At the Culinary Institute of America, in Hyde Park, N.Y., the corridors of power are leading to classes in portion control and polyunsaturated fats, videotapes of aerobic exercisers and a computerized nutrient scale that can automatically analyze the sodium, for instance, in a scallop.
School days are changing for American chefs. Nutrition isn't such a dirty word anymore.
While culinary schools often have incorporated basic nutrition information into their classes (what's a calorie, what's a carbohydrate), what's happening is that teachers and students are warming up to the ideas that a four-ounce portion is enough, that there are alternatives to rich, creamy sauces, that fresh herbs do just as much to accent the flavors in a dish as salt. And what could be a more crucial setting for these realizations than the classrooms of our future chefs?
The CIA will never divorce itself from classic cooking principles, says Mark Erickson, chef-manager of the St. Andrew's Cafe, the school's new restaurant just opened on Aug. 26 that serves entrees ranging from 350 to 400 calories and dishes below 30 percent fat, 100 mg of cholesterol and 250 mg of sodium. Beurre blanc and hollandaise won't be eliminated from the syllabuses; they won't be imitated. But the gluttony of serving habits will, says Erickson.
Away from the students in their uniforms of toques and checkered chef's pants, and the lively noises of the chopping, saute'ing and mixing heard in the classrooms, recently hired dietitian Catharine Powers, sitting next to Erickson in the simply designed cafe, explains the expanded nutritional program at the school.
First, a set of nutritional guidelines was developed in conjunction with the New York Medical College. Resembling the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, the guidelines include such information as: maintain ideal body weight, avoid too much fat, saturated fat and cholesterol, avoid too much sodium. In addition, the guidelines set daily intake standards (i.e. sodium: 1,000 to 3,000 mg. a day; total fat: not more than 30-to-35 percent of total calories.)
These guidelines, adds Donna Linder of the CIA's public relations office, will gradually be incorporated into dishes prepared in all the school's classes; in fact, they will even be integrated in the Escoffier Dining Room, the school's classical French restaurant.
Working in the St. Andrew's Cafe has become a requirement of the school's 22-month program. Students will analyze the nutritional components of dishes, says Erickson, and learn how to adapt and modify them to fit the restaurant's guidelines. They will also create new dishes and use traditional recipes already low, for instance, in fat or sodium. Dishes just developed include bliss potatoes with mustard, grilled breast of cornish game hen with roasted corn, peppers and chanterelles, and a lemon mousse and papaya dish with strawberry sauce.
In addition, a continuing education class, open to people in the food service industry, called "Cuisine of the '80s," includes everything from preparing a vegetarian menu to a lecture on obesity. Chefs from Campbell Soup have already attended this class, according to Linder. And future plans for the college include an entire nutrition center, says Powers, complete with audio visual equipment and computer programs for nutritional anaylsis.
The CIA seems to be taking the lead, but it isn't the only professional culinary school starting to get healthier habits into the classroom. The movement hasn't yet mushroomed, but "pretty soon it's going to explode," says Mary Ellen Doyle, director of administration of the International Association of Cooking Professionals. "Pretty soon everyone will want a nutrition class."
At the culinary arts department at Newbury Junior College in Boston, instructor Carol Hodges has written an extensive nutrition manual for chefs that will be used in her classroom, cooking labs and hopefully develop into an educational television series. She employs a "menu game" as part of her classes and says the cooking labs involve "fiddling" with recipes, substituting different types of oils and quantities of oils. Hodges emphasizes fresh ingredients and stays away from imitation eggs or unnatural substitutes -- she doesn't "enjoy whipping low-fat evaporated milk to make a topping."
At the Sausalito, Calif., cooking school Le Cordon Rouge, founder/director Jay Perkins says that nutritious eating is emphasized in all the curriculum, often because the students are more health conscious. Classes in fish technique are more and more popular, says Perkins, and interest in preparing all-vegetable meals has caught on.
Formal nutrition classes are taught in beginner, intermediate and advanced levels at Le Cordon Rouge, too. As part of the classes, students participate in blind taste tests with mayonnaises made with different kinds of oils to learn that "you don't need peanut oil safflower oil will do to make an excellent mayonnaise," says Perkins, or they blind taste homemade ice creams to learn that using lesser amounts of cream makes a fine product. Perkins said students also create 300-calorie dishes and have come up with "fascinating things" such as flying fish roe with pasta.
Johnson and Wales used to have a nutrition class detailing the four basic food groups and "typical boring types of stuff," says John Bowen, dean and director of the school's culinary arts division.
Now the Providence, R.I. culinary school, with the help of three full-time nutritionists, has modernized and personalized its nutrition course, according to Bowen. For example, as part of a class project, students may design low-calorie diets and see for themselves if they lose weight, says Bowen, who himself has adapted his diet and stepped up his exercise program after learning he had high blood pressure and had put on a few too many pounds last year. The school has also incorporated lighter and smaller portions of foods in their student-run restaurants (beef wellington is now a chicken wellington) and like CIA, has future plans to open a nutrition lab.
It's not just in culinary schools that nutrition is gradually being taught to chefs. For the chefs out of school and already in kitchen, networks are being established, odd couples are getting together, brainstorming is being done. It's all in its infancy, but things are beginning to jell.
Nutritionists are being employed full time by hotel chains. The American Culinary Federation, a nationwide professional chefs association, has instituted a nutrition requirement in its certification program. So has the International Association of Cooking Professionals.
The American Heart Association is working with the ACF on developing a course to help chefs meet this nutrition requirement. A few chapters, the West Virginia affiliate included, have already held such cooking seminars. In addition, the AHA has a videotape that teaches chefs how to adapt recipes.
The list goes on. The National Restaurant Association employs a full-time nutritionist who is working on a how-to manual for restaurant chefs, Rodale Food Consultants are running nutrition seminars for industry and food service professionals, of which chefs from Campbell Soup recently attended.
The movement to teach chefs nutrition still has a long way to go. It is difficult to evaluate how much students will "unlearn" the recipe modifications they learn in their nutrition course in other school courses or how well that nutrition information will translate into the kitchen of a future chef. And there are certainly many culinary schools that do not feel the need or desire to have a nutrition component.
In addition, there are differences of opinion as to who should teach chefs about nutrition and how scientific or technical the training should get. Some cooking experts are frustrated by the lack of qualified dietitians who know enough about classical cooking and the economics and management of a contemporary restaurant kitchen. Many dietitians only know standardized recipes and institutional cooking, says Hodges of Newbury Junior College, who has two masters degrees in nutrition, has attended La Varenne Cooking School and is a graduate of L'Academie de Cuisine in Bethesda. Hodges believes that the dynamics of dietitians telling professional chefs how to cook doesn't mesh and that chefs are better off learning through manuals or audiovisual methods.
When it comes to nutrition, "chefs understand the illusions but not the facts," says Nathalie Dupree, president of the International Association of Cooking Professionals. "Dietitians know the facts but not the illusions," says Dupree, who added that dietitians should receive some training in classical cooking so that they can be better trained to teach chefs.
Here are recipes from some of the schools that have started integrating the two. ST. ANDREW'S CAFE TENDERLOIN OF PORK GLAZED WITH HONEY AND THYME (From the Culinary Institute of America) (8 servings)
1 pound 10 ounces pork tenderloin
1 teaspoon shallots, minced fine
1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced fine
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 teaspoon crushed black peppercorns
2 1/2 tablespoons honey
2 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
4 teaspoons vegetable oil (corn, safflower)
3 cups beef stock
1 1/2 tablespoons arrowroot
Water as needed
Remove all silverskin and fat from pork tenderloin. Keep refrigerated until needed.
Combine shallots, garlic, thyme, tomato paste, dijon mustard and peppercorns; mix well to make a paste. Set aside until needed.
Combine honey and red wine vinegar. Set aside until needed.
Heat vegetable oil in a nonstick skillet over high heat. Pat surface of tenderloin dry with absorbent toweling. Brown tenderloin on all sides in hot oil. Remove tenderloin from skillet. Hold on platter until needed. Reduce heat under skillet to medium high.
Add mustard/tomato mixture to skillet. Stirring constantly, allow this to cook until tomato is lightly caramelized (it will smell slightly "sweet") for approximately 30 to 40 seconds.
Add honey/vinegar mixture to the skillet and stir well. The honey will begin to foam almost immediately. Carefully slide tenderloin back into skillet. Baste tenderloin with glaze, turning from time to time, until it is completely coated. (Glaze will be quite thick; should coat easily.) Remove skillet from heat.
Place glazed tenderloin on a rack over a sheet pan or shallow baking dish. Place in a 375-degree oven until done (internal temperature of 150 degrees; juices should run clear when pierced with skewer) -- approximately 20 to 25 minutes.
While tenderloin is in oven, return skillet to heat. Deglaze the mixture with brown stock by bringing it to a simmer; let reduce slightly. Dissolve arrowroot in a small amount of cold water. Add to sauce to thicken lightly. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
To serve, carve tenderloin and bias into thin slices. Arrange slices on warm plates. Coat with some of the sauce. Serve immediately.
Nutritional analysis per portion: Calories -- 230. Protein -- 23.9 grams. Fat -- 10.3 grams. Carbohydrates -- 10.3 grams. Sodium -- 72 milligrams. Cholesterol -- 65 milligrams. ST. ANDREW'S CAFE GINGERED SNOW PEAS AND YELLOW SQUASH (From the Culinary Institute of America) (8 servings)
1 pound snow peas
1/2 pound yellow squash
1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger
1 tablespoon chopped shallots
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
3/4 cup chicken stock
Remove stem end and strings from snow peas. Rinse well. Slice off stem end of squash. Rinse well; cut into medium dice.
Combine vegetables with ginger, shallots, garlic, chives and white pepper. Heat stock in a large saute' pan. Add vegetables, cover and steam for 5 minutes. Nutritional analysis per portion: Calories -- 43. Protein -- 2.7. Fat -- .3 grams. Carbohydrates -- 8.8 grams. Sodium -- 3 milligrams. Cholesterol -- 0 milligrams. LEEK-PEPPER TERRINE WITH RED PEPPER PUREE (From Newbury Junior College) (8 servings)
3 large red bell peppers
16 large leeks, trimmed of tough outer leaves
1/4-ounce packet gelatin
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 cups salt-free chicken stock (preferably homemade) FOR RED PEPPER PUREE:
4 large red bell peppers, roasted and skins removed
Chicken stock for thinning
Chopped fresh basil, tarragon or dill
To make terrine, roast peppers in a hot oven or grill until soft and charred. Peel, seed and cut into strips. Slice leeks in half lengthwise and separate leaves to remove grit. Trim to fit the length of a 9-by-5 rectangular mold or bread pan. Soften gelatin in 1/4 cup water.
While gelatin is softening, add fennel seeds to chicken stock. Simmer leeks in chicken stock until just tender. Strain stock, reserving 1 1/2 cups. Discard fennel seeds.
Return the 1 1/2 cups chicken stock to the saucepan and dissolve gelatin into it. Dip leek leaves into stock until coated with a thin film and layer into pan until they come up halfway. Dip pepper strips into chicken stock and lay lengthwise on top of leeks. Top with a layer of remaining leeks. Allow to cool.
Place plastic wrap on top and weight down with cans. Place on a plate. Refrigerate overnight. Slide knife around edge of mold. Unmold. Cut into 1-inch slices. (Note: The gelatin in this dish serves to help the leeks adhere to one another; the final product will not gel into a solid mass, so care is needed in slicing.) Place slices onto individual serving dishes on top of red pepper pure'e.
To make red pepper pure'e, place roasted and skinned red peppers in a food processor and pure'e. Thin with a small amount of chicken stock until pourable. Add chopped herbs to taste. TOFU PEACH CUSTARD (From Johnson and Wales) (4 servings)
1 pound peaches, peeled and sliced
1 1/2 pounds soft tofu
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
Peel and slice peaches, reserving 8 slices for garnish. Drain tofu, rinse in cold water and drain again. Place peaches and tofu in blender. Blend until smooth. Add brown sugar, lemon juice, rind and vanilla to mixture. Blend until smooth. Divide tofu mixture among 4 ovenproof custard dishes. Garnish with 2 peach slices each and bake 20 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve warm.