ACF Conference Highlights Healthy-Eating Trend


LAS VEGAS — Cooking demonstrations and discussions about healthy eating, nutrition and flavours dominated the second day of the American Culinary Federation National Convention in Las Vegas at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas hotel and casino.

Even the usually staid and formal “State-of-the-Union” address at the American Culinary Federation’s (ACF) annual meeting, presented by out-going president Michael Ty, incorporated a spirited presentation by Newport Beach, Calif.-born celebrity chef Ming Tsai. The host of two TV cooking programs, who’s known for his Chinese fusion cuisine, delivered a new idea every minute.

He also regaled the crowd with quips such as, “After 4,500 years, the Chinese have learned how to properly cook fish, but the Japanese are still learning and eating fish raw.” He added: “That’s also good for you.” At another moment Ming quipped, “The word ‘diet’ doesn’t exist in the Chinese language, we prefer the word ‘eat.’”

Ming is the chef-owner of two restaurants, Blue Ginger and Blue Dragon, both in Massachusetts. He is also a national spokesman for the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, as one of his sons has food allergies. He has also created a reference book that lists each allergen for every menu item.

“A new relationship has emerged, and is expanding, between the chef, his customers and farmers,” Ming said. “All parties have learned a great deal about each other, focused on the needs of the consumer.” He pointed out that American restaurants historically served 8- and 16-oz steaks, and customers were satisfied. Today, consumers recognize that amount of protein would feed, and flavour meals for five to10 people in Asia.

Among many examples cited, brown rice has become a fixture on Ming’s menu, replacing other carbohydrates. He cited research stating brown rice is healthier than white rice or potatoes as it lowers the body’s Glycymic Index. In many recipes, Ming has replaced salt with small quantities of soy sauce. “It’s better for you, and our customers prefer the subtle changes in flavour,” he said.

Meanwhile, elsewhere at the convention, some 18 workshops at the ACF Congress focused on healthier eating with cooking demonstrations and food sampling, most with standing room only. Guests to the “Culinary-Insights-and-Trends” session watched the preparation of a Korean barbecue vegan burger (slider); a Mexican-inspired coffee chili; and a doughnut and bacon bread pudding. The session was led by David Landers, senior chef, Breakthrough Innovations, at Campbell’s Culinary & Baking Institute. He was assisted by CCBI’s Christopher Tanner, executive chef, North American Soup and Simple Meals.

And, “Heart Healthy and Delicious” was the theme of a workshop presented by Mark Allison, dean of Culinary Education, Johnson & Wales Charlotte Campus. He focused on healthy and trendy grain recipes that use simple ingredients to enhance flavour and colour. Sponsored by the American Roland Food Corp., the demonstrations and tastings included tangy thai melon with shrimp as well as salmon carpaccio with campari dressing.

The conference ends tomorrow.




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