Culinary nutritionist and Personal chef Diane Henderiks learns a healthy prawn and farro recipe from chef Jesse Schenker
Jesse Schenker is an award-winning chef, New York City restaurateur, Iron Chef victor, husband, and father of two all at the tender age of 31! This cool, calm, and collected chef has some serious experience under his belt. A native Floridian, Jesse worked at Café Maxx in Pompano Beach, Fla., chef Mark Militello’s James Beard award-winning restaurant Mark’s on Las Olas, City Cellar Wine Bar and Grille in Miami, and Rino’s Restaurante in Fort Lauderdale before moving to New York City. While in the Big Apple, Jesse held a position as Chef de Partie at Gordon Ramsay at the London, in addition to staging at Per Se and Jean Georges before launching recette Private Dining. In 2010 he expanded this supper club concept into his first restaurant, recette, in the West Village which has been super successful ever since. In April 2014 he added another establishment to his resume, The Gander in the Flatiron district.
Now let’s get Jesse’s take on healthy eating.
Diane: Do you see a trend with diners seeking better-for-you options on the menu?
Jesse: We do occasionally serve diners at both of my restaurants (The Gander and recette) who are seeking out healthier alternatives. There are times when diners specifically request vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, etc. food and we are are always able to accommodate them with our savory and sweet menu items.
Diane: What’s your definition of “healthy eating”?
Jesse: I stay away from foods that are on my “unable to moderate” list (i.e. sugar, French fries (and most other potato based foods), breads, and desserts), and I pack my meals with fresh ingredients and plenty of vegetables (though I will treat myself to things like steak occasionally). Planning is key.
Diane: What is your secret to cooking healthier without sacrificing flavor?
Jesse: Complex flavors of spices, herbs, salt, lemon juice, or vinegar can round out the balance of cooking and make you feel more satisfied. I am a big fan of acidity – I make sure everything I cook has a palpable acidic component to it.
Diane: What is your favorite dish on your own menu and why?
Jesse: I love the Wedge salad at The Gander. My take on the classic Wedge incorporates white anchovy dressing as opposed to the standard blue cheese dressing. The salad is crispy, salty, refreshing and acidic – all the things I try to create when developing a dish at my restaurants.
Diane: How about an update on what’s new and exciting in your world?
Jesse: I am the Chef/Owner of two restaurants: recette in New York City’s West Village and I recently opened The Gander, a 150-seat American restaurant in the Flatiron District. It’s an exciting challenge – my first restaurant, Recette, is about a quarter of the size of The Gander and I love every minute of it. I recently finished writing a book, being published by Harper Collins’ It Books. All or Nothing: One Chef’s Appetite for the Extreme will be released in September.