Interviews / August 16, 2012

Dean Rucker

By Charles Platkin, PhD

Name: Dean Thomas Rucker

Location: Golden Door, Escondido, Ca

Diet Detective: What keeps you going (your motivation)?

Chef Rucker: Creativity. Creating new dishes, using the freshest ingredients I can get my hands on and turning those ingredients into something delicious. It’s like an ongoing science project that you get to eat!

Diet Detective: What’s your favorite healthy meal to prepare?

Chef Rucker: I’m not sure if I have a single favorite healthy meal to prepare. A few examples would be, perfectly cooked fresh fish, whether it is grilled or pan seared with hand picked citrus and fresh herbs from the Golden Door garden with a little fleur de sel and local olive oil, or hand tossed thin crust pizza with heirloom tomatoes, just picked basil, fresh mozzarella and aged balsamic.

Diet Detective: What are some kitchen insider tips you can use when dining out to make sure your meal is healthy?

Chef Rucker: One of the main things you can do is not eat the entire entrée in one sitting. Try sharing food with your dining party, its fun and you can sample more of the menu while eating less. If you see an item, for instance, lobster poached in butter, asked to have it grilled, broiled or lightly sautéed, which ever is easier for the kitchen to handle. Having the protein in your meal prepared with a more healthful technique can save a lot of calories and fat and is not to hard for the chef to do. Ask for simple changes verses trying to rearrange the whole dish.

Diet Detective: What’s your favorite healthy ingredient?

Chef Rucker: A really nice extra virgin olive oil for drizzling over steamed or grilled vegetables, salads, pasta and seafood. That with a light sprinkle of kosher or sea salt and a squeeze of fresh lemon will do amazing things.

Diet Detective: What’s the easiest healthy meal you know how to make?

Chef Rucker: Vegetable fried rice; I do it at home all the time for a quick meal. Garlic, ginger, scallions, mushrooms, shredded cabbage, 1 or 2 egg whites, a few cups of left over steamed rice, low sodium soy sauce and a hot sauté pan with a few teaspoons of grape seed or peanut oil. 10 minutes or less and your eating. You can add whatever vegetables, or lean meat you may have on hand.

Diet Detective: What’s your favorite healthy make–over meal — a meal that’s usually not particularly good for you, but that can be prepared so as to provide health benefits?

Chef Rucker: One of my favorite make over meals would have to be pizza. Instead of a thick doughy crust and an inch or more of cheese that is all too typical, I like making a thin, crisp crust with organic flour and cornmeal, a zesty tomato sauce, fresh vegetables and a much lighter amount of cheese.

Diet Detective: What dessert do you dream about that’s healthy and low–cal?

Chef Rucker: Summer fruit sorbets, peach, apricot, plum and strawberry, to name a few.

Diet Detective: If there were one healthy food item (something you love) that you had to eat every day, what would it be?

Chef Rucker: Quinoa. It is so versatile and I love the nutty flavor and texture.

Diet Detective: What’s the best book about health that you’ve read?

Chef Rucker: I really liked SuperFoodsRx: Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life. It clearly demonstrates how being smart about your food choices can effect your health and longevity.

Diet Detective: What are a few healthy eating magazines that you read?

Chef Rucker: Two that come to mind are Eating Well and Vegetarian Times — they are full of great healthy food ideas.

Diet Detective: What do you consider the world’s most perfect food from a health perspective?

Chef Rucker: Quinoa. It is an amazing grain. It has more protein and vital nutrients than any other grain, as well as being high in fiber.

Diet Detective: What physical activity do you do to keep yourself in shape?

Chef Rucker: I go mountain biking or road biking almost everyday.

Diet Detective: Do you have a favorite healthy recipe or cooking tip? If so would you share it?

Chef Rucker: Go with fresh whole foods as much as possible, and use as little prepackaged/pre–made food as you can. This way you know exactly what you’re putting in your body, no worry of high levels of sodium, sugars and fats hidden within the label.

Diet Detective: Do you have a Calorie Bargain?

Chef Rucker: Mine is more of a “Fat Bargain” than a Calorie Bargain. I love crunchy snacks, particularly chips! By eating chips that are baked instead of deep&ndas;fried I save about 4–5 grams of fat each time I need a chip fix!

Diet Detective: Tell us how you got to where you are now.

Chef Rucker: As a child I was interested in preparing food. Shucking corn, snapping beans, helping my mother stir and measure — all these things were fun and exciting for me. I guess it was natural for me to follow the path to becoming a Chef.

Diet Detective: Define and discuss failure.

Chef Rucker: Failure is defined as lacking and being insufficient. Not everything you try is going to be a success, and that is an important concept to grasp. However, failure can be a great tool, when used to gain knowledge.

Diet Detective: Was there a defining moment in your life when you made a decision that changed the course of the rest of your life forever?

Chef Rucker: Sadly, the defining moment in my life was when my father passed away. Up until then I had no clear idea of what career path I wanted to follow, and it was at that time that I made the decision to go to culinary school. This put my life on a totally different track than the one I was on.

Diet Detective: What’s the most bodacious chance you’ve ever taken?

Chef Rucker: This would have to be choosing to go to culinary school in San Francisco. I was born and raised in Baltimore and making the decision to move 3,000 miles away to the other side of the country, leaving behind everything and everyone that I had grown up with and known for the past 23 years. Needless to say, this was a huge risk for me.

Diet Detective: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about yourself?

Chef Rucker: I’ve learned not to limit my dreams. If you told me 10 years ago that I would be the Executive Chef at the Golden Door I would have laughed. Now I know that if you are prepared to work hard, no matter where you are from or what your background is, there is really nothing that you cannot achieve.

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