Executive chef Jeremy Bearman hopes to raise the concept of healthy eating with bright flavours and creative use of fresh local ingredients.
The 33-year-old creates his dishes under S.P.E. (Sanitas Per Escam), or health through food, the mantra behind Rouge Tomate in New York, the first overseas outpost of the original restaurant in Brussels.
Bearman also works closely with an in-house nutritionist to develop a balanced, healthy menu.
Q: What is the S.P.E. approach to healthy eating?
A: "S.P.E. has to do with sourcing, production and enhancement. In terms of the sourcing, it's just getting the meat, fish and produce here. We have close to 70 purveyors we are dealing with at any given time. The sourcing of local products is one of our biggest challenges. You want to keep that percentage high with local ingredients, and obviously we want to keep the quality high as well."
Q: How tough is it to keep your dishes low in fat?
A: "It was definitely a challenge because you are not used to doing that type of cooking where you can't reach for the cream or you can't reach for the butter. You can't put two products with high cholesterol and high saturated animal fat together like eggs and bacon and prosciutto and Parmesan cheese. We can't do things like that. It has become easier. We take dishes and think of them in a different way."
Q: Why did you take this job?
A: "When I first heard of this project, I was a bit sceptical. This is not my background. But this is a challenge to do something (different). It's the way things are going. People want a healthy alternative. They don't want to sacrifice quality and I don't think they should sacrifice quality."
Q: What is a signature dish at Rouge Tomate?
A: "One of the most popular dishes is a salad of brussel sprouts. I never realized it could be so popular. It's one of the best-sellers on the menu. It's made of blanched brussel sprout leaves with hazelnuts. We buy the hazelnuts from Washington State and the brussel sprouts come from upstate New York. It's tossed with some hazelnut oil and preserved lemons and a little bit of prosciutto from Iowa made from Berkshire pigs."
Q: What do cook for yourself and your wife?
A: "At work, I'm promoting slow, healthy eating, but at home, I'm on the go. We like to make pizza. We also go outside to grill and barbecue. On a daily basis, most of my eating is done at work. If you look at our refrigerator, there are a lot of fruits and yogurt."