I knew Daniel Green as I hope you will come to know him: as the charming Brit, the able and inspiring chef, guiding me from my computer screen in the art of cooking better. "The Better Cook" video series brings to life Live Better America's recipes, including this month's debut Healthified Bittersweet Chocolate Cake with Berries. The man with whom I sat down to talk food recently is a consummate professional, yes, but also a dad in charge of family dinner, a world traveler and the onetime owner of a 38-inch waist, who's maintained his 32-inch midsection for more than two decades by practicing what he preaches.
Green's recipe-testing wife and 11-year-old daughter can vouch for his at-home credentials. (He says his daughter is "very blunt.") The résumé he brings to "The Better Cook" is long: global celebrity chef, author of six healthy eating cookbooks distributed worldwide, creator of healthful menus for five-star hotels and on-board meals for international airlines, and guest on Food Network, Travel Channel and BBC programs.
His life's work is to help people understand food, try new things and actually enjoy being in the kitchen. For those of us on both dinner duty and wellness watch, what could be better? Here are excerpts from our conversation.
Kitty Shea: Congratulations on being named "The Better Cook."
Daniel Green: My impression when I first saw this project was, Oh, my goodness, it's almost written for me. That's my philosophy, the way I live my life. It's not hardcore; it's about changing what you do like, just being a bit simpler and healthier. It couldn't have been a better fit.
KS: You say "a bit simpler and healthier." So we're not talking dietary overhaul here?
DG: It's those small tweaks that change us long-term. We're showing people "This is the traditional way to make something; we're going to just change it a little bit." We're not making it fat-free and no flavor; just giving the tools to think on a different level. A lot of chefs are about adding more fat for more flavor. I wanted to come at it a completely different way.
KS: That way, I know, is divided into three types of show segments, with "Off the Shelf" being the starter mindset, yes?
DG: Off the Shelf gradually gets people to get back in the kitchen without too much work. So you could grab a pasta sauce that's ready-made, but you add a few fresh herbs or something else and spice it up. It feels like you've made it. It gives you the confidence that you cooked it, which you have. And that might take you to the next level.
KS: Which is Healthified. Live Better America is all about Healthifying classic dishes by swapping ingredients and otherwise tweaking the recipes.
DG: [It's] having the knowledge of a few other foods that are good for you. Maybe taking the fat down a little, so you're not compromising on flavor, but you've still got everything you love about the dish.
KS: And the third segments?
DG: Power Pairings shows you what two great foods can do together. To some people, [eating well is] daunting. They think, "Well, unless I do 100 percent it's not going to work for me." That's not true! If you have fresh fruit, if you have fresh vegetables, just by having extra, that's only going to benefit.
KS: Be honest: Did you like the recipes?
DG: We really were impressed with the food. It's what [people] eat every day, the food we love. Those little tweaks we make? People won't even notice.
KS: So does the name "The Better Cook" refer to you or the viewer?
DG: We're always evolving in the kitchen; we're always looking for more, so I think we can all make ourselves to be "The Better Cook."