Posts Tagged ‘colin zhu’

Our grad Colin Zhu serving up omega-rich food at WellBeingMD Center

Our grad Dr. Colin Zhu serving up omega-rich food at WellBeingMD Center

“Alignment” can be defined as an “integration or harmonization of aims.” I use the term here more specifically to describe an interconnection of events that could not have happened to me otherwise, if I was not honest, open, aware and – most importantly – authentic with myself.

The series of events I refer to led up to my experience with Dr. John Principe, the creator and founder of WellBeingMD Center for Life in Palos Heights, Illinois.

Some doctors’ offices have nutritionists on board, some have chiropractors and physical therapists for rehabilitating patients, and some alternative practices work with an acupuncturist. However, few doctors’ offices, if any, boast what Dr. Principe’s office has – a professional teaching kitchen with hands-on cooking and demonstration classes, complete trainer-guided exercise programs ranging from Zumba to Tai Chi, as well as acupuncture, chiropractic and massage.

Did I mention the other side of this coin is a full medical practice? The two approaches, like Yin and Yang, form a unique recipe called the Roadmap to Wellness program, whose main goal is to help patients take back control of their health.

I had the distinct pleasure of working with Dr. Principe for four days at the end of November, after hearing about his unique practice in a New York Times article in April of this year.

Aware that I was a resident physician and a Natural Gourmet Chef’s Training graduate, Dr. Principe put me to work the very first day! I saw patients in the morning and, by the afternoon, I was making french omelets for the employee staff for lunch. This was a unique experience because I saw patients with chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, which could be prevented by preparing health-supportive meals.

By the second day, I was sautéing and roasting locally grown carrots and peppers in preparation for a Teach & Learn class on omega fatty acids. For this class, we prepared wild-caught Alaskan salmon and carrot bisque with kale-chia seed pesto on extra virgin olive oil-laced whole wheat baguette.

By the fourth night, we prepared and served a meal to the Emergency Medicine Journal Club of Christ Hospital. While it is certainly a privilege to teach patients the importance of healthy eating and living, it’s likewise an honor to share those concepts with colleagues as well. The menu:

  • Dr. P’s homemade marinated black olives with fresh bruschetta
  • Wild-caught, grilled Alaskan salmon with roasted whole wheat couscous on balsamic-glazed mixed greens
  • Red wine-poached pears with whipped ricotta cheese



Dr. Principe’s mission at WellBeingMD is to promote and educate about healthy and sustainable living so patients can take back their health. I was very blessed and fortunate to work and learn from him for that short time, and I know his pioneering vision is shared by many and is just the beginning. To learn more about Dr. Principe’s work and related topics:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtT6_1vtjzQ (Dr. Principe’s TEDx Talk)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2RNTsJpDfM (Kale-Chia Pesto Demonstration)


Colin Zhu with Dr. Principe (left)

Colin Zhu with Dr. Principe (left)

Read Full Post »


On October 15, Natural Gourmet Institute had the privilege to host Dr. Robert Graham, his wife Julie Graham (a certified holistic health coach), and 13 residents from New York’s Lenox Hill Hospital for a special, hands-on evening of healthy vegetarian cooking. The Grahams and NGI created the event to draw attention to the Meatless Mondays campaign and give doctors the knowledge and tools to treat common lifestyle illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity with healthy food choices and cooking techniques.

The evening kicked off with hors d’oeuvres and a meet-and-greet between the doctors and NGI staff. Then it was into the kitchen for the doctors to prepare a healthy, balanced vegetarian meal under the direction of NGI instructor Richard LaMarita, who designed the Italian-inspired menu.

Colin Zhu, a recent graduate of NGI’s Chef’s Training Program and first-year resident at CentraState Health Care System, introduced the evening’s recipes and talked about their health benefits and nutritional highlights. Chef Rich followed with a quick knife skills tutorial, and then the doctors teamed up to make a healthy, seasonal four-course meal.

The class was a resounding success and the first in a series where these internists, each committed to promoting the role food choices make in our health, will learn basic vegetarian cooking techniques they can share with patients.



Read Full Post »

Our grad, Colin Zhu (left) with another meditator dude

Colin Zhu recently graduated our Chef’s Training Program. If you’re talking about an integrative approach to health, he’s one of those people who walks the walk. Along with his Natural Gourmet credentials, Colin is a Doctor of Osteopathy (now in his residency), a certified health coach, and a competitive runner. Colin’s latest foray took him into the realm of meditation. He recently spent 10 days at the Vipassana Meditation Center where meditation, nature, and healthy food provided the ultimate mind-body-spirit experience. Here he shares his experiences with us . . .

Shelbourne, Massachusetts

June 19th, 2012

I had the good fortune to attend a 10-day meditation course at the Vipassana Meditation Center in Shelbourne, Massachusetts this past week. This retreat was located on a beautiful and serene ranch enveloped by thick brush (think of the movie Bambi and you’ll know what I mean). With its aesthetic lodging, echoing meditation halls and a newly constructed pagoda, this luscious locale invites the most dedicated meditators all year round.

Nineteen-hour days are filled with ten and a half hours of pure meditation. Interspersed throughout are two meal breaks and a tea break during the dinner hour. Because not much energy is expended during meditation; there is no necessity to eat in the evening.

In addition to sitting in one place, some light walking is encouraged but that is as much you are allowed to do. “Silence is golden” is finally understood as one finds no communication from the outside world is allowed, nor between each meditator, 24/7, for ten days straight. Mental silence is dependent on this.

The all-vegan meals (with optional dairy) were what I looked forward to. For breakfast, they had oatmeal served with stewed prunes, oranges and cinnamon; Chinese congee (porridge) with marinated tamari, seaweed and Chinese pickles; assorted local and seasonal fruits; sprouted breads; and my favorite . . . millet bread topped with apricot spread.

For lunch, there were tantalizing meals, including hearty miso soup with carrots and spinach; baked marinated tempeh with tamari, ginger and cilantro; red lentil dhal and curried vegetables; and non-dairy mac and cheese with nutritional yeast, to name a few. Each meal always had a raw item; a large bowl of organic mixed romaine and red lettuce serve with chickpeas, shredded carrots and shredded beets; and homemade dressings like lemon-tahini and sunflower-tamari – everything to satisfy even the most anxious meat eater. There were also atypical condiments such as miso, sunflower seeds, cinnamon, tumeric, daikon pickles and ground flax seeds.

The kitchen, where the magic happens

Interviewing the kitchen staff, I discovered the wondrous dedication of these volunteers, who simply gave their time to serve the meditators for each of these 10-day retreats. I was surprised there was no head chef, only volunteers with mixed, sometimes limited culinary backgrounds. According to staff, the original recipes followed Ayruvedic principles, wherein the four elements of earth, air, water and fire and their energies are absorbed in the act of eating, thus nourishing the meditator. Baking, steaming, sautéing were the cooking methods most commonly used; frying was the least used. Labels properly indicated the ingredients of each dish to cater to those with allergies and food sensitivities.

Attending a course like this, and having no previous experience in meditation, was like diving into Niagara Falls without knowing how to swim. However, as challenging as it was mentally, it instilled in me a sense of awareness and understanding of practical wisdom. For those who have not meditated, in its truest meaning it is mental training for the mind, especially living in today’s society. I came out wiser with the understanding of what love and compassion actually mean and the necessity to spread them to others.

Bhavatu Sabtu Mangalam (May all being be happy) – S.N. Goenkaiji

For more information on Vipassana meditation, visit: http://www.dhamma.org

Read Full Post »

NGI President Jenny Matthau, Chef Rich LaMarita, and grad Colin Zhu

Our Chef’s Training grad Colin Zhu was kind enough to report to us on NGI’s recent collaboration to teach a nutrition class with NY Coalition for Health School Food at PS 184 in Chinatown . . . 

On Friday, May 25, the Natural Gourmet Institute had the good fortune to do cooking demonstrations at P.S. 184, Shuang Wen Elementary School in Chinatown. The NGI team consisted of Chef Instructor Rich LaMarita, Chef’s Training Graduate Colin Zhu, Chef’s Training student Steven Stewart and NGI President Jenny Matthau.

NGI collaborated with Healthy School Food in teaching nutrition to two 5th grade classes. As each nutrition class ended, Colin and Steven assisted Chef Rich in the set-up of the food demonstration. As enthusiastic as the students were with each nutritional class, they could not help being totally enticed by what the chefs were preparing.

The NGI team made three dishes for the students: sticky brown rice cooked with coconut milk and star anise; black beans with onions, tomatoes, toasted cumin and oregano; and a hearty guacamole made with red onions, chopped Beefsteak tomatoes, cumin and cilantro served with crisp sticks of jicama.

During the presentation, Chef Rich displayed all the ingredients, talked about the unique origins of each food item, showed how to sauté the toppings for the black beans and how to make guacamole.

The students were eager to try each dish. Having just learned about macronutrients the class before, they were excited to have their senses amused by an actual cooking demo right in their own classrooms. The combination of nutrition class and a fantastic cooking demonstration created the perfect recipe for each student’s culinary curiosity.

Read Full Post »