By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — Employees filed into a room of the Ford Motor Co. World Headquarters for a healthy cooking demo on Feb.19.
Celebrity Chef Curtis Aikens shared his recipes and tips on making healthy meals without sacrificing flavor. The demo was part of Ford’s heart healthy month, one of many initiatives Ford offers its employees on healthy living.
“My dad would be more proud that I am at Ford than my visit at the White House a few months ago,” Aikens said.
Aikens, one of the founding hosts of The Food Network, shared healthy recipes on the show “Food in a Flash” and demonstrated how to use fresh produce on the show “Pick of the Day.”
He is currently a health ambassador for Novo Nordisk, a global healthcare company with 90 years of innovation and leadership in diabetes care.
“We’re trying to spread the word about beating diabetes,” Aikens said. “Diabetes is killing the world, and not just America.”
Diabetes hits close to home because he and and family members suffer from the condition.
“What were trying to do is educate folks about the symptoms and taking care of one’s self,” he said. “We’re trying to teach people how to live with diabetes.”
Along with the focus on diabetes during the demonstration, Aikens cooked a vegetarian gumbo for employees while he shared his tricks.
“I do believe that cooking should be fun. That’s a big thing,” he said. “Have a good time in the kitchen.”
The vegetarian gumbo was filled with vegetables, a vegetarian substitute for meat and didn’t include salt.
Aikens told employees that adding onions or spices would help create non-salt favor in the dish.
He also created a salad with spinach, cucumbers, nuts and strawberries.
Ford employees had a chance to taste the dishes and had only good things to say about the demonstration and what they learned.
“Seasoning in steps, I have never done that before,” employee Bill Hutchinson said. “Seasoning a little bit at first and maybe adding little bit more later in the dish.”
“I learned a lot about healthy cooking and eating,” employee Pauline Burke said. “People think they’re on a diet, they’re depriving themselves. If you actually enjoy eating properly, you feel better, it’s not about deprivation.”
Aikens echoed the same idea.
“Good food doesn’t have to taste bad,” he said, “I just happen to make wonderful tasting food that happens to be good for people’s bodies.”
He also explained why he calls his cooking “good” rather than “healthy.”
I don’t use the label ‘healthy cooking.’ It’s just ‘good cooking,’” Aikens said. “When we start labeling things, people get turned off to it.”
Aikens told employees that along with good food, exercise and portion control are a big part of living a healthy life.
For more information and recipes go to curtisaikens.net.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected].)