Chef Daniel Green of ShopNBC: A life of healthy eating, part 1


Daniel Green is the James Bond of the cooking world. Complete with the dashing smile, British accent, and a touch of sophistication, he might as well be wearing a tux and sipping a martini.

Like 007, he too is an International man of mystery. Raised on the outskirts of London, he works in the Twin Cities as a chef and host for ShopNBC. But after the cameras stop rolling, he jets around the globe to sell products in Australia, meet with hotels in the Middle East, do a television series in Southeast Asia, or pitch cheese in France.

It's all in the name of a simple mission: to show people what healthy eating can and should be--something he takes very personally.

When we finally catch up with him, he's in the midst of a live cooking demo and seems to be the same guy in person he is on TV: charming, upbeat, witty, and utterly likeable.

In this type of live setting, the sane plan would be to prepare food that doesn't require: a) extreme attention to detail, b) constant supervision, or c) a significant period of time. But he's tackling a fussy, finicky, must-watch-and-stir-at-all-times-for-fear-of-total-disaster risotto. Interesting choice.

There is, however, a method to his madness. People are notoriously afraid to cook risotto at home. And risotto is notoriously (albeit, deliciously) packed with fat. Which is exactly why he's making it.

"Risotto isn't that difficult," he encourages the audience. "And you don't have to use butter or cheese."

Excuse me? I'm pretty sure the entire country of Italy just gasped in collective horror. But as it turns out, he's right.

Green's low-fat risotto has great texture and fantastic flavor. The arborio rice lives in the happy medium between too firm and too mushy. The mushrooms, which have been sautéed in a little white wine, are rich, meaty and earthy. And a small drizzle of truffle oil (just a few calories' worth) adds a finishing touch of elegance.

Cheesy, luxurious risottos have their place, and Green appreciates indulgent fare as much as anyone. But sadly, we can't eat gloriously lard-laden food all the time.

That's where Green comes in. He creates recipes that we can--and want--to eat again and again. Dishes that cut out excess sodium and fat but still taste amazing.

Green believes healthy eating can be a way of life, and he's made a career out of it. But for him, it's more than just a job, it's a passion--one that stems from his own struggles with food and gave him a direction in life when he had none.

Green grew up 20 minutes outside London in the suburb of Radlett. "My mum used to cook all the time," he recalls. During his early teen years, he spent several weeks every summer visiting family friends in France, and they cooked together every day.

"I remember exactly the things we used to make," he says fondly. Gruyere cheese wrapped with ham and veal, rolled up, and baked to perfection. Clams prepared simply in white wine and butter. And a basic salad dressing--with Dijon mustard, white wine vinegar, and olive oil--that he still makes regularly.

But back home in the UK, his palate wasn't as discerning. "I loved junk food," Green admits. Potato chips, McDonald's, pizza. Over the next five or six years he slowly put on weight, and by the time he turned 18, he'd outgrown the Limited.

Since mainstream retailers no longer carried pants in his size, he realized he'd have to go to a plus-sized store. And that's when it finally hit him. "At that age, having to go to a specialty shop? That's obese," he says.

He turned to his mother for help. She put him on Slim-Fast for a while, but he eventually gained everything back. So she decided to take him to a Weight Watchers meeting.

"An 18-year-old kid going to a Weight Watchers talk?" He still cringes at the thought. "It was the most frightening thing. It was awful. Awful."

Desperate for a solution, he took matters into his own hands. Fat-free products were all the rage (remember the frozen yogurt boom?), so he decided to follow suit. He made drastic changes, virtually eliminating fat from his diet.

In just a few short weeks, he began losing weight, and the light bulb went off: "I thought, 'That wasn't hard. It was so easy. I'm going to stick to this.'" And he did. By the time all was said and done, he'd dropped 65 pounds--most of it in the first year.

Join us for part 2 to find out how the man who once couldn't fit into jeans from the Limited started modeling for brands like Gucci.

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