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The New French Paradox

A serious French chef who opts for brown rice and tamari over buttery potatoes and cream—now that's a paradox. Cyril Renaud of New York City's Fleur de Sel shares the recipes he and his wife swear by.

Cyril Renaud's diet was making him sick. When he was 28, his cholesterol was so high, he had to have his gallbladder removed. Recently Renaud, chef at Manhattan's Fleur de Sel, and his wife, Brigette, sought help from a nutritionist who advised them to write down everything they ate, when they ate it and how their bodies reacted. This experience shocked them into adopting a mostly organic, vegetable-packed diet. They restocked their pantry with soy butter, rice milk and tamari, and began preparing healthy lunches to bring to work. Renaud also changed his restaurant cooking; heavy cream is out. So will we be seeing soy butter at Fleur de Sel? "I can't get too crazy," he says. "I do cook French food."

Renaud's Healthy Attitudes

On acupuncture "Brigette and I go to see Keun Tak Park, in Queens. At first I watched and laughed but after I tried it, I felt so relaxed I started going at least four times a year" (142-11 38th Ave., Flushing; 718-353-6702).

On brown bagging "Brigette and I cook a week's worth of lunches on weekends. We use Snap 'N Lock airtight containers, which can go into the freezer, microwave and dishwasher. The 34-ounce size is just right for lunch" ($5; containerstore.com).

On green cleaning "We wanted to be more careful about how we clean at home, so we started using Earth Friendly Parsley Plus All Surface Cleaner and Furniture Polish made with Natural Olive Oil" (from $4 for 22 oz; ecos.com).

Renaud's Healthy Grocery List

Earth Balance Soy Garden Natural Buttery Spread "Even my purist father couldn't believe this vegan, gluten-free spread wasn't real butter. Now I send him back to France with 20 pounds of it."

San-J Organic Tamari Wheat Free Soy Sauce "I like tamari because it's made with more soybeans than regular soy sauce, so it has a smoother, more complex taste. It's also a whole lot less salty than many soy sauces."

Ethnic Gourmet Foods Taj Delhi Korma Simmer Sauce "I use it on rice, steamed broccoli, grilled chicken and any chicken and vegetable stir-fry. This sauce is tangy and spicy with paprika and turmeric but it's definitely not overwhelming."

Fleur de Sel, 5 E. 20th St., New York City; 212-460-9100.

Published July 2006
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