Chef Daniel Green of ShopNBC: A life of healthy eating, part 2


Today we continue our conversation with Daniel Green, chef and host of ShopNBC. In part 1, we learned about his teenage battle with obesity, and how a low-fat diet helped him shed 65 pounds. We now rejoin him several years later.

Determined to keep the weight off, Green had taken up cooking in his early 20s. But his playbook was small, and he grew tired of the same old dishes.

To expand his repertoire, he looked to his travels for inspiration. "I'd gone to Thailand in '91 and loved it," he says. "I thought it was incredible, and I couldn't believe the flavors."

He began creating recipes--ones that still reduced fat but now replaced it with interesting textures, aromas, and seasonings. Over the years, this approach became his culinary calling card, and key to sustaining his healthy eating habits.

But back then, cooking didn't pay the bills. So facing graduation, he considered his employment options. "To be honest, I didn't really have much inspiration," says Green. "So I went into my dad's business--he was in plastic machinery--and I hated every minute of it." Eventually he switched to a buying position at Benetton, but that never felt right either.

In the meantime, he bumped into his now-wife Jane at a party. The last time she'd seen him he was overweight and unhappy. But she was impressed by his dramatic transformation and encouraged him to do something with it.

Green took her comments to heart and took a leap, deciding to enter an industry that represented the antithesis of his former self: modeling.

He contacted some London agencies, compiled a portfolio, and started auditioning. "Before I knew it, I was already working," he says of the whirlwind.

His clients included Gucci, Barclaycard, and British Airways. And he landed several glamorous gigs: a Martini shoot in South Beach, a voyage for P&O Cruises, and a TV spot with Claudia Schiffer.

While he credits modeling with boosting his confidence, he quickly realized it would never be a lengthy pursuit. "I thought, where will I be in 10 years if I keep doing this?"

So at the age of 25, he bowed out of the biz. He and Jane had just gotten married, and he was feeling the urge to find a long-term career. Green returned to plastics, but this time in a role he was a better suited for: traveling abroad to represent the company on his father's behalf.

When he wasn't working, he was in the kitchen, throwing dinner parties for friends and catering on the side. He also continued inventing new dishes: "I'd go out on my travels, try something, and think, I can make that low fat."

As his library of recipes grew, so did his ambition. And then a golden opportunity arrived: "I was reading through Good Food, a magazine in England like your Bon Appetit. And it said, 'TV Chef of the Future--are you the next Jamie Oliver?'"

His recipe collection became his entry, and he won the contest, which earned him a feature in the magazine and a show reel. "It was terrible," he now laughs. "I'd never really done TV. As a model, I'd been standing there and not saying anything--which was very easy."

But the demo tape lit a fire in him. The intense passion he had for losing weight and cooking had never really translated to his career ambitions. Until now.

"I think I sent that tape off to every single agent in London," he says. "And every single agent sent it back."

But he'd developed a thick skin during his modeling days. "You'd walk into one casting and get it, and another one you wouldn't," he explains. "It gave me the feeling that, just because one person says no, it doesn't mean someone else does."

So despite the rejections, he stayed the course, and finally got the break he'd been waiting for. The Carlton Food Network (a start-up cable channel) invited him to demonstrate a dish.

It was thrilling and intimidating all at once. "But the minute I got off camera, I wanted to do it again," he says, still charged up as he recounts the story. They invited him back, and a TV chef was born.

In part 3, we'll get the scoop on Daniel's life at ShopNBC, his international projects, and TV segments with celebs like Joan Rivers.

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