Often, escaping the daily grind for some R & R means ditching the diet in favor of more indulgent options. Fortunately, Canyon Ranch, an all-inclusive health resort and spa destination in Tucson, is making vacations guilt free one plate at a time. Through a string of culinary initiatives and well-thought-out menus, Canyon Ranch promotes healthy cooking and eating for its guests, during their stays and beyond. “There is so much done behind the scenes, so when you arrive at Canyon Ranch, the work is done for you,” says Corporate Chef Scott Uehlein, who oversees the culinary vision across each of Canyon Ranch’s properties. “Whether you are coming for a spa day or you are coming for an entire week, you can feel good about what you are eating and have confidence in the fact that it is good for you.”
Recently, AFM sat down with Chef Uehlein to discuss Canyon Ranch’s culinary evolution, health-conscious motivations and desire to arm guests with tools to eat healthy for life.
What is your culinary passion and how does that meld into Canyon Ranch?
I am a Culinary Institute of America graduate, so I learned the classics. Probably, the pivotal experience in my career was when I studied in Napa Valley at a school run by Madeleine Kamman. That’s when I really learned about flavors and the pairing of food and wine. In reality, pairing food and wine is very similar to balancing and building flavors for healthy food. When the opportunity came along in the late 1990s for me to join Canyon Ranch, I felt like it was a great chance to apply what I was passionate about, which was (and still is) great flavors, in a setting where food is designed to be good for people.
Has healthy cooking always been a priority at Canyon Ranch?
Yes, it definitely has. Of course, to lose weight, you have to control what you eat, so healthy food and health-conscious culinary options have always been key cornerstones of Canyon Ranch.
How has the food philosophy at Canyon Ranch changed over the years?
Throughout the years, food has been an integral part of the Canyon Ranch experience, though it has changed considerably. We are really much more about a healthy lifestyle now, as opposed to being a place for the quick fix of weight loss.
How is the menu at Canyon Ranch crafted?
So there are actually three areas involved in our culinary development. The nutrition department sets the guidelines, the food development department has their eye on where the food comes from and I am the one who executes the culinary vision.
There needs to be a balance of nutrition in each dish, so, for example, our nutritionists will dictate that a particular dish needs to meet certain calorie requirements or needs a certain amount of protein or fat content. So, we as chefs, have nutritional guidelines for any and every food category at Canyon Ranch, from appetizers to entrées, salads and soups to desserts, and everything in between. I live within those guidelines. They build the sandbox, I play in the sandbox and as long as I don’t kick sand outside the sandbox, we peacefully coexist.
How do you source the ingredients that go into Canyon Ranch’s recipes?
We have a very strict, clean and healthy mantra and that means the food has to be free of preservatives and we monitor the environmental working group and the sustainability of where our ingredients come from. This is important to us because the ingredients we buy ultimately impact what is on the plate that ends up in front of the guest.
In addition to nutrition consciousness, Canyon Ranch promotes year-round wellness through hands-on cooking classes and culinary demonstrations. Why is it important for Canyon Ranch to provide these types of take-home strategies?
We want guests that come to Canyon Ranch to take what they have learned home with them and be able to apply it to their real lives. We have chefs at each Canyon Ranch property dedicated to the demonstration kitchen. Guests come in at lunchtime [for our complimentary Lunch and Learn series], sit in our demonstration kitchen and watch their lunch be prepared. So not only do you eat and enjoy a meal, but you learn how it is prepared.
We also have private and semi-private cooking classes in the afternoons [that showcase different skills and techniques] from day to day. We encourage people to cook at home, not to say that you cannot eat out, but it is all about moderation not deprivation. Guests have access to 95 percent of the recipes that they actually enjoy at Canyon Ranch, so if they like something they can get the recipe and prepare it at home. We want people to be able to take the recipes home, prepare them and enjoy the process. The hands-on cooking classes are certainly a way to do that.
Tucson or Phoenix Resident Special at Canyon Ranch
Want to try the menu at Canyon Ranch for yourself? Tucson and Phoenix area residents can enjoy an exclusive 25 percent savings on two nights, plus a $135 allowance for Canyon Ranch’s spa and wellness services. Guests who stay longer can enjoy 20 percent off the rest of their vacation, with service allowances that increase based on the length of stay. The Tucson or Phoenix Resident Special runs though September 27, 2012.
To Learn More
Canyon Ranch, 800.742.9000, www.canyonranch.com/tucson.