A Big Helping of Healthful Cooking

Chefs from the Four Season Hotel's Pavilion restaurant in Newport Beach wowed judges with their seared ahi tuna atop rice stick noodles and took home the gold plaque from a healthful-dining cook-off at Chapman General Hospital on Friday.

Chapman officials decided to sponsor the Adventures in Healthy Dining event out of concern for the growing number of Americans--about 35%--who are over their ideal weight, according to Lynne Kiernan, Chapman's director of nutrition services.

Hence, the challenge went out to 11 of the region's top restaurants to submit a dish that was both tasty and healthful to a panel of doctors, nutritionists and journalists.

It was a close call between dishes such as the herb-rubbed salmon dished out by Scott's Seafood Grill & Bar in Costa Mesa and the Pavilion's ahi. Kiernan already had screened restaurants for the nutrition factor, so the seven judges had to choose only on the basis of taste, appearance and texture.

"It's very hard to choose," admitted cardiologist Mahaveer Khemka, who was sipping spring water to clear his palette between dishes. Khemka sees the results of high-fat and high-cholesterol diets in the form of heart disease. "Nowadays, the public is more conscious" of a bad diet, he added.

The purpose behind the event was to hold restaurants responsible for all the fatty foods they spoon out. Chefs at the Pavilion said they have offered low-fat menu choices for 10 years.

Many patrons are conscious of fat and live in fear of cream sauces, Pavilion chef Mark Kropczynski said. "I think there is a certain customer that is very conscious of what they eat," he said. But, he added, "a lot of people were scared of the ahi" because it appeared raw in the center. "And then they tasted it."

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