Chef Justin Timineri has the distinction of having the only job of its kind in the entire country. Sure, there are chefs galore all over – but he is the only official state chef in the nation, dubbed “Executive Chef and Culinary Ambassador” for the state of Florida.
In short, his job is to promote (around the country and overseas) the 200-plus food products that come from Florida. Timineri, in his post for the past seven years, has plenty to promote - a host of goodies ranging from shrimp and grouper to strawberries and tomatoes.
He also oversees department nutrition initiatives aimed at new mothers and their babies, as well as K-12 students. With his counsel, the Florida Department of Agriculture is revamping the state’s school lunch program to make it healthier and full of more fresh Florida foods. He says the best part of his job is visiting schools and helping little ones love food beyond chicken fingers and fast food fries.
As part of the in-house wellness program at Moore Consulting Group where I work, Chef Justin visited the office on Friday to pass along some of his “foodie wisdom,” and to cook for us (check out some of his recipes here). A few of his nuggets of wisdom, plus two amazing recipes:
Read labels: “The kinds of things they put in our food supply today are just kind of mind-boggling. When I go to the store, I am constantly reading labels.” He avoids white sugar, white flour, white rice and eats organic or local as much as possible.
Healthy doesn’t mean bland: “It’s not that we have to sacrifice taste or flavor. We just have to rethink it a little bit. There are better ways to get flavor in our food than with extra sodium or fat.” Try fresh herbs, a little olive oil instead of margarine or “reduced-fat” butters.
Shop often but shop smart: He goes to the store every few days, quick but strategic treks. “I make sure the ingredients can kind of cross over. It’s got to be enough to use for several different meals of different flavors.”
40 percent: That’s how much he recommends of your grocery bill be spent on fresh fruits and produce.
Fresh food first, recipe later: Instead of shopping to find the ingredients in a recipe, shop for whatever is the most fresh and then find a recipe for those ingredients. No recipe? Experiment! "Some people are afraid in the kitchen. It’s really about gaining confidence. Get a few really good dishes under your belt and go from there.”
Go-to summer appliance: His Cuisinart Steamer. He puts brown rice in the bottom, veggies on top and adds in fresh herbs, lemon juice, a little olive oil, etc. If you want protein, grill some chicken or seafood and serve! An easy, healthy meal and no slaving over a hot stove!
3 medium Florida zucchini or squash, or combo, grated
1 cup carrots, matchstick cut
1 medium onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 Tbsp fresh chopped thyme, or 1 tsp dried
salt and pepper to taste
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large eggs
1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup whole wheat flour or whole wheat bread crumbs
2 Tbsp olive oil
For sauce: Mix 1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt with the juice of a lemon; add salt, pepper and more chopped thyme to taste. Place in refrigerator to keep cool.
For eggplant tapenade: Check out this recipe.
Directions: Wrap the zucchini/squash in paper towel and squeeze to remove extra moisture. Heat half the oil; add carrot and onion, sauteeing for 5 minutes. Add garlic and zucchini/squash and sautee until liquid is mostly evaporated. Transfer to bowl and cool. Mix in eggs, flour/bread crumbs, herbs and spices. Heat the remaining oil, drop batter into small pancakes shape and cook until golden, 5-7 minutes. Flip and cook another 4-5. To serve, add a dollop of the yogurt mixture and a few spoons of the tapenade on top.
Chef Justin's Fresh Berries with Spiced Ricotta and Orange Snap Cookie
1/4 cup orange blossom honey (any local honey will do)
1 tsp each cinnamon, nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves, ground
4 thin crispy spice cookies (the Moravian brand are great)
1 1/2 cups fresh berries (blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, or a combo of)
Directions: Mix the ricotta with honey and spices. Spoon onto 4 dessert plates. Surround with fresh berries and place one cookie in the center of each ricotta 'cloud.' Voila! Easy, low fat and under 200 calories!
So when Chef Justin eats out, where does he go? He tells all here: :)