Mel's Diner: Devin Alexander
August 17, 2007 12:09 PM
Who: Devin Alexander, host of Discovery Health Channel's "Healthy Decadence With Devin Alexander" and author of "The Biggest Loser Cookbook" and "Fast Food Fix"
When: Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2007
Where: Devin's home kitchen, Brentwood, Calif.
Dined On: Lots!
Do you ever watch cooking on TV and just wish someone would invent taste-o-vision already? Well, I got as close to it as you can Wednesday afternoon.
Devin Alexander, who is building a multimedia healthy eating empire, says tasting is believing.
After sampling an array of her signature dishes from her TV show (go here for video from her Discovery Health Channel show "Healthy Decadence") and books, including a reduced-fat-and-calorie version of the Big Mac (hers saves 174 calories and 19 grams of fat compared with the McDonald's original) and five different desserts, let's just say I'm a believer. And I will not have to eat again until about a week from now.
From a seat at the end of the home kitchen where she works with three assistants, I quickly found myself eating up all she had to say and serve.
The proof was in the Thai peanut noodle salad; it was in the manicotti; the Big Mac; and especially in the two different kinds of brownies. (I am aware that eating all of this and more in a single sitting is not necessarily healthy; it was research, people, research.)
"There's such a bad stereotype about healthy food," she said.
The assumption, of course, is that if food is good for you, it tastes nasty. If it tastes good, it's got something weird and unnatural going on.
She often travels with a delicately balanced platter in her car to disprove the stereotype. She brings treats to virtually every media appearance.
It's a convincing strategy. The first bite I had at her house was of the Thai salad from "Healthy Decadence." Unbelievable. When she rattled off all the good-for-me stats about it, all I could say (mouth full) was, "Nooooh!" And, "Yummmm."
She told me she got a call from a magazine once saying that the staff was concerned. They had eaten her brownies. They saw the calorie count. And they wanted to make sure there wasn't a catch.
"They asked if they were going to get diarrhea," she said. That healthy-food stereotype again—some artificial fat substitutes and sweeteners will wreak a little lower GI havoc like that.
But Devin sticks to natural ingredients, subbing things like oat flour in only as far as the flavor is not compromised. If it tastes not right in the least, it gets yanked.
And let me tell you, it tastes right. The Big Mac? The slightly oozy cheese and special sauce were bang-on. In fact, it gives me reason to go on the record right here in agreement with Star Jones.
When Devin appeared on "The View" a while back, Star said Devin's burger was better than Mickey D's. And in this case, Star, I couldn't agree with you more.
The Dish: To get her recipes just so, Devin works like a mad scientist. Often she spends a good nine hours daily in the kitchen working on tedious, detail-oriented processes, such as dissecting famous sinful favorites and measuring to minute detail alternatives and original recipes, too.
When she is out, she "reads every word on every menu."
"Mad scientist, it's kind of true," she said.
Mad busy magician is more like it.
The day I visited her, she faced a deadline for her third book, "The Most Decadent Diet Ever," due out in April. She also was anticipating the fall debut of new episodes of "Healthy Decadence" and the January premiere of Discovery Health's "National Body Challenge."
In addition, she's slated to appear on a new teen weight-loss show next summer, she writes a column in Women's Health magazine, makes frequent appearances on various media and does a bunch of product development and consulting.
She was a cheerful and energetic hostess nonetheless.
Among the products, she just consulted for Smart Ones. She also is in some super-secret talks about packaging and selling her 112-calorie, 1-gram-of-fat fudge mint iced brownies.
On her wish list: Creating a healthy room-service menu for hotels.
Devin came to Los Angeles 14 years ago to be a TV writer. She was in a program at the TV Academy when friends and colleagues noticed she lost and kept off more than 50 pounds by cooking healthy. People kept asking her to cook for them (she has cooked for Reba McEntire and once, at a charity event where she'd cooked, heard Lisa Rinna running saying Devin's meatballs were the best she'd ever eaten). She figured she'd better go to culinary school if she was going to keep taking cooking requests.
Her big break came after meeting a "Good Morning America" producer who needed help with a healthy New Year's Eve segment in 2004 and hired Devin.
Everything Devin has done since and will continue to do is aimed at her close-to-the-heart mission: battling childhood and teen obesity.
The philosophies she shares are pretty simple. You don't need to deprive yourself to be healthy, and 20 minutes in the kitchen is a lot easier than three hours on the treadmill.
Living by those ideas pay off for her constantly.
"I was 55 pounds heavier as a teen. I was the girl sitting on the couch eating cookies in a small town in Pennsylvania watching 'Dallas' with her gay best friend who couldn't admit he was gay," she said. "Now, not only am I healthy, I'm around food all day. And when I get letters from people who relate to that, I love it.”