Chef Alan Roettinger inspires Summit County to eat healthier through vegan cooking
Ryan Summerlin December 3, 2013
Only you can control exactly what goes into your food, and you can do that by preparing it yourself.
This is the message that author and chef Alan Roettinger conveys through his books. Roettinger will be a guest at The Next Page bookstore in Frisco on Saturday, Nov. 30, to sign and speak about his three cookbooks, “Speed Vegan,” “Extraordinary Vegan” and “Omega 3 Cuisine.”
Personal chef turned author
Roettinger didn’t immediately launch into a career in the culinary arts.
“There was a French chef who once said, ‘You don’t choose this profession; it chooses you,’” he said. “I always enjoyed cooking, and at one point, I was out of job. I’d been painting houses and someone needed a cook, so I cooked for him, and one thing led to another, and I was cooking for millionaires and making quite a decent living.”
Before becoming a chef to the stars in Los Angeles, Roettinger grew up in Mexico — but his parents never ate Mexican food.
“I’d get home from school, and we’d have a big meal in the middle of the day,” he said. “It was always a big, boring American meal.”
Once the plates were cleared away, the maids would take over the kitchen to make their own meals. Here was where Roettinger started to pay attention to the food.
“That was really exciting stuff,” he said. “So I developed an affinity for exotic food and interesting things to eat.”
After being a personal chef for more than 30 years, Roettinger’s work in Los Angeles was winding down and it became harder to find positions. His wife took a job in Colorado Springs, and the two sold their house and moved to Palmer Lake.
“I was trying to keep up my profession, and I had some jobs that mostly I had to leave town to do — people would fly me out for a week or two weeks or longer — and then a good friend of mine asked me to write a cookbook for people to understand how to use an oil that he developed that contained omega 3 and omega 6.”
Roettinger agreed, and his first book, “Omega 3 Cuisine,” was hugely successful, selling 11,000 copies in the first few months.
“He gave me another project, and he said, ‘Speed vegan, vegan recipes in 30 minutes or less,’” Roettinger said. “I was used to being told what my parameters were by wealthy people — we eat this and we don’t eat that. It’s just another set of parameters for me.”
His most recent book, “Extraordinary Vegan,” came out at the beginning of October, and it will be followed up in March or April with another book he is co-authoring that has a tentative working title of “Paleo Vegan.”
Practicing the art
More than an author or even a chef, Roettinger considers himself a food designer.
“I don’t just throw it together,” he said. “I put some thought into it and really design it — something that appeals to the senses and the intellect — and someone will go, ‘Wow, I wonder how he did that.’”
When faced with the daunting task of engineering recipes that are flavorful and fit the parameters given to him, the author said that it’s easy, and ultimately, the challenge is always your own mind.
“If you have it in your head that it’s difficult, then you perceive that it’s difficult,” he said. “But really, all cooking — whether it’s vegan, omnivore, meats — it’s all about following your predilection. Whatever it is that you enjoy, that thrills your palate.”
Says the man who’s been practicing his craft for 30 years.
“I could understand how it would be a challenge for someone who has never cooked,” he said. “But once you get a few basic techniques down, and it isn’t really hard at all, then automatically you start to imagine, what if I mixed this with this or that with this or added some wine, and you’ll automatically start thinking along those lines. It’s really not challenging at all; it’s fun, it’s play.”
Controlling your health
Despite the ease with which Roettinger approaches cooking, something that isn’t always such a graceful task for others, he confirmed that the average person could collect all of the ingredients and make all of the dishes in his books.
The ultimate reason to bring cooking back to your home is that only you can control what you eat, and Roettinger said that he hopes his books inspire people to do just that.
“The only way to get healthy, healthy food is to cook it at home,” he said. “(When you eat at a restaurant), they aren’t doing it for their health; your health isn’t in their mind. They are all about profit or, some of them, fame, being praised, but the bottom line is they have to make money; you don’t know what they’re doing back there.”
At home, you’re the only one there and you can decide what goes into your food and get the freshest ingredients, Roettinger said.
“If organic is better, you buy organic,” he said. “If you have kids and you involve them, you might get kids to eat things they might not otherwise.”
Whether someone is vegan or not, everyone can benefit from eating more fruits, vegetables and other plant-based foods, Roettinger said, and discovering new recipes can be an adventure for your taste buds, one he plans to continue to pursue.
“After I’m dead, people will still be able to make my food, and that’s exciting to me,” Roettinger said. “Everybody likes to eat well, and when you eat something you haven’t had before, your palate really enjoys it. And then, hopefully, they’ll go on to cook more and more and more.
“This is my way of helping world peace,” he said with a laugh.
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