We caught up with the chef Hollywood’s celebrities choose – Chef Kate McAloon – to discuss what it’s like cooking for the stars, her favourite dishes and her Australia-New Zealand tour.
When did you know you wanted to be a chef and how did you come to be the celebrity chef?
I realised at a young age that I had an innate gift for creating food and loved eating things that were delicious and even a bit on the exotic side. My mother also had this gift and I am sure my intuitive cooking style was passed down to me from her. I didn’t plan to become a chef, or ever try to get any of my celebrity clients – they came to me because the word got around that I could cook healthy, great tasting food. Out of a need to have an income and a passion for food, Chef Kate was born.
I cooked for my first celebrity clients, Megan Mullally (Will and Grace) and her husband Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation) in 2005 on the island of Kauaii, Hawaii
when they were on holiday. Megan and Nick asked me to come to Los Angeles to cook for them because their current personal chef was leaving to open her own restaurant. I packed up and headed to LA, which led me to cook for my star-studded client list and enjoy many cooking adventures with the rich and famous. I really feel I was ‘given’ my celebrity clients for a reason, and if it helps to reach others on their path to healthy eating and living a joyful life, so be it! Now it’s my turn to give back by sharing some of the knowledge I have gleaned from my years of cooking.
What are your cooking philosophies? Do you believe in a specific diet or eating plan?
Listening to my body and being flexible are two very important keys for me that help me to have balance not only with my diet, but in all areas of my life. I’m sharing my eating plan, not as a strict ‘diet’, but to give you an idea of a place to start. I don’t always stick exactly to my plan, but it is my guideline and I encourage you to find what feels right for your own body.
I find what works best for me is having about 20–30% high-quality protein and at least 50–70% vegetables (including sea vegetables like seaweed and algae), and 10–20% grains. Often I’ll skip the grains and choose more veggies, including lots of raw ones. Eating a little something every 2–3 hours helps to keep my energy, concentration and blood sugar levels stable. Eating smaller portions with lots of nutrition more regularly is my rule of thumb. When I stick to this eating plan I feel really good, however, I am a chef who loves great tasting food and enjoys eating out and trying new dishes! So the 80/20 or 70/30 rule is what I go by (70–80% really healthy and 20–30% a bit more indulgent). Realistically, we are all going to slip from our chosen dietary plans if we can get away with it. The trick I find is to come back to my plan as soon as possible and never beat myself up for momentary delicious distractions.
What is your favourite meal to cook?
Wild caught salmon is at the top of my list, served with roasted root vegetables and sautéed broccoli with garlic and a little culinary lemon oil. It’s a simple yet really delicious meal that’s quick and easy to prepare. I .also make my Fragrant Indian or Thai Green Curry all the time with Lemongrass Rice or Quinoa. Adding a drop or two of lemongrass and/or lemon culinary oils adds a great flavour and zing to the rice and curries.
What is your favourite ingredient to cook with?
I have several foods I love to cook with but what’s number one with me is fresh, local ingredients and certified organic whenever possible…and I never forget to add the most important part…a dash of joy! I also find that adding a drop or two of Young Living Culinary Essential Oil really brings a beautiful freshness to the dishes and drinks I create.
What’s the most popular recipe or dish among your celebrity clients?
There are two favourite dishes that have been most requested with my clients. My Fragrant Indian Curry is mild (unless they like it spicy) and is a big hit with most of my clients including Orlando Bloom, and the Kerr family, including Miranda. The curry can be vegetarian/vegan or I often add chicken or prawns. My clients also loved my Chicken and Herb Spread which is great on cucumber slices as an appetiser or severed on salad greens as a light main dish. I have also made my Coconut Chocolate Fudge Bites for several clients and served them at a few events I catered for Miranda Kerr…they are delicious, nutritious and easy to create!
How do you cook for your celebrity clients? Do you work with them to create menus, or do you surprise them?
Every client is different, except they have all have had one thing in common – they all love healthy and flavoursome food. I start by asking them their dietary needs, the foods they avoid or prefer not to eat, and the foods they love. I also share my cookbook, The Flavour of Joy, with them so they can pick recipes, and I make other suggestions that aren’t in my book too. Then I make a menu for them to look at and we tweak it if needed or sometimes they just let me surprise them.
I cooked for Courteney Cox and David Arquette for four years for their Sunday Gatherings where we would have anywhere from 15 to 50 guests…they were lots of fun and I never knew who would turn up…I would create a rough menu and then would make several dishes on the spot depending on the number of guests. I also really enjoyed the three years I working for Spielberg family. I would come to their homes a couple of times a week and cook food for them. We would make a menu and then create several dishes they could enjoy throughout the week. Sometimes I cooked for their parties too.
Do you have a favourite celebrity to cook with?
Each client has been wonderful and it’s been such a great experience cooking for all of them. Miranda Kerr was a pleasure to create healthy food for and she loves to cook. I loved the Spielberg kitchens and Kate Capshaw loves great food and cooking…she always had great menu ideas and would often help pick recipes and ask me to add my own special flavour twist to them. That was a joy!
Can you tell us a little about your cookbook, The Flavour of Joy?
I am very excited to have just released the hard-cover version of The Flavour of Joy ,full of delicious nourishing recipes. There are celebrity client’s favourite dishes, funny kitchen mishap anecdotes, and inspirational stories of some of my amazing journeys in life and the lesson I’ve gleaned along life’s adventurous path.
What are Young Living Culinary Oils, and how do you incorporate them into your recipes?
Young Living Oils Australia have recently named me their Australian Culinary Oils Ambassador. I am having so much fun creating fabulous flavours using their oils in my dishes and drinks, and doing cooking demos/classes sharing how to use the oils. Young Living Oils has 35 essential oils that can be added to food or beverages as a completely natural, plant-based flavour enhancer. They add vitality and really give drinks and dishes an extra burst of deliciousness! They are really versatile and so easy to use…but remember a little goes a long way, so start with 1 drop and add more to taste. I like to directly add the oils into my dishes or drinks that aren’t going to be cooked, but when I add them to recipes I often add a little before cooking or baking for flavour, then I do what I call ‘Finishing with a culinary oil’.
One of your main ethos is spreading joy through food. How do you incorporate joy into your life on a daily basis?
Joy is really important to me, and making time for doing things that bring it on is key to my wellbeing! I love the sea and snorkelling in warm, crystal-clear water. Australia has so many beautiful beaches and I feel very grateful to be here. I also find great joy in making and sharing delicious healthy food around a beautiful table with friends. Travel is very big on my list too and so is trying great restaurants, cafes and new recipes.
You have been touring Australia doing cooking demo events and cooking class parties. Where is your next stop so readers can jump on board?
My next stop is Auckland, New Zealand for the launch of Young Living Oils on 2–4 March. I’ve been to Auckland a few times and love it there, and Wellington too. I want to see more of NZ – it’s such a beautiful county and the people are lovely. I’ll be Perth in March, the Gold Coast and Adelaide in May and Cairns area June/July doing cooking with Young
Living Culinary Oils demo events. I’ll be sharing the dates on my Facebook and Instagram. I would love to come back to New Zealand and do some cooking events too!
Tell us a little about your Cooking Class parties.
These are really fun! There’s usually a group of 8 to 12 people, hosted at someone’s home with their friends and family. There are menus for brunches, dinners, special diets and more. I make a signature cocktail (or mocktail) for the event and make menu suggestions. Then set a menu with the dietary requests and needs in mind. I’ll do the shopping or sometimes take some of the guests along to the markets. Then I demonstrate how to create the dishes, with guests helping if they like. Then we EAT, chat and just enjoy! I love to travel and cook so I’ll go just about anywhere to do these classes especially somewhere with great beaches!
For more information about Chef Kate visit: www.theflavourofjoy.com