Going Green with TV Chef Daniel Green
When the Dusit Thani was looking for a chef to head up its ‘Eat Well, Feel Well’ campaign in Bangkok, the Philippines, and now Dubai, Daniel Green was the obvious choice.
Once overweight, the charming British TV chef, who’s now based in Minnesota in the US, embarked on a three-year diet to shed the pounds he’d piled on as a junk food loving teenager. Now, athletically handsome and celebrity-slim, the former-model is the figurehead of the hotel’s campaign to help guests eat well, the healthy way, at its restaurants.
“I know what it’s like to be overweight, having made the wrong food choices in the past, but I also know how easy it is to change” explains Daniel as we catch up over coffee at Dusit Dubai. “I wasn’t fat as a child but as I hit my teenage years I piled on the weight by eating all of the usual bad stuff, like crisps and fast food. It was when I saw the look on my best friend’s face, as he watched me wolf down yet another pizza, that I realised I was out of control. I was nearly 15-stone with a 38-inch waist at 17-years-old. The sizes in the shops didn’t go any bigger and I knew I needed to lose weight. I didn’t have a goal in mind I just started making changes.”
Unfortunately, Daniel doesn’t think we can conveniently blame our extra stones on moving to Dubai. In fact he’s been impressed with the food options on offer in the emirate.
“The Lebanese food is great here, for example, with lots of greenery, and Dubai’s so cosmopolitan it’s easy to eat healthily. The choice is amazing. These days fast food is everywhere, we should blame our bad choices for being fat not where we live.”
After spending his teenage years eating the wrong food, Daniel’s decision to lose weight coincided with a desire to learn how to cook. After a few false starts, including a brief dalliance with Slim Fast, he realised that being healthy didn’t necessarily mean feeling hungry.
“It was the late 1980s, so there were plenty of fad diets about. I tried Slim Fast and it didn’t work and then I heard about the Rosemary Connelly plan, which basically meant eating sensible healthy food and allowing yourself treats. I lost a stone in the first year then carried on losing weight slowly for two-years after that.”
As he learned how to cook Daniel began to look outside his native UK for inspiration and credits a trip to Thailand in 1991 as a real turning point in his relationship with food and cooking.
“Thai food wasn’t that big in England at the time and, before I met the chefs in Bangkok, all I’d ever heard from other chefs was ‘fat is flavour’. Then, suddenly, I was experiencing all of these new flavours like ginger, lemongrass and coriander. I realised how good healthy food can taste. My rules now are simple, no butter, cream, cheese or deep frying. If you can eliminate these, you’re pretty safe.”
Daniel’s relationship with the Dusit Group mimics the lessons he learned on this trip to Thailand and the Dusit’s chefs have been quick to integrate his rules into their cooking.
“The Eat Well, Feel Well campaign is not about creating spa menus or diet food.” explains Daniel. “There are no calories on the menus. It’s just about good, fresh food prepared properly. We’ve rolled out the new dishes in Manila and Thailand and now Dubai. I’m really excited to see how they’ll be received.”
So, what can we expect? “One of the top dishes is crab cakes but not as many people are used to seeing them. They’re full of big chunks of fresh crab and they’re not deep fried. The new dishes I’ve created are also available on the room service menus so Dusit guests have every opportunity to pick healthy options and eat well.”
Daniel’s equally keen to encourage us to cook better at home.
“These days, with good non-stick pans, you don’t need to use much oil to cook with. Fish like salmon is fatty enough to cook on its own and if you do need to use oil, just use a tiny bit. I believe in habits that endure. If you make gradual changes, you’re much more likely to embrace them as a lifestyle.”
Daniel’s Healthy Eating Tips
Use less oil: Rather than using a lot of oil in cooking, get an excellent nonstick pan. The higher the pan quality, the longer it will last. Some foods, such as salmon or steak, contain enough fat already, so you don’t even need oil.
Quality over quantity: Pack a lot of punch into your recipes, without including a lot of fat, by using the best quality stock, cuts of meat and fish, as well as the freshest herbs and exotic spices you can find.
Reduce carbs: While carbohydrates are necessary in a healthy diet, try to consume those calories in the morning when possible, advises Green. Oatmeal, whole grain toast with some natural peanut butter, or buckwheat pancakes all release energy and contribute to optimal functioning throughout the day.
Shop daily: Cook with fresh food whenever possible. If you cook more at home and use fresh ingredients, you’ll want to replace those ingredients frequently. Read labels, steer away from processed foods and choose fresh meat, fish and produce. Using fresh foods effectively requires a bit more planning, but the resultant meals are worth it.
Keep hydrated: Research shows that lots of water helps you feel your best and stay healthy during dry winter months. Your skin appreciates lots of moisture too. So enjoy lots of low-calorie, high density, waterbased foods that fill you up, including fruits, vegetables and broth-based soups.