Insight News

Feb 09th

chefs working to create low-fat soul food

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Imagine collard greens minus the jowl bacon. Chitterlings served without a heaping helping of black-eyed peas. Hog without the maw. Sound like a culinary oxymoron. Or is it? Imagine collard greens minus the jowl bacon. Chitterlings served without a heaping helping of black-eyed peas. Hog without the maw.

Sound like a culinary oxymoron. Or is it?

Can these traditional grease-laden meals really be prepared in a healthier way? Soul food, after all, is supposed to actually feed the soul. How can Sunday dinner staples such as fried corn, neck bones and fried potatoes really satisfy the palate if tampered with?

Orin Moore, owner of Emma’s Café, has just the recipe to satisfy even the most health-conscious soul food connoisseur. And he has a personal testimony to boot.

It began about 16 months ago, when Moore learned he was suffering from cardiomyopathy, a very serious heart ailment. Simultaneously, he was diagnosed with diabetes. Only 36-years-old, he weighed his options and realized a decision needed to be made very quickly.
Moore chose to live.

After successful heart-transplant surgery at Medical City in Dallas, he was forced to revamp his overall lifestyle habits. His mission was now to live as actively and therapeutically as possible. Thus began his new life approach that he has adhered to at his restaurant.

Under the care of cardiologistonnie Floyd, Moore exercises regularly and eats healthy. As a result, his daily intake of about 20 pills is down from a high of 40. He’s also lost 40 pounds since the surgery.

This new attitude easily transcended into his cooking. The Dallas native has been cooking since he was practically a toddler. At three-years-old, he was in his grandmother’s pots and pans. By six, he had baked his first cake.

Emma’s Café opened Feb. 22 and is named after Moore’s grandmother. The restaurant offers traditional soul food, as well as a healthier alternative: low-fat menu options for those who, like Moore, seek an equitable solution to the ongoing battle of taste vs. nutrition.
The catalyst, says Moore, was his discovery of Cooking Light magazine. Although that publication typically doesn’t feature soul food per se, it provided him the idea of preparing soul food that was hearty yet healthy.
But the question lingers about the feasibility of preparing down-home delights that would meet a nutritionist’s seal of approval.

In fact, Moore’s philosophy is that any food that is usually fried also can be prepared in other ways.

For example, the restaurant offers a fried catfish entrée that is low in sodium. Yes, it is still fried. But the salt content is significantly reduced.

In many instances, ground beef can be substituted with ground turkey. Some of the other alternative meals include grilled pork chops and tender rotisserie chicken prepared without butter or oil.
“I actually prefer grilling and baking over frying,” explains Moore.

For those entrees that simply must be fried, however, he makes sure to use only canola oil. Furthermore, he is meticulous about changing the frying oil every three days.

So are people buying the idea of “healthy” soul food?
“We’ve got more community support now,” he said.

Moore also is proud that his clientele is very diverse. Most people become aware of Emma’s Café via old-fashioned word of mouth, but recent exposure on the locally produced television show, “Metro,” also has brought recognition to Moore and his mission.

On a larger scale, Moore is receiving national exposure in an Office Depot ad campaign that features minority business owners.

One of the keys to his restaurant’s success is that everything is made fresh to order.
“You may have a longer wait time,” said Moore, “but it is worth the wait.”

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