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Celebrity Health - Dale Pinnock

A photo of Dale Pinnock

The medicinal chef

Liz Parry talks to TV chef and nutrition expert Dale Pinnock about the importance of healthy eating and how a little of what you fancy can do you good…

Q: You are becoming increasingly well known as TV’s ‘medicinal chef,’ thanks to regular appearances on Lorraine and The Alan Titchmarsh Show. How did you first become interested in nutrition and how it can benefit our health?

Dale: "My interest came about as a result of my own health challenges. From the age of about 11 or 12 I started getting really bad acne and I went to see several doctors and specialists but nothing really made much of a difference. I tried every type of potion and lotion you can imagine. Then, my friend’s mum lent me a book called Fit for Life by Harvey Diamond. I read it from cover to cover, changed my diet and started noticing a real difference in my health. From then on I became obsessed – I must have read over 1,000 books on nutrition. I went to university and did my first degree in human nutrition followed by a degree in herbal medicine and I’ve completed a post graduate degree in nutritional medicine."

Q: How did you train as a chef?

Dale: "I trained on the job. Whilst I was at university I worked in everything from hotel kitchens to gastro pubs to actually running kitchens first hand. I did everything from salads to working the grill."

Q: What sort of meals do you enjoy cooking for yourself?

Dale: "I tend to go through phases where I eat a lot of the same types of food for weeks on end. At the moment I’m obsessed with slow roasted salmon and feta cheese salads with honey and mustard dressing. I must have had that for lunch every day for a fortnight! It all tends to be things that are relatively quick unless I’m having a dinner party. I like a lot of one-pot wonders, curries, soups and vegetable dishes."

Q: Where do you get your inspiration from for your recipes? Do you travel a lot?

Dale: "Yes I’ve travelled quite a bit and I do find that inspires me. I lived in Malaysia and Japan for a while and I’ve had a lot of holidays in the Mediterranean. A lot of my friends are Gujarati so they’ve taught me how to cook good Indian food. Sometimes I’ll be inspired by a really good meal that I’ve had in a restaurant – I’ll be thinking of ways to tweak it and make it healthier."

Q: Do you always tend to eat healthily or do you allow yourself the occasional naughty treat?

Dale: "Oh it’s important to have a bit of what you fancy otherwise you’ll go mad. On a Friday night I’ll open a bottle of wine, chill out and have a curry – you’ve got to do that every now and again. But unfortunately for a lot of people in this country, they’ve got it the wrong way round. They drink alcohol several nights a week, make bad food choices and every now and then they’ll have a salad because they think they should. It’s important to always make sure you eat well but occasionally allow yourself something you fancy. That won’t have a negative impact on your health."

Q: What advice would you give to people who don’t enjoy cooking or find it a chore but wish they could eat more healthily?

Dale: "Just start learning how to make a few basic dishes and go from there. It’s not difficult to learn how to cook. You don’t have to suddenly become Heston Blumenthal, making things like exploding snail porridge! It’s about learning simple techniques that will allow you to make the most of good, fresh ingredients that taste really exciting. For example, roasted vegetables with quinoa and grilled halloumi is a really simple dish to make and it tastes incredible."

Q: Do you have any particular favourites among your recipes?

Dale: "That’s like asking me to choose between my children! The flu fighter soup is dynamite – there’s nothing else quite like it, flavour-wise. The red lentil and coconut dhal is absolutely incredible – it’s a wonderful fusion dish. The beetroot and pea risotto with mint and feta cheese is pretty special. It’s very bizarre but very nice!"

Q: Do you balance your good eating habits with regular exercise?

Dale: "Yes, I exercise six days a week. I follow a fitness DVD programme called P90X. It’s a combination of bodyweight exercises, free weights, plyometric cardio, a bit of yoga and body combat. It’s pretty insane but it keeps me in good shape!"

Q: What do you do to relax?

Dale: "If I have a bit of spare time I’ll go fishing. It’s good to be in nature and get away from all the stresses of everyday life. I live in the countryside so I like to go out walking through the fields and public bridleways that run through the farm lands."

Q: Are you enjoying appearing on TV and radio?

Dale: "I love it – it’s really good fun! But more importantly it’s the perfect platform to get this kind of information out there. There needs to be a figurehead for healthy eating within the mass media. The response we got from my first few appearances was just fantastic. I’m definitely planning to do more TV and radio both in the UK and in the US. It’s a great way of educating people and getting across the message that eating healthily can be easy and fun."

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