France Franco: “I proposed a range of simple, balanced and tasty dishes each with its own specific health benefits”
Can you describe Ayurvedic cuisine in a few words? Is it the same as vegetarian cuisine?
France Franco Above all, it is important to understand the philosophy behind Ayurvedic cuisine.
Ayurveda is an Indian philosophy that signifies the science of life; an art of living dating back over 5,000 years, which concerns healing, as well as health prevention and maintenance.
Diet is considered one of the pillars for maintaining good health. Ayurvedic cuisine helps us stay healthy, because it takes into account several essential elements: food energy, seasons, combinations, flavors, the use of spices and eating behavior; in other words, our feelings and state of mind when we are eating, as well as the venue.
While Ayurvedic cuisine is not strictly vegetarian, it does consider that meat is no longer a source of energy. It does not black-list any ingredient but advocates a fair balance between senses and flavors. It is essentially based on grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits and spices.
What does your partnership with Elior involve?
FF Elior offered me a partnership to obtain a different vision and way of thinking; a new approach to food. My mission is to provide food that is better for one’s health. I therefore worked with Elior’s teams to adapt my recipes to collective catering, in the health sector and in school canteens.
I proposed a range of simple, balanced, tasty dishes each with its own specific health benefits. This allowed Elior’s teams to view vegetarian food from a different angle, because not all vegetarian recipes are necessarily healthy. I look for cuisine that is rich in flavors and textures, with the right combinations of ingredients. A vegetarian menu is made up of grains, a source of protein (such as legumes) and of course vegetables. In each meal, it is also important to bring out the six flavors: sour, sweet, salty, bitter, astringent and spicy. The spices balance these flavors and provide important benefits for the body. The essential spices are cumin, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and pepper, etc. Cinnamon thins the blood and tones the nervous system, coriander facilitates digestion, and ginger activates the metabolism.
For example, I created a sugar-free dessert made with cocoa, agave syrup and chia seeds that is very tasty. Cocoa is good for one’s health and chia seeds provide protein. Another example is my vegetable curry with cashew nuts, that combines several elements, including spices such as curcumin, black pepper, cloves and ginger, which facilitate good digestion.
I therefore worked with Elior’s teams to adapt my recipes to collective catering, in the health sector and in school canteens.
How did you adapt to these specific consumers: children and sick people?
FF Ayurveda is an art of living that helps us stay healthy. The younger we start, the longer we can preserve our health. To ensure children develop properly, it is therefore important to get them used to the basics of a balanced diet at a young age, and to cook with fresh, local, varied and unprocessed products. In particular, it is interesting to introduce spices, starting ideally with small doses at a time so as to accustom the palate. The most palatable spices for children are vanilla or cinnamon. To get them accustomed, you can use coriander leaves or powder to a vegetable dish, and add ginger in very small doses to soups.
In clinics and schools, it is essential to show that there are healthy ways to eat while having fun. For Elior, I have developed 20 recipes that are easy to make, and to be enjoyed by people who are not used to eating vegetarian foods, especially children.
The medical world was a novelty for me. In particular, it was the first time that I had worked for clinics. I find it very interesting to be able to use my knowledge to help people who need to regain their health.
What have you gained from this partnership?
FF At first, I was a bit surprised to see a large Group take an interest in Ayurveda. Pleasantly surprised! I had a very good relationship with Elior’s kitchen and support-function teams. This partnership has been very encouraging and allowed me to reach a greater number of people.
I did, however, have to adapt my recipes to the specific requirements of collective catering, as well as to material constraints and the type of products available. I also had to adapt to community cooking. In a retirement home for example, because chefs may have to cook for 80 people single-handed, I had to develop recipes that are not too complicated.