Haute Dining: Get Healthy with Advice from New York City Celeb Chef Michael Psilakis

With all the amazing and delicious food around New York City, it can sometimes be tough to keep your fitness resolutions. Never fear, because we have some expert advice for you.

Chef Michael Psilakis has acquired many of the food world’s highest honors in the short time he has been on the culinary scene. In 2008 alone, Psilakis was awarded Food & Wine’s Best New Chef and Bon Appetit’s Chef of the Year distinctions; nominated for A-List Chef by “Bravo TV;” and had his upscale Greek restaurant, Anthos, nominated for a James Beard Award in the category of Best New Restaurant. He was also named “Chef of the Year” by Esquire Magazine and his restaurant Anthos was awarded a Michelin star and named the third of 10 best new restaurants by former The New York Times restaurant reviewer, Frank Bruni.

We sat down with Chef Psilakis to discuss how to stay fit while still living your fabulous NYC life.

Michael Psilakis, Executive Chef

Do you think it’s possible to eat delicious food and stay in shape at the same time?
There’s no question that one can do both. As a chef, I love to be able to use fat to add flavor to a dish, but that doesn’t mean that you have to always rely on it for added flavor. There are great ways to achieve a range of flavor profiles that don’t include using fat. One of the beauties of cooking over an open flame is that it is a great way to give fish or meat a delicious charred flavor and still be healthy.

Are there certain dishes at your restaurant that are specifically best for health?
One of the reasons I think Greek food has become so popular over the last two years is because an authentic Mediterranean diet is intrinsically healthy. Butter is not something we use in the Mediterranean kitchen. Pretty much anything on the menu at FishTag, with the exception of one or two pastas, is health-driven. The fish at the restaurant, which includes Striped Bass, Salmon, Swordfish, and Branzino, can be ordered simply grilled over an open flame with extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice, served with slowly-cooked bitter greens, olives, tomatoes and heirloom potatoes. There is no processed fat in this dish. This is typical of preparing food in Greece, and it’s probably one of the healthiest ways you can possibly eat.

Of the composed dishes on the menu, I would recommend both signature salads. Our Wild Arugula Salad is made with bulghar wheat, chopped chicory, medjool dates, pomegranate, green olives, breakfast radishes, pistachios, peppers, and smoked almonds.

What are your favorite healthy dishes?
I love any fish that is grilled over an open flame. I also really enjoy a summer tomato salad with red onions, extra virgin olive oil, and red wine vinegar. Another simple dish that is also really enjoyable is an oven-roasted chicken served with a bitter greens salad.

Any tips for those looking to cook healthy at home?
The key to being a healthy home-chef—and one of the things that people don’t talk about enough—is the use of acidity to create flavor profiles for your food. Everything I cook is seasoned with salt, olive oil, and an acid, whether it’s lemon juice or some kind of vinaigrette. Vinaigrette as a sauce, either warm or cold, is a healthier way to add flavor to a dish without
using fat. You can make simple vinaigrettes from red vinegar or more complicated versions made from champagnes.

FishTag is located at 222 West 79th Street, 212.362.7470, www.fishtagrestaurant.com.
Kefi is located at 505 Columbus Avenue, 212.873.0200,

Check back tomorrow for our second part of the Get Healthy series with Amy Eubanks, the executive chef at BLT Fish.

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