Cooking (and almost cussin') with Chef Jet Tila

The one-time Iron Chef contestant puts some salt into a demo on healthier cooking.

By 
Peter Romeo, Director of Digital Content

Celebrity chef Jet Tila demonstrated the ease of removing calories, fat and salt from popular dishes during a cooking demo at MenuDirections, but not all of his instruction can be revealed here, this being a family blog.

When cooking Thai curry, for instance, the self-taught, high school-educated chef recommended an “OS” timeframe. “I can’t say what that stands for—maybe I can say ‘Oh, crap!’ instead,” said Tila. As he demonstrated on stage, the full flavor of fundamental components like curry paste, carmelized herbs and coconut cream aren’t brought out until the mixture is heated to what may be a panic point for most cooks. Hence the desire to yell, “OS!” in the unabbreviated form.

Dialing up flavor to offset subtracted fat and salt was Tila’s professed mission. He showed how to do it by taking two popular dishes—in addition to the Thai curry, country fried steak with mashed potatoes and gravy—and reformulating them into healthier meals.

The key to preparing a healthier Thai curry, according to Tila, is carmelizing the herbs that flavor the dish. He used such components as Thai basil (stems and all, Tila stressed) and sliced kefir lime leaves.

Tila also shared a few tricks. For instance, he had members of the audience swear, raised hand and all, that they would never shake a can of coconut milk before using it for a curry sauce. He explained that coconut oils rise to the top of the can. That “cream” can add more silkiness and flavor, the chef said. So “grandmas in Thailand know you don’t start curry with oil. You start it with the top of the coconut milk,” he explained.

“Cook your curry paste with enough coconut cream to hit the OS stage,” Tila commented as the camera followed his prep work.

To take additional calories out of the dish, Tila used tofu instead of meat. He added peppers for flavor and a shot of vitamin C, and tossed some squash into the sautee pan for added heft.  

Tila explained that his goal with preparation was to remove calories without flavor. The knack, he said, is aiming for yum, the Thai word for the balancing point between hot, sour, sweet and salty.

The result: A preparation that contained 368 fewer calories and 45% less fat.

For the country fried steak, Tila used a four-inch cut of chicken that he’d pounded into a sizeable fillet. He wet the meat in egg substitute before battering it with a mix of corn meal, wheat flour and corn starch.

He sautéed the breast instead of deep-frying it, and would have finished it in an oven if the device hadn’t failed.

To prepare a lighter version of mashed potatoes, Tila used a commercial steamer to cook small cubes of potato for 15 minutes, then riced them. “It makes them light and fluffy without having to put in too much light and fluffy,” he explained.

For flavor, he added a little chicken stock (“I’m not a total calorie Nazi,” Tila remarked) and water.

The result was a platter of chicken fried steak, potatoes and gravy that contained fewer than 700 calories, a drop of 471.

OS.

By Peter Romeo, Director of Digital Content
View More Articles By Peter Romeo

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
salad

We’re currently piloting a Salad Bar Happy Hour 
in Cafe 16. Due to Health Department regulations, any self-serve salad bar items must be disposed of after service. The salad bar goes “on sale” for 25 cents an ounce post-lunchtime to help reduce waste as well as offer value to customers.

Menu Development
sauces

Adding an entirely new cuisine to the menu can feel daunting. But what if you could dabble in international flavors simply by introducing a few new condiments? For inspiration, FSD talked to operators who are offering a range of condiments plucked from global regional cuisines.

“Most ethnic cuisines have some sort of sauce or condiment relishes that go with their dishes,” says Roy Sullivan, executive chef with Nutrition & Food Services at UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco. Condiments offered to diners at UCSF Medical include chimichurri (Argentina), curry (India), tzatziki (...

Ideas and Innovation
turnip juice brine

Give leftover brine new life by adding it to vegetables. In an interview with Food52, Stuart Brioza, chef and owner of State Bird Provisions in San Francisco, says that he adds a splash of leftover brine while sauteeing mushrooms to increase their flavor profile. “We like to ferment turnips at the restaurant, and it’s a great way to use that brine—though dill pickle brine would work just as well,” he says.

Menu Development
side dishes

Operators looking to increase sales of side dishes may want to focus on freshness and value. Here’s what attributes consumers say are important when picking sides.

Fresh - 73% Offered at a fair price - 72% Satisfies a craving - 64% Premium ingredients - 56% Natural ingredients - 49% Signature side - 47% Something familiar - 46% Housemade/made from scratch - 44% Something new/unique - 42% Large portion size - 42% Healthfulness - 40% Family-size - 40%

Source: Technomic’s 2017 Starters, Small Plates and Sides Consumer Trend Report , powered by Ignite

FSD Resources