Move over Zagat, Jared Koch is the founding member of the Clean Plate club
Jared Koch is a nutritional counselor, yoga teacher, enthusiastic diner, and now book author. The 39-year-old, who eats out five times a week in Manhattan (for pleasure and research), teamed up with restaurant reviewer Alex Van Buren to write Clean Plates NYC, a book on the city’s “most nutrient dense” dining experiences. (Dishes must have significant nutrients relative to their amount of calories.)
So alongside Angelica Kitchen, you’ll find Dirty Bird To-Go and Chipotle. The book is a Slow Food-style supplement to Zagat and comes with a code that allows you access to Koch’s ever expanding database of reviews. With Clean Plates NYC selling faster than warm bagels at Whole Foods, Koch is setting his sights on five other cities that will get the Clean Plates treatment. Clean Plates Cleveland? Why not.
Congrats on your new book Clean Plates? What inspired it?
I kept a running list of restaurants serving good quality food for my clients. They loved the practical advice. It made me think the book could be an asset to them and other New Yorkers, as well as a way I could change culture in a positive way.
Did you uncover any data about how often New Yorkers eat out or the insane amount of money we spend at restaurants?
Nothing specifically about New Yorkers, but I did learn that the Restaurant Industry Index is up post-Recession, so people are eating out now more than ever and cite it as one of the last things they’ll cut back on. In New York City, dining out is a unique part of culture for practical reasons. We have small kitchens ill suited for entertaining.
Your book is called Clean Plates but it’s about healthy dining, so why not Healthy Plates?
Clean Plateswas actually my first title idea, but we considered hundreds of others, until we finally came back to it. People have a negative response to the word “healthy” and we wanted to focus on the quality of the sourcing. The word “clean” speaks to that aspect as well as cleaning your plate because the food’s so good.
Whittling the restaurant list down to 75 must have been excruciating. How did you do it?
We considered hundreds, but ultimately worked with a list of 125 that met our criteria of serving delicious, well-sourced food. Alex and I ate at all of these and settled on the 75 best.
Suppose you end up at a restaurant like Artisanal and your dining companions order several pots of fondue. How do you walk that line of being healthy but not wanting to be a dining killjoy?
My philosophy is that you’re doing well if 80 percent of the time you’re eating high quality, nutritionally dense foods. The other 20 percent of the time you might find yourself in a less than optimal situation. Don’t stress about it. Just order the best thing on the menu. Always order leafy greens. That counteracts the bad stuff like the fondue, because the body needs nutrients to deal with the nutrient-deficient stuff that’s more taxing on the body.
What do you do about dessert?
Most of city’s top restaurants are still using refined sugar, which is too bad. A lot of the vegetarian places are doing a great job with agave nectar desserts, but the ingredient hasn’t hit the mainstream yet. A plate of fruit is always the best option, of course. But if you order the Death by Chocolate, make sure to enjoy it and, for portion control, share it!
What’s your favorite restaurant?
One of my favorites is Blue Hill—I love the whole experience. Telepan on the Upper West Side is another favorite for its tasty, simple food, and, for vegetarian food, Counter is doing a great job. They have a new chef and dessert chef.
Clean Plates, $18.95, is available at www.cleanplatesnyc.com
Do you have any nominees for the Clean Plate club? Share your favorite nutrient-dense dining experiences, here!