant to name a certain over-talked-about leafy green. “I believe kale’s 15 minutes of fame are over. Although healthy for you, we can only eat so much kale and cook it so many ways. Every chef out there has overdone this leafy green.”
Try out some of Chef Macy’s techniques at home with one of his favorite recipes, a Pan Seared Duck with Cranberry BBQ Sauce. “Any beginner chef can make this and look like a Top Chef winner at the dinner table. This dish is unique in that it’s Thanksgiving turned upside down; you have duck instead of turkey, cranberry BBQ instead of traditional cranberry sauce and wasabi potatoes. I thought this dish up standing in line at grocery store staring at a food and wine magazine with a turkey dinner on the cover. I asked the cashier for a piece of paper so I could write it down, she thought I was crazy! Take a stab at the recipe at home and see for yourself!”
Pan Seared Duck with Cranberry BBQ Sauce
4 four-ounce duck breasts, trimmed of all fat and sinew
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon canola oil
1/4 cup Cranberry Barbecue Sauce (recipe below)
1. Preheat the oven to 425° F.
2. Lightly season the duck breasts on both sides with salt and pepper.
3. Heat the oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the duck and sear on both sides for 2.5 minutes then turn over and transfer the skillet to the oven and roast until nearly medium rare, about 5 minutes. Remove the duck from the oven and let rest in the pan for 1 minute. Slice each breast into three pieces, slicing across the breast.
4. To serve, spoon 1 tablespoon of the barbeque sauce into the center of the four large plates and place one potato cake on top of the sauce. Arrange one duck breast over the top of each plate.
Cranberry Barbeque Sauce
Makes 1 cup
This tangy take on a backyard sauce is delicious and goes with duck, chicken, pork, and backed tofu. You can keep it for 5 days in in the refrigerator.
1 cup ketchup or pureed fresh tomato
1 cup cranberry juice cocktail (sweetened)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup blackening spice blend
1/4 cup agave syrup or honey
1/4 cup molasses
1. Combine all ingredients in a heavy medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook the sauce, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries are plump and the liquid begins to thicken, about 12 minutes.
2. Transfer to a blender and process on high speed until smooth, 45 seconds.
3. Serve warm, or allow to cool.
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