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Nutrisystem Chef Michael Solomonov “Highly Motivated” by Creativity, Expertise and Technology

This year, with Janet Jackson singing its praises, Nutrisystem is making changes to its decades-old program to ensure its customers find success without food that is bland, boring, or repetitious. One way is through the new Chef’s Table entrees included in the Nutrisystem Success program, which launched just before the new year. Nutrisystem invited several renowned chefs to be part of their Chef’s Council, and together the group of culinary professionals created the first seven entrees for the new Chef’s Table line.

The Chef’s Council is made up of Tony Mantuano of Spiaggia in Chicago, Kent Rathbun of Texas restaurants Abacus and Jasper’s, Mark Estee of CAMPO in Reno, Carmen Gonzalez of Top Chef Masters 2, and Michael Solomonov of Zahav in Philadelphia.

We spoke yesterday with Solomonov, who was enthusiastic about his new role with Nutrisystem, something he hasn’t ever done before. He calls the opportunity “super flattering,” especially in light of the peers he’s working with.

“With the guidance of the educated people at Nutrisystem, we’re highly motivated to make the best possible food for people to diet, lose weight, and keep it off,” he told us in our interview, noting that “change is refreshing.”

He says Rathbun hosted the Chef’s Council for two days at one of his Dallas restaurants, where Solomonov describes a collaborative scene where ideas were shared, recipes were tested, and menus were tweaked. The result was the first seven menu items to launch the Chef’s Table entrees.

Solomonov modestly skips over his contribution to the Chef’s Table menu, a Moroccan Inspired Chicken that has just more than 4 out of 5 stars on the Nutrisystem site. Instead, he calls Carmen Gonzalez’s Arroz Con Pollo one of the best items on the menu. Additionally, you’ll find Adobo Rubbed Pork, Whole Wheat Ricotta Crepes, and Butternut Squash Ravioli. These are whole foods that are delivered fresh-frozen, meaning they are flash frozen and then packaged in a state-of-the-art steamer bag.

He credits the expertise, creativity, and high level of technology the chefs were working with in allowing them to come up with meals that take Nutrisystem to a whole new level.

The technology is a steamer bag that simulates poaching. Nutrisystem customers pop these in the microwave like the traditional meals, but this time with more taste. “We can extract as much flavor as possible with lower sodium and fat that are low on the glycemic index,” notes Solomonov about the new steamer bag technology. He says the chefs even prepared the meals in the same manner the customers would and they “stand behind [the meals].”

As for Solomonov’s personal approach to diet and fitness, he’s active and he’s aware of what he eats. After all, he’s in a profession that lends itself to overeating rich, indulgent foods. As the executive chef and owner of the award-winning Mediterranean and Middle Eastern restaurant Zahav, he says the foods they’re working with lend themselves to being healthier. Preparing Kosher recipes means they don’t mix milk and meat, and this limits the saturated fat in any of his recipes. He also enjoys working out and running, doing “everything I have to do” to stay healthy.

He knows “it’s not an easy thing to lose weight,” and even says “it’s easy to eat food that sucks.” But his efforts with the Chef’s Council and Nutrisystem are making it easier to eat food that doesn’t suck and take on the hard part of losing weight. “You need as much in your corner as you can,” he says, noting that that’s attainable with the great food and access to well-informed experts over the phone.

January 6th, 2012

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