Chef George Duran Shares
I recently had a chance to chat with Chef George Duran. One of HealthCorps more recent ambassadors and a favorite judge at Teen Battle chef competitions, he is quite the accomplished chef and entrepreneur. Author of Take This Dish and Twist it, known for his Food Network show Ham on the Street and most recently host of TLC’s Ultimate Cake Off, he’s appeared as a guest on The Dr. Oz Show, NBC Today Show, CBS This Morning, The Wendy William Show, The Nate Berkus Show and many others.
He originally hails from Caracas, Venezuela, attending college in New York City, where he honed his culinary skills as a collegiate who could not just depend on his mom’s care packages. Post-college he attended culinary school at the Ecole Superieure de Cuisine Francaise, Groupe Ferrandi.
He is now married and a dad, which has nudged him to watch his weight, and to cook healthier but still tasty dishes for the whole family.
What are your current projects right now?
Currently I am working on a new cooking show with Better TV and The Meredith Corporation. It’s in the early stages, but I will let my fans know soon! In the meantime I’m pretty active with HealthCorps and The NYC Coalition for the Homeless.
What specifically attracted you to get involved with HealthCorps?
I love that I can see more and more positive results every year with HealthCorps students. Once the seed is planted with these kids, it’s such a marvel to see their desire to learn about proper nutrition blossom.
How many Teen Battle Chef events have you judged, and how are you participating as a HealthCorps’ ambassador?
I believe it’s been 3 or 4 at this point. I look forward to many more. I have gone to a couple of schools where the HealthCorps curriculum is being offered, and have had fun teaching the students about food and ingredients. It’s just amazing how much they WANT to learn!
Have you had your own personal weight issues?
Absolutely! When you don’t have parents that know what proper nutrition is, it’s hard to learn from anyone growing up. It’s a constant battle to re-learn how to eat properly and in moderation.
What is “balance” to you, and specifically, how do you personally find balance between the food exposure your profession requires, and maintaining your weight and your health?
For me the first hurdle to having a balanced life is having proper mental health. That’s where it all starts. Understanding why you eat the way you do. Once you have food excesses or unhealthy food relationships resolved and conquered, the rest is relatively easy.
What are 5 easy “swap outs” for recipes that tend to be rather high calorie-wise or otherwise high in salt/sugar/fat?
1. Use plenty of fresh herbs instead of fat to flavor your foods. In fact, freeze-dried herbs are now my go-to fat substitute.
2. Adding lemon juice or vinegar to meats gives a recipe plenty of flavor, without needing to add much salt.
3. Replace white rice with cracked wheat bulgur rice. It’s a lovely healthy surprise for the dish and adds much more flavor than ordinary white rice.
4. Instead of slathering your whole grain pancakes with maple syrup, try mixing a bit of the syrup with Greek yoghurt instead.
5. Make awesome hot chocolate by thickening up skim milk (and melted dark chocolate) with cornstarch. It’ll taste better than any fat-filled hot chocolate you’ve ever had.
Can you share a recipe that is flavorful, nutrient rich and deserving of a Dr. Oz gold star?
The tastiest hors d’oeuvres I make is actually a salad you can eat with your hand.
Stuffed Endives with Orange, Goat Cheese, Caramelized Walnuts, and Balsamic Reduction
By George Duran
Endives, washed and outer leaves separated
Orange slices, segmented and chopped into ½-inch pieces
Fresh goat cheese, crumbled
Walnuts, lightly caramelized with date sugar and coarsely chopped
Balsamic vinegar reduction
Chives, finely chopped
Place 2-3 orange segments, a tsp. of goat cheese and 1-2 tsp. of chopped caramelized walnuts inside each endive. Drizzle with balsamic reduction and garnish with chives.
To serve as passed hors d’oeuvres: Place colorful dried beans in long wooden trays and place a row of endives on top of beans (to keep them stabilized).