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03 March 2024

Chef who believes good food is not fattening

It's all in the herbs: Winkler (SUPPLIED)

By Keith J Fernandez

That you are what you eat is something Heinz Winkler has based an entire lifetime's work around.

The German chef, who is in the UAE until Friday with a four-day residency at the Emirates Palace hotel, takes what he calls a "vital" approach to cooking (or in French, Cuisine Vitale, which sounds so much sexier) that focuses on the quality of produce to create light, pure, healthy food that is neither boring nor ascetic and which has won him three Michelin stars 20 times since 1981.

Sixty-year-old Winkler, who trained under the inspirational Paul Bocuse, recognised as one of the greatest chefs of all time, is something of a culinary evangelist touting the credo that nature in its simplest form has powerful anti-ageing properties, which are a foundation for physical and spiritual well-being.

In Winkler's book, good food does not equate with weight gain – an approach that has long been imitated by the spa industry, if not always with quite the spectacular results Winkler manages. "Enjoying food while losing weight doesn't need to be a contradiction, these two goals are perfectly complementary. Gourmets are entitled to indulge as they slim down with delicious menus and herb-flavoured dishes," he says. "Cuisine Vitale is a delicious and digestible form of cooking. By using the right herbs the whole organism is stimulated and the human being does not feel a sense of fullness after meals."

Done properly, he believes, food can halt or reverse the ageing process.

"Because of the ingredients of the food, the body's cells get the right nutrition and they do not stop dividing again and again," he says in an email interview with Emirates Business.

Scientists now believe that cells in the human body stop dividing after a point, leading to ageing. Contributing to this process are disease, a poor diet and bad lifestyle choices.

Winkler, however, plumps for the holistic belief: using the finest quality ingredients with a strong emphasis on herbs and aromatic plants, he says, can improve our overall health.

"While the role of plants in physical health is often emphasised, too often their place in good mental and spiritual health is neglected. But a healthy body means little without a healthy mind!

"Many plants seem to have the ability to fend off stress and depression, to treat psychological disorders, and so on. They contain active ingredients that have a direct biological effect on the body, gently rebalancing energies on the physical, mental and spiritual levels," he says, insisting that only a balanced and natural diet can create a healthy happy person.

But none of his menus offer austere, dutiful fare: customers are more likely to find black truffles, oysters and seafood on Winkler's menus than celery and the like.

And fittingly, he seems to be that rare businessman: someone who is content with where he's at. He doesn't seem to harbour Gordon Ramsay-style expansionary ambitions, for instance, and only runs one restaurant, the Residenz Heinz Winkler in Bavaria.

Opening more, he says, would depend on who came to him and what the investment is.

"It depends on the sponsor," is all he's willing to say.

- Heinz Winkler's Cuisine Vitale is being served up at Mezzaluna at Emirates Palace until Friday, February 19. Bookings can be made by calling 02 418 1401


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