Chef Terry Conlan doesn’t want to make the best spa food you’ve ever eaten, he wants to make the best food you’ve ever eaten. That’s a big statement from a down-to-earth, humble guy. But Conlan will remind you, he’s from Texas, where everything is big.
“Subtlety is not my deal—I like big flavors—big, bold, bright come-and-get-you kind of stuff,” he says.
When Conlan came to work at the Lake Austin Spa Resort in Austin, Texas, he drew on his extensive experience creating European, Mexican and Caribbean cuisines—and his natural inclination for “leaner, cleaner” flavors.
Besides manning the stoves at one of the country’s top-ranked spas, Conlan has published two books—the most recent of which, Fresh, was named a finalist in the International Association of Culinary Professionals Cookbook Awards. The book reflects the spirit of the food at the spa: real food, full of flavor, that is as lean and clean as it can be without compromising pleasure.
Although Conlan is an advocate of minimally processed food, he’s not a stickler. “If I can make a fantastic key lime pie with fat-free Cool Whip, I’m going to do it. If I use only all natural, it limits access to some great ingredients,” he says.
When you taste his cooking or use his recipes, it truly is inspiring—precisely because the last thing you think of when you taste it is “spa food.” This is food you’ll make over and over again—not because it’s healthy, but because it just tastes so darn good. The fact that it’s good for you just makes you love it all the more.
By Marge Perry, a food writer in Tenafly, N.J.