by Randy Hartnell and Craig Weatherby
Earlier this month, we attended a pioneering conference presented by The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and Harvard Medical School.
The event—called “Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives”—unfolded at the CIA's beautiful Greystone campus in Napa Valley (St. Helena), California, whose castle-like stone buildings once housed the Christian Brothers winery.
The bi-annual spring/fall conference began in 2007 and is intended to bring doctors, nutrition researchers, and chefs together to share information that will improve American's health.
“Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives” drew 300 or so physicians and health professionals, who came to be immersed in the science and art of designing nutrition-savvy diets… and to learn how to cook tasty, affordable, healthful meals in short order.
The attendees also included executives who decide what gets served at chain restaurants, hospitals, schools, retirement communities, nursing homes and military bases.
We played our part as a Gold Level conference sponsor by providing Vital Choice wild Pacific seafood—King Salmon, Halibut, Albacore, and Scallops—and organic snacks.
It was a real thrill to see the attendees enjoying our premium wild fish and shellfish as prepared by expert CIA chefs.
All too often, the fish we've brought to other large gatherings has been overcooked by overstretched hotel kitchens.
So we were gratified by the elegant, exciting, delicious settings in which the CIA chefs enhanced our seafood's wild, fresh, natural appeal.
Why bring docs and chefs together?
Conference attendees were exposed to the latest nutrition science, but they also tasted, prepared and learned to teach others to enjoy a broad selection of foods that can reduce disease risk and, ideally, replace unhealthy habits.
This excerpt from the report broadcast last week by National Public Radio (NPR) captured the conference's purpose clearly and concisely:
“A dinner of salmon and arugula might sound like an appealing meal, but for many people, what winds up on the table is more along the lines of frozen pizzas or taquitos. Chefs at the Culinary Institute of America would like to help Americans learn to eat better – and they're starting with a key group of diners. Through a collaboration with Harvard University's medical school, the chefs and at least one med student are training doctors to cook” (To hear the whole report, click here).
The organizers express the goal of the semi-annual conference as an effort to “…transform attendees into ambassadors for and role models of healthy nutritional strategic change...” (CIA 2008).
“Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives” (HKHL) resembles the Nutrition & Health conference presented annually by Dr. Andrew Weil's Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, which we attended right after leaving the CIA-Harvard sessions.
One key difference between these two health-nutrition conferences is that that the CIA-Harvard event offers hands-on cooking and meal planning advice, in the form of demonstrations and seminars.
We and the other HKHL attendees also learned through informal interactions with skilled chefs and health pros… all of whom were friendly, food-oriented folks.
It was a great opportunity to engage one-on-one with nutrition-savvy Harvard luminaries like Walter Willett, M.D., Chairman of Department of Nutrition, and David Eisenberg, M.D., Associate Professor of Complementary and Integrative Medical Therapies.
Practical lessons in easy, healthy meals
To give you a flavor of the proceedings, these were some of the hands-on classes that caught our attention:
Memorable Meals for Four for Under $20Protein Strategies: Fish, Chicken, and Tofu Made EasyCool Salads and Creative DressingsWhole Grain Additions to Every MealVegetables: Inspiration from World CuisinesMemorable Starts: How to Build a Better BreakfastFruits, Vegetables, Nuts, and Legumes: From Phytochemicals and Fiber to Flavor and More
The first class in this list was co-led by former chef Michelle Hauser, who's now a third-year student at Harvard Medical School.
Her goal was to suggest ways to satisfy four people in tasty, healthful style for less than $20. And the example she picked—a Salmon Burger made with Vital Choice canned Sockeye—definitely fit the bill!
Michelle detailed the health benefits of wild Salmon's omega-3s and other nutrients, and her sensational patties met with “yums” from students.
Culinary inspiration and opportunity
We devoured the chefs' advice—and culinary creations—and savored the opportunity to speak with top researchers and lifestyle/health leaders.
In retrospect, we'd rank “Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives” as among the most exciting and inspiring events in which we've had the pleasure to learn, connect, and participate.
Ever since leaving our Salmon boats behind to bring the very best Alaskan seafood to tables set far from the 49th state, one of our goals has been to help our customers enjoy our seafood in the best possible culinary settings.
This explains why we offer recipes in every issue of our newsletter, why we attended “Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives” …and why we are exploring ways in which our friends at the CIA might help to enhance our culinary offerings.
If you're interested in attending the next HKHL event, in September, you will find information here... and please tell them Vital Choice sent you!