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I would have never guessed superstar chef David Bouley is a health nut. When I first heard rumors that he was working with nutritionist-to-the-stars Oz Garcia, I immediately envisioned boring spa food and gimmicky Bouley diet bars and protein shakes. But after hearing him expound on the virtues of probiotics, pumpkinseed oil and the Japanese diet for nearly an hour yesterday, I earned a whole new respect for this chef, who is better known for the French dishes he serves at his eponymous New York City restaurant.
I’d been invited downtown to chef Bouley’s fabulous Test Kitchen to have a lunch based on the dishes he’s been testing for a healthy restaurant launching early next year at the stunning new St. Regis Temenos resort in Anguilla. For the last ten years he’s been studying the diets of cultures renowned for their health and longevity—primarily the Japanese and Greeks—and using ingredients found in those diets in incredibly tasteful, good-for-you food. This isn’t a low-calorie, low-fat diet. He's creating dishes made from antioxidant-packed “functional” ingredients and “high-octane fats”.
Before lunch I mingled in the living room area, snacking on tofu appetizers and listening to Johnny Cash play from chef Bouley’s insane set of B&W Nautilus speakers. Behind us the chef and his team were hard at work in the laboratory/kitchen. A 200-square foot-wall of slate next to the kitchen area was full of scribbles documenting his experimentations with agar and kuzu, and research from nutritionist Oz Garcia, doctors and chefs from Osaka's Tsuji Culinary Institute.
Chef Bouley reviewed a table full of ingredients found in our lunch: wheat-germ oil, lemon-flavored cod liver oil, Mirin and grapeseed oil (chef Bouley predicts this is the olive oil of the future). He used the Asian root yuzu as a stabilizer in a delicious cod that was cooked with meaty mushrooms and dashi sauce, and created an eggless sweet pea and fava bean flan from the gelling agent agar (he uses the one made by Ferran Adrià). Bio-K was turned into a sauce to accompany a roasted Colorado lamb with lavender. Dessert was a rich, creamy goat milk yogurt sorbet with berries.
The food left the journalists at the table, including myself, ooohing and aahing. The flavors were spectacular, and after five courses I felt satisfied rather than lethargic with a food coma. Unforunately I’ll have to fly to Anguilla to experience this food again, but chef Bouley says he’s hoping to launch a line of products and ingredients and will sell them online with recipes, cooking and nutrition tips.