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The reality of his health problems hit home for Simon Gault a few years ago, and now he is on a mission to pass on the information he has learned in his quest for better health. The celebrity chef tells Rebecca Fox it's not about eating "twigs and berries".
We started out talking about the joys of fresh spring asparagus, lightly cooked in salted water, drained and tossed in butter.
"That is hard to beat," celebrity chef and businessman Simon Gault says.
But it is not long before the interview segues into his true passion — encouraging people to eat better.
"We live in a country that is the third-fattest in the world which has the second-fattest kids in the world. I'm passionate about it."
Hence Gault has recently written a recipe for 5-plus a day as it fits well with his new mantra — moderation and eating good, nutritious food. It was a salad filled with "good fats" avocado, toasted kumara, goat's cheese and marinated mushrooms.
"It's perfect for this time of year. You can serve it hot or cold."
It has been a few years since Gault got a "rocket up his rear end" from his doctor about ignoring his health and his type 2 diabetes.
The rocket sent him on a mission to learn all he could about super-foods, sugar, yoga, why so many people are fat and how other, more healthy nations eat.
So he now wants to pass on that information to others, and takes every opportunity to do so.
"It's exciting. I absolutely love doing it. It's not about eating twigs and berries, it's about enjoying food, eating really well. Everything in moderation."
That is why he developed a new tomato sauce sweetened with vegetables. He is a bit disappointed at how the sales are going for that, saying Kiwis seem happy to continue to buy what they are used to.
"It's not to say I don't make a dessert [with] sugar or I don't eat the occasional duck fat potato at my restaurant, but I don't eat junk."
He admits while he has improved, he is not perfect, but he is trying to make up for the "all the bad" he did to his body for many years.
"I was fat for a long time and I ignored my health. Now I'm sure as hell giving it a good go."
That includes going on an eight-week programme by the DOT Aotearoa Project to reinforce a healthier way of eating. It is part of a programme helping obese people lose weight the healthy way, based on scientific research and lifestyle changes.
"I need to lose more weight. It is simple things like getting more sleep and drinking more water. I'm really excited that it will make serious changes to these people's lives."
These sorts of changes have the potential to have flow-on effects, ultimately reducing the impact on the health system.
The former New Zealand MasterChef judge gave up his job with the Nourish Group, which owns nine restaurants, including Euro, Jervois Steak House, The Crab Shack and Fish back in 2015.
He down-sized his career not only for his health, but to enable him to spend time with his young daughter.
"Basically I'm not working when I'm with her and then when I don't have her I work extra hard."
Now he runs his own restaurant, Giraffe Auckland, has Sous Chef, a delicatessen, and produces a range of homeware and spices and stocks.
Giraffe specialises in showcasing home-grown produce cooked well and providing a homely environment for diners and staff.
For Gault that means using the best quality ingredients such as extra virgin cold-pressed canola oil and quality naturally sweet balsamic vinegar, which costs $1.15 a teaspoon.
"I could use the cheaper option but my integrity does not allow me to do that."
Simon Gault will appear at the Fresh Food Show as part of The Great Kiwi Home and Living Show on November 3. He will judge the Kiwi Kids Can Cook Competition and speak about his food philosophy.
Kumara Toast salad with marinated mushrooms and smashed avocado
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tbsp chopped Italian parsley
6 leaves of basil sliced
1 Tbsp marjoram, finely chopped
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
pinch of chili flakes
pinch of salt
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 cups whole small mushrooms, cleaned and steams removed
1 cup cauliflower florets
1/4 medium orange (Beauregard) kumara
2 ripe avocados
1 Tbsp finely sliced spring onion
1 Tbsp lime juice
pinch of smoked paprika
zest of of an orange
salt to taste
1 orange (1/4 zest for smashed avocado) skin and pith removed and cut into segments
1 jar (300g) of marinated goat's cheese or feta
9 cherry tomatoes cut in half
Combine all the marinade ingredients except mushrooms and cauliflower in a bowl and combine thoroughly.
Add the mushrooms and cauliflower florets then stir gently to coat, cover and refrigerate overnight.
Heat your oven 200degC.
Slice the kumara into thickens of sandwich loaf, about 2cm thick.
Bake on an oven tray (lined with baking paper), turning every five minutes until browned on the surface and soft in the middle, approximately 20-30 min. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Cut the avocados in half and scoop the flesh into a bowl.
Add the onion, lime juice, smoked paprika and salt to your taste.
Using the back of a spoon, roughly smash the avocado, until chunky but spreadable.
Warm the kumara in the oven.
Divide the smashed avocado on to each piece of kumara.
Top with marinated mushrooms and cauliflower.
Garnish with orange segments, cherry tomatoes and marinated goat's cheese.
Toss rocket lettuce in 2 Tbsp of mushroom marinade and serve a small bunch on each plate beside the kumara toast.