Hailing from Sydney’s northern beaches, and well-known for mastering his kitchen skills on a popular cooking show, Dan Churchill is no ordinary overnight success. A self-taught cook since the age of 12, when his dad made a cooking roster for him and his two brothers, his passion for health has flourished ever since. According to Dan, his meals started as “rubbish”, but with a little help from Jamie Oliver’s programs, everyone in the family started to look forward to his weekly dishes.
Fast forward a few years and Dan is pinching himself that he’s been able to make a career of his passions, teaching nutrition and cooking, writing cookbooks and working with athletes and sports teams. “I’m a healthy individual, true to my heart, and I love that way of life,” he tells us.
Why is exercise important to your healthy lifestyle?
“Fitness keeps my head straight; it’s a part of my daily life because it keeps me happy. Every morning, if I’m not in the gym, I’m out paddling in the water. The rest of the day gets busy and I feel so much more articulate if I’ve worked out already.”
Your blog is full of healthy ideas, fitness tips and yummy recipes. What’s the core message?
“I just want to educate people on cooking and how to achieve the best of health. I think it’s important to pare healthy cooking back to being absolutely happy; that’s the biggest indicator of how healthy you are. If you’ve got a healthy lifestyle and you’re enjoying what you’re doing, that’s what it’s about.”
What’s a good starting point for healthy cooking?
“It’s important to know what’s going into your food, to cook with lots of colour and less refined sugars. But it’s not about restricting yourself, because going out to dinner provides a lot of positive social interactions and that’s healthy for you too. Physically, as well, it’s great, because the happy hormone, serotonin, is released when you have that chocolate brownie for dessert. If you don’t have occasional sweet treats, I actually think it’s bad... as long as there’s balance.”
There’s lots of colour and no sugar in your latest book, The Healthy Cook ($39.95), tell us about it.
“The recipes in my new book include no refined sugars, are mostly gluten-free and showcase how healthy cooking is absolutely delicious and achievable. And that’s the whole point. I wanted to write a book that wasn’t overwhelming, but more of a guide for the home cook who wants to be a little healthier.”
It doesn’t look like your average cookbook…
“It’s actually the first book in the world of its kind, as it has an application called Layar - you can download it from the App or Play stores. I wanted not only a picture for each recipe but, on top of that, the ability to have someone demonstrating a few aspects of the dish or sometimes the whole dish, in the kitchen with you, through a video. It’s a simple way of using your smartphone or tablet to work with the recipes, but, unfortunately, they have to put up with my voice the whole time!”
When you’re in a friend’s kitchen, what’s the ultimate dish to make for them?
“Fish tacos! The secret is really clean, fresh flavours – don’t overdo it with heavy sauces. Start with homemade tortillas, local fish and some pico de gallo, a salsa made with beautiful tomatoes, crunchy cucumbers, squeeze of lemon juice, a touch of olive oil, chopped coriander, chilli, salt and pepper and you’ve got a tasty taco! When you’re putting that in your mouth, you’re doing alright.”
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