Healthy eating with a chef’s touch

From the stately, welcoming atmosphere of Ormond Plantation, Chef Richard Kiral is preparing “Ponchatoula Salmon.”

It’s not only a great summer dish, but one that offers healthier eating with Kiral’s flair for taste. This salmon is served with pan-seared spinach and diced strawberries, heralding Kiral’s home in Ponchatoula.

“It’s really nice presentation and all kinds of goes together,” he said. “There is no sugar … no fat.”

The combination of greens, salmon and strawberries has made it an appealing meal for many people, Kiral said. Toasted almonds also add texture, as well as touches of Balsamic vinegar lending a classic touch.

The dish also reflects a growing number of customers who ask for lighter or healthier foods, he said.

Kiral is more conscious about it, particularly as more customers want healthier options, as well as having more vegetables such as sautéed spinach.

But they still want taste.

In his 40 years as a chef, Kiral said he’s seen an estimated 25 percent increase in people who want healthier alternatives to potatoes or rice.

“I’ve always been seafood-driven at Ormond Plantation,” he said.

Kiral’s preference is for local fish, but he brings in fresh salmon, too.

“I’d rather use a fresh redfish fillet, but sometimes conditions or weather mean having to be versatile,” he said. “But, for me, it’s Louisiana as much as I can.”

It’s easier to cook with butter and cream, but the chef said even he’s watching calories so his creations are including more fresh herbs that are grown on the plantation grounds.

“Another trick is citrus,” he said.

Fresh lemon adds flavor and zest to meals, as well as provides the healthy option more customers want in their food.

Even his employees are asking for healthier alternatives like buttermilk fried chicken, but sliced and served on a salad.

For this chef, quality is also a healthy option.

[pullquote]“I use 100 percent peanut oil or butter. I truly believe butter is a better health option than margarine”  — Chef Richard Kiral[/pullquote]

“I’m a big believer,” Kiral said. “I use 100 percent peanut oil or butter. I truly believe butter is a better health option than margarine. It costs more, but I feel conscious wise to do it. When I grew up cooking in the 1970s, even the fancy restaurants were using margarine, but a lot of people started realizing it’s not the healthiest option for you.”

Also, more people are concerned about gluten.

Kiral said it’s affected how he cooks such as the catfish dusted with flour before cooking is now more often prepared without it on request.

More people want less salt on a dish, too.

This means Kiral’s own seasoning blend becomes the main taste with limited salt on the side, again per the customer’s desire. He’s trained his staff to recognize when a customer wants a healthier meal and how the chef can make it to please.

“The biggest thing is moderation,” he said. “It’s easier said than done sometimes, but you have to conscious of what you eat.”

See recipe here.

Chef Richard Kiral’s healthier cooking options

  • 100 percent peanut oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Fresh herbs


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