The Spartan Podcast

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by Hannah Watts

When it comes to food, the holidays are usually all about tradition. Michigan State University’s award-winning corporate top chef, Kurt Kwiatkowski, outlines the evolution of food on campus and some of the best ways to enjoy holiday favorites with a twist.

Typically a holiday meal involves one main entree and few small sides, but Kwiatkowski is seeing an increase in the amount and array of hors devours and side dishes.

“You don’t always have to cook a whole turkey or a whole ham,” he says. “You can just do the turkey breast, scale down the portions and try new spices. I think you’re making your food more exciting and more fun that way.”

With recipes dominated by glazes, sauces, sugars and syrups it can be difficult to eat healthy during the holiday season. For those looking to maintain balance in their holiday meals, Kwiatkowski emphasizes alternative cooking methods, vegetable-based side dishes and hors devours.

“You could oven roast your sweet potatoes and add brussel sprouts as a side,” he says. “Hors devours could be something as simple as shrimp cocktail or a dip. It doesn’t have to be a big bite.”

Offering hors devours before a meal can also help prevent overeating and promote portion control.

“Sometimes it’s the build up,” he says. “People come over and you’re waiting around to eat and you’re holding off. Then when it’s time to eat you have a little too much. A few little snacks ahead of time can help satiate that.”

As far as wine and spirits, Kwiatkowski recommends Michigan wines, craft beers and seasonal beers.

“I look for things that have good acid to them,” he says. “Michigan makes good bone-dry rieslings. The acidity plays well with a lot of different foods.”

Hand washing as well as sanitizing cooking areas and utensils are key to staying safe and healthy during food preparation. Kwiatkowski also gives general guidelines for saving leftovers.

1. Don’t let food sit out for more than a couple hours.
2. When refrigerating or freezing leftovers, make sure the air is out of the bag or container to prevent bacteria build up and mold.
3. When kept in a refrigerator, proteins like meats are good up to four days after preparation and vegetables can be consumed in up to five or six days.
4. Freezers offer up to 90 days of shelf life for leftovers.
5. When in doubt, throw it out.

Kwiatkowski gives words of advice to those who want to be chef or work in the culinary industry.

” Be ready to work really hard. Chefs have been brought into the limelight and given a sort of “rock star” status by the Food Network shows, but it’s not always that easy. It’s a long road. But if you have a passion for it, it’s easy.”

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