For those in the Menus of Change community, Walter Willett is a familiar figure: The chair of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, as well as the chair of the Menus of Change Scientific and Technical Advisory Council, he is the single most cited nutritionist in the world. What only a few people know about him is his unique habit as a restaurant patron: He often requests that a special dessert be made from just three simple ingredients.
Dr. Willett’s “Three Pleasures” are nuts, fruit, and dark chocolate. Not only does he find these three foods delicious and every bit the treat one would expect from dessert; they happen to be extremely healthy choices. He says, “from a large amount of research we know that nuts, fruit (fresh or dried), and dark chocolate are some of the healthiest foods we could eat.” When journalist Mary Beth Durkin heard this story, she thought it would make a great article for the National Geographic food blog, The Plate. (For those of you who attended the 2016 Menus of Change Leadership Summit or watched the webcast, you heard on stage that Dr. Willett’s dessert quirk caught the attention of General Session V moderator Allison Aubrey of NPR, and quite a few others as well.)
For the National Geographic piece, entitled “Rethinking Dessert,” Durkin worked with the CIA to gather some inspiration. Three CIA chefs--Stephan Weber, Todd Knaster, and Zachary Miller--rose to the challenge. And in Dr. Willett’s word, their creations were “spectacular.”
We encourage you to join the challenge! Here are the rules:
- Create a plated dessert using dark chocolate, nuts, and fresh or dried fruit (only)
- Use no sugar (beyond what’s in the dark chocolate), flour, or processed ingredients(that would defeat the purpose)
- Keep the dessert as “pure” as possible
- Post on Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #3ForDessert and tagging @NatGeoFood. And please tag @CIACulinary, too, so we can share your inspiration!
The larger implication for the foodservice industry is the potential to shift the cultural standards in our country for what constitutes dessert. “If enough people ask for the ‘Three Pleasures,’ we will see this as a regular fixture on dessert menus,” Dr. Willett says. If the CIA chefs’ delicious dessert concepts are any indication of what’s ahead, diners may very well find pleasure in these particular menus of change.
Pictured above are the Three Pleasures created by the CIA chefs. They are, from top to bottom: 1) From Chef Zachary Miller, lecturing instructor, Baking and Pastry Arts at American Bounty in Hyde Park: Frozen chocolate tea “snow,” made with Earl Grey tea and dark chocolate, pecan purée, chocolate sticks, and garnished with micro basil. 2) From Chef Stéphane Weber, CMB, associate professor of Baking and Pastry Arts at The Bocuse Restaurant: Vanilla bean cherries and gold cherry tomato kebab (with the vanilla bean serving as the skewer), with pistachio-studded chocolate plaques, chocolate crumbs, and pistachio purée. 3) From Chef Todd Knaster, CMB, associate professor of Baking and Pastry Arts, a dehydrated blackberry puree, aerated chocolate and hazelnut purée, peach purée, fresh blackberries, and blackberry purée with ginger, garnished with strawberry blossoms.