Exploring good food – and Good Food America – with Nathan Lyon

Chef Nathan Lyon talks his new show, in which he seeks out America's best health-oriented restaurants, plus time-saving tips and why it's best to know who raises your chickens!
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If you’re always on the lookout for new restaurants to try, Chef Nathan Lyon is pounding America’s pavement to help you out – and he’s even done you one better than the gluttonous shows we’re used to. Good Food America, Lyon’s new show on Veria Living, puts health in the spotlight, as the chef journeys into the kitchens of America’s most delicious and wholesome restaurants.

“It’s a show about empowering people with the knowledge that, regardless of where you go in the country – even in the tiny nooks and crannies of America – you can find a restaurant that serves up really delicious food, and it’s healthy,” explains Lyon.

We chatted with the A Lyon in the Kitchenhost and cookbook author of Great Food Starts Fresh(Nathan Lyon, 2011). Here’s what he had to say about eating clean, finding healthy eats in the USA and his favorite summer fruits:

On clean eating:

NL: Clean eating is the same way that our grandparents ate: The food is completely unadulterated, it’s eaten and enjoyed in the season it’s grown and it’s as local as possible. You’re going back to basics. I think that’s one of the things about clean eating – the simplicity – and with that action comes great health and great flavors.

Getting in the garden:

NL: My grandparents’ home was three houses down from our house, so I would go over there and help my grandfather garden. From that point forward, I learned how to can vegetables and freeze produce from my grandmother in this wonderful cycle of life that gave me a certain amount of responsibility. That is ultimately what I want for America’s kids – a little bit of responsibility – so that kids know where their food comes from.

Involving your kids:

NL: I find that when you give kids responsibility, they get really excited to participate, even if it’s grocery shopping or helping the family cook dinner. You go to the farmers’ market and see families, and that becomes part of the family’s weekly routine.

The personal touch:

NL: When you meet the people that grow your food, there is a face and a name attached to your meal. [When you get your chicken] from Lisa, the woman who raised it from little chicks on organic food, you [think], ‘this is going to be really good because this is Lisa’s chicken.’ And your kids now know that it’s Lisa’s chicken and they like to see how it’s prepared. For over 10 years, I worked in the farmers’ markets in Los Angeles and we encouraged people to come to the farm and help pick their [produce].

Saving time in the kitchen:

NL: Using frozen vegetables to make soups; that’s one of the best tips. The headway that America has made with frozen [food] is vastly different than when I grew up in the ’70s. You take it fresh and you flash freeze it so it has more nutrition, it has that color and it has that flavor.

Cleaning up old favorites:

NL: I’m a big fan of a really good mac and cheese, but I use aged sharp cheeses. One thing people can do – not just with mac and cheese, but with cheese across the board – is use an aged cheese. For example, an aged Pecorino-Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano, which both have a texture and wonderful flavor that permeates the food so that you only use a couple of ounces.

Good Food America: the bottom line? 

NL: Take that extra second and find that local restaurant that serves fresh healthy food instead of just going straight to the drive-through at your fast-food joint.