Chef to US Presidents: Use healing foods like this

Macrobiotics, or a diet of healing foods is more than a natural cancer cure. Consuming less meat and eggs has health benefits, says Chef Hidemasa Yamamoto.

President Ronald Reagan, George Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton – Chef Hidemasa Yamamoto has served them all. He cut his teeth working for the Jockey Club restaurant at Washington’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel, famous for hosting the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy.

 Chef to US Presidents: Use healing foods like this

Credit: Asian Food Channel

“I was a chef with the hotel so I oversaw the restaurant too,” he told Aerinlé at the sidelines of a recent health conference. “Every President comes to the restaurant after getting selected.”

The 60-year-old later founded Hide Yamamoto Worldwide and has spent the last three years at its Singapore restaurant, located at the glitzy Marina Bay Sands.

At work, customer satisfaction comes first. Sometimes, this means being liberal with ingredients that add to taste, Chef Yamamoto said.

Still, he is a strong believer in macrobiotics – a systematic approach towards healing foods to improve health – since mastering it at the leading Kushi Institute.

What does the healing diet involve?

Here is the institute’s recommended intake of different food types for people in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands:

 Chef to US Presidents: Use healing foods like this

Credit: Kushi Institute Global Dietary Guidelines
  • Meat, dairy and eggs are optional. Limit consumption to a few times per month
  • Whole cereal grains are the foundation of the macrobiotic diet
  • Vegetables, pickles and bean products should be consumed regularly

Compare this to the Health Promotion Board’s My Healthy Plate, where meat is a regular feature:

 Chef to US Presidents: Use healing foods like this

Credit: Health Promotion Board

Don’t fret if this seems like too big a change. Chef Yamamoto gave us some easy ways to improve health, based on the fundamentals of macrobiotics.

1) Spend less time eating out

Chef Yamamoto: Think about how many times you are eating out in a day, month or year. We usually consume more butter and oil when dining at restaurants, hawker centres and fast food joints. One of the causes of cancer is the accumulation of bad bacteria, salty and fatty foods. On the other hand, restaurants are very used to salt and strong taste. Cooking regularly can help you improve health.

2) Use local ingredients

Chef Yamamoto: A healing diet avoids the use of highly processed, instant and canned foods. As much as possible, consume food that comes from where you’re born. Try not to waste any part of it, including roots and skin as they are nutritious.

3) Eat sprouted brown rice

Chef Yamamoto: Brown rice is the main supplement and staple of macrobiotics. Other good ingredients include kelp, radish, lotus roots, Chinese cabbage, dried shiitake mushrooms, soy beans and miso paste. I love sprouted brown rice as it digests quickly and is easier to cook.

Bonus question: What’s preparing dinner for a President like?

Chef Yamamoto: Besides cooking, I was involved in planning the menu for delegation dinners that took months. It was quite hectic to choose and engineer the menus, as there was a lot of back and forth with board members of the White House. They’ll usually want to have a fancy dinner with sophisticated ingredients.

In the 1980s, they were asking for a menu with caviar and foie gras – things that no one ate at that time. It was my job to convince them otherwise. The most demanding dinner was President Clinton’s. Who was demanding? His wife was demanding. She wanted a menu without liquor and butter, but we managed anyway.

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