Daniel Green has always been ahead of his time. The handsome, fit celebrity chef has been talking about eliminating saturated fats from diets and living by the bible of clean eating for the past 20 years – long before London’s sensible eating food stars the Hemsley sisters were even old enough to vote.
Having lost a tremendous amount of weight as a teenager through his low-fat diet, the self-taught, British-born chef has gone on to international success as a healthy food proponent, writing healthy eating and Paleo cookbooks and judging on shows like the Food Network’s Kitchen Inferno.
Although it’s been a long time coming, the world has finally caught up with him and his clean eating ethos. Even airlines are getting on board.
Green recently collaborated with Cathay Pacific to introduce a library of over 60 clean-eating meals on the airline’s First and Business Class flights from Hong Kong to North America and back, starting Aug 1.
The move capitalises on what Green posits is a gap in the market for clean eating. “I think there is a massive gap and potential for healthy eating in more places. When people go on flights, they eat unhealthy food because they don’t have a choice. I wanted to give them choices – I wanted to create healthy food in airplanes,” he says during an interview at Menara Star in Petaling Jaya.
Green’s culinary oeuvre for Cathay Pacific includes a Rolodex of healthy, premium meals like seared Ahi tuna with a Japanese dressing, a mango and crab salad and a Thai vegetarian curry, all of which tie in with his wholesome, low-fat, low-carbohydrate philosophy.
“So the concept of Cathay Pacific’s new menu is clean cuisine, which is about my philosophy – if I could stick to no cream, no butter, no cheese, no deep-frying, whatever comes out of the kitchen won’t be high in fat,” he says.
Green was given a lot of decision-making power in terms of the produce selection for the menu, which includes luxury items like Alaskan crab and smoked salmon from Scotland.
“I was surprised by how close it was to five-star restaurants where I’ve created menus. There are a lot of airlines doing business class that don’t spend that kind of money,” he says.
The celebrity chef spent a year developing and writing the recipes, working closely with Cathay Pacific chefs, doing multiple tastings and testing the food in the airline kitchen in Hong Kong.
Having worked with other airlines like KLM, Green says one of the challenges of creating an airline menu is getting meals to attain the texture he wanted.
“Food can dry out on an airplane so meats like chicken can be very dry, so I was very thoughtful about how the texture would hold up,” he says.
He found inventive ways to add juiciness to his meals, incorporating natural stocks wherever he could so that meats and pastas wouldn’t dry out, and steering clear of oils, which he says airlines traditionally use to add moisture to in-flight meals.
Although he admits that there is a possibility that not all the recipes he created will be used, his year-long collaboration with the airline will ensure his clean meals will continue well into 2017, and might even potentially creep into economy class meals as well.
Green says eating healthy in-flight is important, especially on long-haul flights where inactivity is forced on passengers.
“In 16 hours, I can walk miles around Hong Kong, but if you’re on a 16-hour flight, there’s not much you can do, so you won’t want stodgy food,” he says.
Having designed his clean eating menu from scratch with all the challenges of preparing and re-heating food to be consumed at 35,000ft, Green says moving forward, it’s going to be much harder to face the realities of on-ground cooking.
“Walking into a kitchen and making a crab and mango salad seems too easy now because by contrast, the experience of creating airline food was such an exciting challenge,” he says.