David Burke is a pioneer of modern American cooking and an award winning chef with countless accolades. In the mid-1980s, he brought new techniques and new styles of food to the table at the River Café in New York City.
David was one of the first chefs, if not THE first chef, to brand and trademark his own food: “I didn’t just put my name on a box of pasta; I invented what’s in the box.” Pastrami salmon and cheesecake pops are his signature creations. He has also taken dry aging to a new level with a technique that is proprietary to him and recognized as a better way to do it because it produces a healthier and more flavorful end product. David is a trailblazer, following and setting trends that have been integral in the creation of what we now call Modern American Cuisine.
David and I are friends and over the years we have cooked together both on television and live on stage. It is always a blast! In addition to being a great guy and amazing chef, he is generous with sharing his wealth of culinary knowledge and creativity. How lucky am I to have his brain to pick? David’s presence fills a room. His voice is unforgettable, gruff and strong emanating knowledge and confidence. As a chef you just want to hang with him and talk about food and cooking because this guy knows his stuff. Get him going and you are guaranteed to walk away with new ideas and inspiration.
We chatted about healthier cooking and eating and here’s the scoop…
Do you see a trend with diners seeking better-for-you options on the menu?
Yes, healthier but not boring. They are not looking for “plate fillers” like French fries; they are looking for exciting, sensible food using grains, fish and seasonal vegetables. Starch does not have to automatically be included on a plate, those days are over. Restaurant customers today are requesting kicked up versions of veggies and fruits in place of starch and chefs need to be ready for that. What I feel is very important is to have a wait staff that knows the menu inside out and can steer customers who want healthier options in the right direction.
What’s your definition of “healthy eating”?
Sensible eating and balanced diet with not too much fat, bread, beef or sugar. There is nothing wrong with chocolate mousse, you just don’t eat it every day. It’s important to educate yourself about what foods are good for you. Try picking 20 things you really like and make salads out of them … pears, cheese, walnuts, beef jerky, whatever – it’s a good way to get started. I am working right now to get myself healthier and have lost 20 pounds by reducing portions, carbohydrates and just being more conscious of what I eat because I want to get ready for the next 50 years of my life.
What is your secret to cooking healthier without sacrificing flavor?
The key is using quality ingredients. I use broths, herbs, spices, zests, juices, marinades and limited fats. Try cooking techniques that caramelizes the natural sugar in foods like grilling and searing. This adds flavor without extra calories or fat. Poaching and steaming are healthy ways to cook but can produce a bland result so you need added ingredients like herbs, spices, coffee, tea, vegetable juices, chilies or vanilla to boost the flavor.
What is your favorite dish on your own menu?
My Pastrami Salmon. I love it because it’s versatile, convenient, tasty, smoky, rich and spicy. I feel good eating it. I add it to egg whites, wrap it in lettuce leaves, toss with pasta or use as a garnish. It’s on the menu of all of my restaurants. I do have a favorite of the month right now which is Seasonal Bison Short Ribs with Prawns. I love it because the bison is local from Fossil Farms in New Jersey, it’s healthy and delicious with more Omega~3 than salmon. It is the ultimate American meat.
What’s new in your world?
I have a new website; www.chefdavidburke.com. Tavern 62 is going strong and doing great. Check it out tavern62.com. I am working towards a television show and a catering company in the near future as well as expanding with restaurant opportunities.
Please join David and me in Red Bank, New Jersey on October 9th for a very special evening, benefiting Jon Bon Jovi Soul Kitchen. Seating is limited and tickets are sold out very quickly. Click here to reserve your seat “Feed Your Harvest Soul with Diane & David”