12 The NaTioNal CuliNary review • July/augus T 2015
alTerNaTive DiNiNg cooking with functional foods
n apple a day may not always keep the doctor away, but the rhyme does help to
explain the faith millions of people worldwide place in the power of healing foods.
The theory is ancient in origin, dating back almost 2,400 years to when Hippocrates said,
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
Today, the concept lives on in so-called functional foods, which have become one of the hotter
trends in food and foodservice marketing. But what exactly are functional foods, and how can you
include them in your menu? Consider this definition: “Functional foods are most often described
as foods or beverages that are claimed to have a health-promoting or disease-preventing property
beyond the basic function of supplying nutrients.” ( www.functionalfoodsblog.com)
Familiar examples of functional foods include orange juice fortified with calcium or milk
fortified with vitamins A and D. More recent entries now on the market are eggs and pastas with
omega- 3 fatty acids, sterol-fortified chocolates and high-fiber, high-protein flours.
Typical functional ingredients
So, will chefs of the future have to be experts in medicine, pharmacology and laboratory
procedures if they want to remain employable? Not really. The truth is that working with functional
ingredients is still cooking far more than it is chemistry, and taste still reigns over test tubes. Virtually
all competent kitchen personnel will be able to easily learn how to prepare dishes that qualify as
functional. In all probability, many chefs will discover that they are doing it already.
Any list of functional ingredients includes vegetables, fruits, herbs, spices, nuts, seeds, grains,
protein sources and healthy fats that are common in most kitchens. Carrots, broccoli and mushrooms
may be deemed functional foods, particularly if they’re organically grown and processed without a
lot of heat, salt, sugar and artificial additives. The same holds true for berries, cherries and avocado.
Herbs such as cinnamon, garlic and ginger also make the grade. So do whole grains, fish such as
salmon that are rich in omega- 3 fatty acids and yogurt that contains probiotics.
Yet, many restaurants don’t get credit for thinking functional because they fail to promote it.
There are some exceptions, however, and the segment is growing.
Restaurants are starting to aggressively
promote health-packed menu choices that
don’t give an inch on taste. by alaN riChMaN
oPPosi Te, CloCKwise froM ToP:
1) reviver assigns a nutrient density
score to each dish that comes out of
the kitchen, including the mahi curry
seen here. 2) fresh basil is currently
one of the most in-demand herbs on
restaurant menus. it contains high
quantities of (e)-beta-caryophyllene
(bCP). 3) Carrot/avocado soup from
Monica reinagel is garnished with fresh
cilantro and thin slices of avocado.
4) one of the most popular dishes at
reviver is loco Moco, which features
an over-easy egg on a spiced housemade
chicken burger with sauteed spinach
and roasted tomatoes. 5) a field of
basil at supherb farms, which supplies
fresh “flavor solutions” for foodservice
operators and food manufacturers.