NeverSayDiet Cooks with Chef Tom Colicchio

Today marks the opening of the Diet Coke "Eat Tastefully" campaign and pop-up kitchen in New York City. I got the pleasure of spending the morning with renowned chef Tom Colicchio making sandwiches that are not only good for you but taste great. Honestly, I’ve been guilty of finding sandwiches boring and thinking that healthy foods are just plain bland. While I may not think that anymore, I know the 'wiches' bad rep still stands. Chef Colicchio proves that with a few easy culinary tricks we can eat right without sacrificing delicious taste. While making beautiful artisan sandwiches, Mr. Top Chef shares his cooking secrets…

NSD: What is the Eat Tastefully campaign all about?
TC: We’re delivering a message to eat healthy. As a father of two children, that’s a message that I definitely want to get across. We’re teaming up with City Harvest to deliver meals as well.

NSD: When people associate healthy with bland, what do you have to say to that?

TC: You don’t have to eat bland food. It’s a matter of finding good quality food and treating it the same way by cutting out the fat and what’s unhealthy about it. It’s really about staying away from processed foods. There are a lot of hidden calories and a lot of hidden fat and sugar that you just don’t know about. You can eat whole foods and get a lot of flavor as well.

NSD: For you, what makes a sandwich great?
TC: Flavor. It starts with great ingredients. [Chef Colicchio demonstrates by making a sandwich made of Ciabatta bread, relish of roasted peppers, onions, raisins and pine nuts, fresh mozzarella, eggplant in olive oil, and marinated anchovies for protein]

NSD: What is a healthy ingredient that is underrated?
TC: Eggplant

NSD: What’s the first step to being a great at-home chef?
TC: Just learn how to cook—there are five basic cooking methods. And after that, it’s about just learning technique. If you can cook one green vegetable, you can cook them all. Don’t over complicate things.

NSD: As owner of several restaurants, how would you advise our readers to eat right while eating out, especially since there are so many hidden calories in restaurant food?
TC: I think now there’s a move towards healthier, natural food. And now, a lot of the fat is taken out of foods in restaurants. Fats sometimes can mask the flavor of foods and a lot of times chefs get rid of the fat, but use olive oil or butter instead of animal fats. I think it’s a question of finding dishes that seem healthy and a matter of talking to the waiter so you’re not surprised by something. Also, choose restaurants that you know use local foods. Go to green markets and restaurants that really care about the product. 

NSD: What are the culinary tricks that make food taste better in restaurants?

TC: It starts with great ingredients. At Craft, the restaurant I have [in New York City], it’s really about not overly complicating the food. We use local foods if we can find it. We’re sourcing out farms that raise animals without antibiotics and chickens that are free range—and I mean really free range, not raised in a pen with the door open. [We get] eggs that come from the local farm—and not the factory farm—where the yolks are really yellow. You start by finding those great ingredients. And when you have ingredients that are great, you don’t have to do much.

The Diet Coke Pop-Up Kitchen, located at 3 West 57 Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues, is open September 25th - October 4th from 11am-3pm as part of the Eat Tastefully campaign.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Rick Maiman

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