Wednesday night, Natalie Schibell, chef and owner of the Chef ‘n’ You LLC — a nutrition consulting company based in Stamford — gave a demonstration at , Stamford's physician-owned by-appointment fitness cente. The evening session was the second in a three-part series focused on healthy cooking techniques that anyone can apply in their own kitchen.
As she chopped and stirred preparing a Creole Jambalaya, Schibell joked about the challenges of cooking live with a friendly, almost folksy, style. Her personality perfectly suited to teaching others — part chef and part storyteller, working without the magic of television where perfect pots of rice appear on cue.
“It's not easy. Rachael Ray almost burned down the Food Network during her audition,” Schibell said with a smile.
A graduate of Culinary Institute of America, Schibell has launched her business while working on her Masters in public health through a Health Services College Scholarship from the US Navy. After graduation, she will spend three years on active duty, working as an Environmental Health Officer stationed at a Naval Hospital and working to ensure that food inspections, sanitation practices, water quality are up to standards.
“She was in ROTC during undergrad and then she was told she was colorblind,” Dr. Heather Gansel, founder and owner of CORE Studio, said. “She went to CIA and low and behold, it led her back to the military…it’s very rare that you see someone who has a goal and you can see how it’s been shadowing them the whole time, then it pops out and presents itself. It’s been a journey.”
CORE Studio — sometimes dubbed “Stamford’s Best Kept Secret” — is a fitness center that incorporates one-on-one training, group classes, chiropractic practice, and classes, like healthy cooking, focused on overall health and wellness.
“Cooking is not an exact science like baking,” Schibell continued. “In baking, if it says a half-cup of flour, you better measure it out.”
Schibell uses a bench scraper to clear her cutting board and quickly scoop her chopped vegetables into her pot. While she operates mainly with her hands and her chef’s knife, she does advocate the use of a garlic press to speed the process along.
In turning Creole Jambalaya into a healthy dish, Schibell substitutes olive oil for butter and flour and uses a lower-fat andouille sausage. She employed the trio of green peppers, onions, and celery to capture that signature Creole flavor.
"Read your labels," Schibell said. "When you buy tomato paste, make sure there's no corn syrup added. Concentrated tomato, that should be your only ingredient."
For Gansel, offering an opportunity for cooking classes is just another way to create a complete experience for her clients. Since launching CORE Franchising, two more locations in Connecticut are works in progress, with many more on the way. Clients have brought their friends to Schibell’s classes and taken the opportunity to learn from the pro.
“They ask questions about how to modify things for food allergies — a lot of our clients have those concerns,” Gansel said.
The next healthy cooking demonstration at CORE will be held on August 17 at 7 pm and the cost is $15 including food sampling and wine pairing. Call (203) 322-9299 to learn more and to reserve a place in the class.