Growing up, Chad Leuthje regularly ate “food the other kids didn’t have.” Miso soup, sprouts, seaweed. “I thought bringing a rice cake with peanut butter and honey for lunch was a tragedy compared to a turkey sandwich,” he recalls. It turns out his parents’ predilection for nourishing cuisine was fate. The sun-kissed Luethje–light hair, light eyes, bright smile—looks right at home at Miraval, Tucson’s legendary feel-good resort, where he’s held court as Executive Chef at the Cactus Flower Restaurant for over two years, since his arrival from Red Mountain Spa in Utah. “I used to think spa food was bland, that it had no salt and no color. I was shocked by what healthy, good food could taste like,” Luethje reveals. At Miraval, the chef’s fresh, elegantly prepared dishes, savored each day on the coveted tranquil patio, may include chilled mint peach soup, Sonoran spice-rubbed fish with fire-roasted pineapple salsa, or blueberry torte. When guests learn how few calories are in each of Luethje’s recipes, they are shocked, yet his cooking only complements the resort’s balanced approach to wellness—discovering self-awareness in the Equine Experience, guided meditation, birds chirping as bodies are slicked with Arctic berry cream in one of the spa’s outdoor treatment rooms. Leuthje says Miraval’s magical setting offers constant inspiration in the kitchen: “We grow amazing peaches in the middle of the desert, and when you taste the agave nectar here, you instantly know its roots. Surrounded by cacti and mesquite makes it that much easier to create.”
Learn to cook like Chef Leuthje. He shares his step-by-step techniques during Miraval’s Creative and Mindful Cooking immersion program September 15 to 19 and November 10 to 14. www.miravalresorts.com
Healthy At-Home Tips from Chef Chad Luethje
1. Microwave egg whites instead of cooking them in a greased pan to save about 100 calories and 12 grams of fat. Simply pour them into a bowl and heat on high for 90 seconds or until fluffy.
2. Use a mister or spray bottle to add oil to your recipes instead of free pouring from the bottle; this is a great, inexpensive tool that allows you to really fine tune the amount of oil going in to the dishes you’re cooking.
3. When using a recipe calling for mayonnaise, try substituting a mixture of 3 parts fat-free yogurt and 1 part reduced fat mayonnaise for great flavor with less fat and calorie content.
4. Always be on the lookout for ingredients that can be substituted for less healthy ones. Making a cream of potato soup? Substitute low-sodium vegetable stock for chicken stock, and add extra pureed potatoes and a little soy, skim, rice, or almond milk to take the place of the cream; use olive oil or other monounsaturated fats instead of butter when sautéing or baking; substitute agave syrup for sugar (this natural sweetener has about one and a half times more sweetening power per calorie than sugar, and has a very low glycemic index); substitute applesauce or other pureed fruits for egg yolks when baking.
5. Tofu makes a great thickener for dressings, soups, and smoothies; just puree and add the other ingredients, but leave out the egg yolks and heavy cream that would normally provide the texture.