Chef Inspired Healthy with Diane Henderiks ~ Gabe Thompson and Joe Campanale

Diane Henderiks gets Gabe Thompson’s take on healthy cooking and eating
Chef-Inspired Healthy with Diane Henderiks, Gabe Thompson, and Joe Campanale

Which wines go best with light and healthy summer dishes? Find out here!

Chef Inspired Healthy with Diane Henderiks ~ Gabe Thompson and Joe Campanale

Chef Gabe Thompson and sommelier Joe Campanale are not only business partners, they’re friends, too — as is totally evident when you are with them. These are two fun guys with a quick wit and Steven Wright-ish delivery who co-own four hot restaurants in NYC —L'Artusi, dell'anima, Anfora, and L’Apico. It’s a perfect match (like peanut butter and jelly) — Gabe creates culinary masterpieces and Joe pairs the wine.  

We had a blast in The Daily Meal kitchen when Gabe and I whipped up three amazing dishes and Joe chose the wines. Here’s what he has to say about his selections:

“Gabe's food is full-flavored, fresh, and delicious. I chose wines that complement his robust cooking style while showcasing some of my favorite producers:

The Pietracupa Fiano has great, refreshing acidity and is weighty for a white wine.

The Praesidium Cerasuolo is a rich but dry rosé that is one of the most versatile wines I've tasted.

Fontodi Chianti Classico is a deep red that exemplifies the best of Chianti.”

Chef Gabe Thompson is a transplanted Texan who has shared his talents in some seriously amazing kitchens — Little Nell in Aspen, Clarklewis in Portland, Emilia’s in Austin, and Le Bernardin and Del Posto in New York. Gabe’s Italian-inspired cooking features hearty, eloquent dishes of thoughtful simplicity using local, seasonal, and sustainably harvested produce where possible.

Now let’s get Gabe’s take on healthy cooking and eating…

Diane: Do you see a trend with diners seeking better-for-you options on the menu?

Gabe: Not really. The trends I mostly see are requests for gluten- or dairy-free menu items. On average, we’ll have one dairy-intolerant guest, and about three gluten-intolerant guests on a busy night. We serve gluten-free pasta (a garganelli) which can replace the regular pasta in any of our pasta dishes, and a surprising percentage of our menu is already gluten-free or can easily be made gluten-free.

Generally speaking, I think people now, especially from what I see in New York, are more work-out conscious. They put in so many hours of exercise in a week that they are comfortable saying, “Yeah, I’ll eat that!” People are also more conscious about where their food comes from (and making sure it’s not processed food) as opposed to worrying about what the calorie count is — which is the right idea. With fast food, people are more concerned and skeptical about the process and calorie count.

Diane: What’s your definition of “healthy eating”?

Gabe: Eating food that looks like food. If your grandmother or your great-grandmother would recognize it as food, then you can eat it.

Diane: What is your secret to cooking healthier without sacrificing flavor?

Gabe: Don’t be excessive with anything. I’m not going to stop using butter, olive oil, sugar, salt, or any of that stuff. You need fat and salt. You need sodium in your diet to process vitamins. There’s a way to use those ingredients without being overwhelming with it.

Diane: What is your favorite dish on your own menu and why?

Gabe:  From dell’anima: Bone Marrow – Our chef de cuisine, Andrew Whitney, makes a brilliant bone marrow dish. It’s an excellent concept where the marrow is mixed with testa to balance the texture out and prevent it from being too gelatinous. He adds pickled vegetables for a bit of acidity and a salad of shaved vegetables on the side. This dish actually came to Andrew in a dream and he wrote it down in the middle of the night. But in the morning, he needed his girlfriend’s help to decipher his handwriting!

From L’Artusi: Bucatini with Tomato, Pancetto, and Pecorino — It’s just a super classic, delicious Roman-style pasta.

From Anfora: Lamb Ragu Sliders — It’s basically a more refined sloppy joe made from a delicious lamb ragu, bread crumbs from Grandaisy Bakery bread, and pecorino cheese. It’s one of the more simple things we make but is hearty and satisfying. And it’s a nostalgic dish that reminds you of being a kid but it tastes better and you know where the ingredients come from.

From L’Apicio: Orecchiette with Spicy Sausage Ragu and Broccoli Rabe Pesto — Our orecchiette is a take on the old-school pasta with broccoli rabe dish where we make a pesto with the broccoli rabe. It’s a different but straightforward and approachable take, but what makes it such a good rendition is the love that goes into the dish. I find that it can be the most disappointing dish because often times there’s no seasoning except for the sausage but, done well, it can be the most satisfying.

Diane: How about an update on what’s new and exciting in your world?

Gabe: Downtown Italian is our first-ever cookbook. It was so much work but we love the way it turned out. My summers are never easy; they are already super busy because people leave the city and our restaurants are usually short staffed. So I was working in the restaurants, with a three-year-old at home, Katherine was pregnant, and on top of it, we had decided to do all the recipe testing out of our apartment in Long Island City (because we figured it was better to use non-commercial equipment).

In the restaurant world, there’s always been angst between chefs and pastry chefs. Or, the back of the house always gets the attention and the front of the house and beverages doesn’t get as much attention. That obviously wasn’t and isn’t the case with us. Between Katherine, Joe [Campanale], and me, we were able to combine our perspectives into a well-thought-out cookbook. The result is a good balance between all three of our realms so you essentially have everything that it takes to have an incredible meal, all together in one place.

Chef Inspired Healthy with Diane Henderiks ~ Frédéric Duca

Diane Henderiks is a personal chef and culinary nutritionist on a mission to teach America how to cook and eat well. Follow her on Twitter @dhenderiks, "Like" Diane on Facebook, or visit her website.