After 20 years as chef de cuisine at The Marine Room, Oliver recently became executive chef at Luna Grill, where he is in charge of menu development. If you’ve driven by a Luna Grill (there will be 50 by the end of March) and assumed they were just another fast-food outlet, you’d be wrong. Founded by Sean and Maria Pourteymour in 2004, Luna Grill is a fast-casual family-owned chain that serves Mediterranean cuisine based on non-GMO, preservative-free, antibiotic-free ingredients, often including locally harvested produce. The menu includes spicy feta, freshly made falafel, quinoa tabbouleh, a variety of salads, chicken kabobs, halal lamb kabobs, gyros wraps and even a grass-fed burger.
Oliver considers healthy eating a way of eating that benefits both people and the planet, not a diet. His eyes were opened at age 18 during his first kitchen job in Los Angeles, where he met a guy from Bolivia who taught him about organic, sustainable agriculture. In fact, it’s where he discovered quinoa at a time when it was first being introduced in the U.S.
Oliver and Maria Pourteymour also have some tips for more healthful but non-deprivation eating:
- Liberally use lemon juice as a salt replacement. It adds flavor to chicken, vegetables and fish.
- Liberally use herbs and spices to add depth to any dish. Sumac is a favorite of both chefs — what Pourteymour describes as a “hidden treasure.” Sprinkle it on rice or a salad. Add it to meatloaf. Oliver is a fan of whole cumin seed, both for its flavor and crunchy texture. He also suggests allspice and cloves.
- Use tahini or tzatziki as dressings for salads or sauces for proteins and roasted vegetables.
- Instead of croutons, add toasted garbanzo beans to top a salad or other dish. Soak dry beans overnight, then toss olive oil and fry for 25 minutes (or roast at 300 degrees until golden brown and crispy, shaking every 10 minutes). Drain and season with sumac.
Read the full article by San Diego Union Tribune here.