GROTON, Conn. – As part of the Department of Defense (DoD) Operation Live Well, Healthy Base Initiative (HBI), Culinary Institute of America (CIA) Chef Lisa Brefere, visited Naval Submarine Base New London (SUBASE) to lead a healthy cooking training seminar, Sept. 9-10.
“This is a great opportunity for our SUBASE Culinary Specialists as well as other key base food providers and fitness and health coordinators to broaden their thinking about healthy menus, healthy preparations, and healthy eating,” said Bob Kydd, SUBASE Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) Director who helped coordinate the seminar.
Helping people eat healthy has been a goal since SUBASE was selected as one of 13 installations to pilot HBI last year. Under DOD’s Operation Live Well, which is aimed at increasing the health and wellness of the total force, including civilians and family members, the HBI pilot program is aimed at helping DOD gather information about current practices, best practices, and new opportunities.
CIA Chef Brefere’s healthy cooking training seminar was such an opportunity.
Held in the base’s Cross Hall Galley training classroom and adjacent, Virginia Class submarine working kitchen replica, the seminar engaged 16 area and local participants ranging from Culinary Specialists assigned to the SUBASE Galley and MWR, Youth Center, and Naval Branch Health Clinic Groton staff, to representatives from the U.S. Army’s Natick Soldier Systems Center and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.
Classroom discussion about healthy ingredients and preparations was followed with hands-on training and cooking in the kitchen.
“My approach is to focus on approachable foods so that the military is very comfortable, or any of your clients or customers, with your selections,” said Brefere, a CIA alumni since 1978. “We deal a lot with flavoring and quality of ingredients, so that we build very strong flavor profiles with vinegars, custards, and spices — alternatives to salt. Then we focus on the carbohydrates, the complete proteins, and super-greens.”
Seminar participants gained insights into such foods as kale, fava beans, and quinoa and preparations that highlighted flavor, texture, and healthy substitutions.
“A complete protein can substitute [for] animal proteins,” said Brefere. “Because at the end of the day, animal protein is extra fat and it’s extra cholesterol, whereas with the complete, carbohydrate protein, you’re still getting that benefit of strength and agility because your body goes for carbohydrates first, but you’re also getting the protein which is building muscle and rehabilitating the body.”
Brefere also stressed the need to balance the dishes and present them well, especially when dealing with initially reluctant audiences, like Sailors and youth.
“Well balanced foods that are really delicious and well-presented are incredibly important,” said Brefere. “If the food doesn’t taste good nobody is going to want to eat it, and if it’s not well-presented nobody is going to want to try it. We start to eat with our eyes.”
The bottom line to healthy eating according to Brefere is healthy ingredients, preparation, and process.
“Meals need to be well balanced, with moderation in ingredients and the practices of good cooking, so that your end result comes out just as any other cooked dish,” said Brefere. “That’s our real dynamic and our real focus. Showing that it’s not just a recipe; it’s a method and a procedure.”
Seminar participants caught on quickly and when the two day training opportunity concluded they served a “tasting,” a lengthy buffet table array of healthy appetizers, snacks, and main dishes, to a gathering of SUBASE leadership and junior Sailors.
“I’ve never been a fan of kale,” said Kydd as he enjoyed a kale dish with peppers, vegetables, and spices. “I took a chance today. I tried [the kale] at the tasting and the way it was prepared made me a convert to eating super-greens! All the dishes, with their herbs, spices, and other ingredients made me feel like I was eating in a five star restaurant.”
“I’ve had the special meals here at Cross Hall Galley, which really rock, but the tasting was something you almost never get to experience,” said Damage Controlman 3rd Class Adam Tommberg, assigned to Naval Submarine School (SUBSCOL). “I loved the veggie roll-ups.”
Other dishes included ____________________.
Accredited through the CIA’s International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET), the seminar awarded each participant with 1.75 continuing education hours (CEH) and a certificate of completion.
For most participants, however, the opportunity to learn from Brefere, to develop new skills and approaches, and to impact others was a reward in and of itself.
“Cooking has always been a passion of mine; I enjoy it and I’m very grateful for this opportunity to work under Chef Brefere,” said Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Suriya Chuon, assigned to the base’s galley. “This training was very eye-opening. We were shown how to maintain a healthy lifestyle by all the various substitutions and that’s something we can pass along.”