Cooking for Health and Wellness Clients
A sneak peek inside the kitchen classroom on Spa Day.
ICE’s Health-Supportive Culinary Arts program is rooted in the guiding principles that food should be whole, local, seasonal, fresh, organic, indigenous and delicious, as established by the Natural Gourmet Institute's late founder Annemarie Colbin. No lesson captures that essence more than Day 84: Spa and Retreat Cooking.
Health-Supportive Culinary Arts students study how to prepare a beautiful, bountiful meal for health and wellness clients featuring a nourishing plant-forward menu. “Spa cuisine is exactly what our program is all about: fresh, seasonal, colorful, well-balanced and nutritious,” Lead Chef Missy Smith-Chapman explains. “It’s also very California.” The state happens to be home to world-renowned wellness retreats, Chef Missy points out to her students, from the peaceful Ashram in Malibu to the luxurious Golden Door in Escondido. “There are certainly relaxation spas, which are about regenerating your soul, or centers for detoxification or de-stress, but we focus on the wellness aspect.”
Before preparing the recipes, students in Chef Missy’s class discuss the menu and the final presentation by viewing numerous spa cookbooks from the chef’s personal collection. “I want them to see how beautiful the food is,” she says. “It is about being fresh, vibrant and easily digestible.”
The lesson’s recipes are unique and provide many replenishing properties. For example, two beverages — agua fresca and the pomegrante blueberry ginger elixir — offer myriad benefits. In addition to valuable antioxidants like polyphoenals, Chef Missy emphasizes that a cup of pomegranate juice contains 32% of one’s daily vitamin K intake, contributing to blood coagulation and bone health. While the agua fresca is made with cucumbers, lime juice, mint, water, and gave or honey, and hydrates. Chef Missy emphasizes using a local honey to support local businesses and get the anti-allergen that local honey provides.
Other recipes include a red lentil toasted sunflower burger made with broccoli stalks, short grain brown rice, garlic, chile powder, cumin, carrots, celery and red lentils, which Chef Missy explains are easy to digest. “The recipe also calls for kudzu, which has a serotonin effect, aides in digestion and helps us to relax,” she says.
During a recent spa and retreat lesson, students prepared a vegetarian ceviche — a riff on a tuna tartare featuring bright red tomatoes, mushroom, fresh avocado and micro cilantro on a bed of greens tossed in a lime vinaigrette. Students try their hands using the spiralizer, a tool that turns vegetables into long strands. “Zoodles (zucchini noodles) are very popular in California,” Chef Missy says. “The vegan pesto made from basil and mint is fresh and frankly, the students love it.”
“We discuss prebiotics, which you get from foods like leafy greens that feed the microbiome, and probiotics, which you get from yogurt or fermented foods, that help reestablish our flora and microbiome,” Chef Missy adds. The vegetable sushi with brown rice, carrot, cabbage and cucumber includes housemade kimchi, which offers those probiotics.
Spa day doesn’t mean that sweets are forgotten. Students prepare fruit skewers with a chocolate fondue, free from the traditional gluten-laden desserts, and a citrus chia pudding with fresh fruit and whipped coconut cream. “The chia absorbs so much liquid, which offers the body deep cellular hydration,” Chef Missy explains that the chia, soaked in advance, time releases once in the body. “Drinking water is instant, but when we have foods that give us deep cellular hydration, that is what sustains us,” she says. “We don’t even need to drink water if we are getting it through our food.”
All of the recipes are low in salt and use little to no fat. “We want to keep everything as clean and as little processed as possible, we only add olive oil,” Chef Missy says. In addition to the wellness benefits of each dish, the class focuses heavily on portion size. “I don’t want anyone to feel full or heavy. This day is about lightness. We don’t do a lot of cooked food, instead it is a lot of raw food and it is very kind to our digestive system.”
Pursue a career in wellness-focused food with ICE's Health-Supportive Culinary Arts program.