Food & Dining
Chef Rebecca Katz demonstrates healthy tastiness
by Bradley Hartsell
Professional chef Rebecca Katz has turned her knowledge into a profession, by preparing flavorful dishes out of healthy and preventative foods in what she calls, “the power of yum” — the moment when a person tastes great food and gives an audible reaction.
Last Friday, Katz brought her message to Newnan, giving a cooking demonstration on cancer fighting foods at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Southeastern Regional Medical Center.
Katz has been a professional chef since 2000 when she got into holistic foods and helping people battling cancer. Katz has since released three cookbooks, “One Bite at a Time,” the award-winning “The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen,” and “The Longevity Kitchen,” published this year.
By researching health properties of foods, herbs and spices, Katz stays medically and nutritionally informed.
Katz started her demonstration by freshly preparing a carrot ginger soup. With each ingredient, she explains both the purpose of flavor as well as notable health benefits. Ginger, for instance, is a crackling flavor adding life to any dish, but it’s also an anti-inflammatory spice.
Perhaps her most striking demonstration of the day, Katz took quinoa, an earthy and bland-tasting seed that closely resembles a grain. Katz brought up Dorian Brock, a nurse who was celebrating one-year being cancer free, to taste test the unaltered quinoa. On a scale of 1 to 10, Brock gave it a -2 and said it tasted like sand.
Kazt spent the next fifteen minutes jazzing up the quinoa using her FASS method — fat, acid, salty, sweet. She used sea salt which acts a scrubbing bubble to unlock natural flavors. She squeezed lemon for its acid, which Katz says is like a little Pixar character because it brings “animation to the food.” Katz topped it with raisins for sweetness, crushed pistachios and scallions for flavor and texture, and mint to “brighten things up.”
When Brock tried the finished quinoa, she was a believer, both for its assortment of health benefits and its pure taste. “Everything tasted really good. She’s amazing,” says Brock, who follows Katz on Twitter and was already a big fan. “It’s great she’s educating fighters, like myself about [proper nutrition] that tastes good.”
Katz used Brock’s treatment as a platform to illustrate the importance of taste. When undergoing chemotherapy, the taste buds change and often dull. Patients will reject foods like quinoa or kale, which Katz prepared as her third dish of the day, and forego proper nutrition because the food doesn’t taste good. Patients aren’t willing to eat things just because “it’s good for you.”
“Your taste buds have to buy-in,” instructs Katz. After a lot of what she calls “kitchen alchemy” and trial-and-error, she discovered healthy foods didn’t have to be bland. “Great taste and nutrition can sit at the same side of the table.”
Throughout the demonstration, Katz presented with thoroughness and energy. The crowd had fun watching volunteers wince at tasting the foods for the first time before Katz would ask them what it needed. Then, with a few chops, squeezes and pinches, she presented them a new flavor that got them all to say “yum.”