Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Notes from the Canyon Ranch Kitchen

As part of our internship, Ken and I get to spend time in all of the departments at the Ranch. We started out in Program Advising, educating guests about the fabulously pampering Detoxifying Hammam body treatment and miraculous results of Healing Touch. After a rotation through Guest Services, Registration, Dining Room and the Bell Desk (no, they didn’t let us drive the golf carts), we ended up in the Kitchen. We were issued standard chef’s wear consisting of a fashionable black skull chef’s hat and white chef’s coat. I even went out and bought my first pair of Crocs (faux fur lined, no less) to fit in with the Culinary staff at the Ranch. No one was lucky enough to capture my outfit on film, although I did snap a shot of Kenny and Bertha Tapia, a true Ranch chef, decked out in their culinary gear.

The efficiency and discipline of the culinary staff amazed me. In the morning and afternoon, the sous chef assigned each chef to his or her station, and the chefs got to work. The cucumbers were sliced for the cucumber salad, the eggplant roll-ups were stuffed and rolled, the banana-changas were baked and drizzled with chocolate sauce (just a little!), the Salicia flatbread was thrown on the pizza stone in the oven, and the polenta lasagna was baked and plated.

People often ask me how accurate those calorie, fiber, protein and fat numbers under each menu item really are. Having faith in the Ranch food development and culinary teams, I always replied, “oh, very accurate,” hoping that I was being truthful. I knew that every recipe endures a rigorous and exhaustive analysis for nutritional content, but are the portions really measured with that much accuracy?

After my time in the kitchen, I now know: YES! The portions really ARE measured accurately! For many components of a dish, the chefs use serving scoops with different colored handles. I caught a peek at a cheat sheet posted at a station that listed red handles as one ounce, blue as two ounces, green as four ounces, yellow as six ounces…my colors and measurements may be off – but you get the point. Of course, some items, like meats and other proteins, are weighed. And to cut the lasagna, a ruler, similar to the one I have at home in my desk drawer, was used to measure the exact dimensions of each piece! I was astounded at just how precise it all was.

After my early morning and late night shifts in the kitchen, I not only realized that 5:30 a.m. is a little too early for me to be at work, but I remembered how much I enjoy cooking, and cooking healthy. I made a big trip to Trader Joe’s the following Monday and stocked up on plenty of organic vegetables and healthy snacks for my kitchen at home. And I’ll keep my ruler close by!

To Your Good Health!

Nicole Zuckerman

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