Secrets of a Spa Chef

Featured Article, Healthy Recipes and Nutrition
on March 21, 2012

Tucked away in the Texas Hill Country, the Lake Austin Spa Resort offers a pristine getaway for guests to practice breathe and meditation, take a fitness assessment, and meet with a nutritionist.  So what is a classically trained French chef doing running the kitchen at the award-winning destination for the uber healthy?  But executive chef Stéphane Beaucamp isn’t so out of place at Lake Austin.  Classic French cuisine isn’t as decadent as most people think, focusing. And neither does spa cuisine have to be boring. “People think spa cuisine should be steamed vegetables and steamed fish, nothing with any flavor. That isn’t how I cook at all,” Beauchamp says. He refuses to sacrifice quality when cutting calories.  He focuses on keeping dishes “simple, fresh and flavorful.”  Here are some of his tips for doing the same in your own kitchen.

  • Know your recipes and ingredients. “Look for simple and quick recipes,” Chef Beaucamp suggests, and read them over before you choose. Beaucamp recommends using ingredients you are familiar with to make things easier on you.
  • Know how far your ingredients traveled.  Beaucamp believes in using the freshest ingredients to maximize flavor. He prefers using produce and herbs from Lake Austin Spa Resort’s garden and proteins from local suppliers.  Try frequenting your local farmers’ markets and produce stands, and look for “local” labels in grocery stores to identify products from your area.
  • Use lower-fat ingredients.  He suggests using lean meats and fishes as well as reduced fat dairy products like 2% milk.
  • Be mindful of portion size.  According to Beaucamp, the best way to cut calories is to reduce portion sizes.
  • Don’t sacrifice quality for calories.  While some ingredients can be substituted, Beaucamp refuses to use products like light butter or fat-free sour cream.  These products, he says, “are not natural. No one wants modified products.”
  • Make your own salad dressing. Beaucamp makes his own vinaigrette dressings with lemon juice and olive oil, adding agave to cut the acidity of the lemon without adding extra oil. Homemade dressings are better at bringing out the flavor of your vegetables, rather than masking it.
  • Use spices to boost flavor. Cumin is Beaucamp’s favorite ingredient to increase flavor without increasing sodium.  He also uses chipotle peppers and other spices to create delicious, low-fat dishes.
  • Invest in good utensils.  For preparing vegetables, Beaucamp’s favorite kitchen items are the mandolin and steamer.  He also suggests investing in a good food processor as well as a blender.
  • Use a variety of colors. How a dish looks is almost as important to its enjoyment as how it tastes. “By mixing different ingredients of a variety of colors, anyone can impress their friends with presentation,” says Chef Beaucamp.