This week on Foodie Friday, meet Caroline Segall, registered dietician, foodie and lover of nature.
What is your role in the food industry?
I am a registered dietitian with experience in working with individuals with gastrointestinal disorders, food intolerances and allergies, and individuals preparing for/recovering from bariatric surgery. I believe in healthy moderation vs. deprivation when it comes to food and am an advocate for the phrase “all foods fit”. Not sure who coined that phrase, but I love it!
How did you first get involved in the food industry?
In college, I chose to switch my major from nursing to nutrition. A degree in nutrition can be used a lot of different ways besides just pursuing an RD – food service management, hotel/hospitality management, food PR, etc. I liked the science, but I LOVED the hands-on education. My graduating class – less than 30 people – was required to operate an on-campus restaurant every Friday during a semester of our senior year. Our duties rotated from week to week: head chef, sous chef, prep, hostess, server, etc. The teacher literally put the responsibilities on us as a class and we had to work together like a real restaurant staff. There were a few major flops: not adjusting the salt in a cake recipe when multiplying it for 40 people, a seriously disgusting strawberry cake – but for the most part, we churned out some good food! As a result of that class, along with some others that involved cooking and baking in the classroom, I gained confidence and started cooking a lot on my own at home. Although I didn't pursue the food service route, it's still on my radar as an interest and possible future endeavor!
What/who inspired your current role in the food industry?
My mom is the person who inspired me to become a dietitian. She has her master's degree in health science and taught 8th grade health as a second career when I was growing up. She served us balanced meals every night for dinner and our school lunches were always the “weird ones” with sandwiches made with whole wheat bread and fruit instead of chips, etc. (Side note: in the '90s, white bread and Doritos were cool.) On the flip side, she's also a great cook and understands the importance of moderation. The treats we got on the weekends were always homemade and to this day, I still feel guilty buying refrigerated cookie dough. She always made cookies from scratch!
What food trends are most influential in what you do?
Any food-related term that includes the word “diet” at the end. And when I say “diet," I don't just mean “weight loss”. I mean any sort of food lifestyle that a person chooses. As a dietitian, I have to do my due diligence and stay up to date on the latest diet trends and their origins. Staying informed helps me be a better advisor when it comes to food and nutrition. Food is personal to people. It's best to understand where someone is coming from in regards to food choices, food values, eating behaviors, etc. before helping them to make changes.
What is the most significant change you’ve witnessed in the food industry?
With the overwhelming abundance of information and photos on the internet, everyone has become curious about food and cooking. I think it's great! More people are venturing out of their comfort zones to try new cuisines. I also think it's made more people comfortable with cooking. There are websites that break down complicated recipes and also blogs that are all about easy and simple versions of dishes that would normally be overwhelming. Readily available recipes on our phones and iPads are more convenient than the traditional heavy cookbook that collects dust on the shelf.
Tell us about an industry professional who influenced you most?
My first “real” job out of college was running the nutrition department for a long term care facility. I worked alongside a chef who had years of experience in the food industry. The facility we worked at was known for having really great food – which is definitely rare in those types of institutions. He taught me a lot about managing a kitchen, it's staff, and cooking for large amounts of people. His level of skill was impressive and it opened my eyes to a whole new side of my career choice: food service management.
Describe a food fad/trend you would love to start.
This is already a “thing,” but it should really be more common: breakfast for dinner. Am I right?
What's your big splurge food item? Any particular brand you're willing to pay more for?
Does wine count? If not, definitely olive oil. My sister gifted me a bottle from Stockyards Olive Oil Company in Fort Worth, Texas and it was so good, I could practically drink it! Now every time she visits, I put in an order for her to bring.
What keeps you going as a food professional?
Variety – The fact that cuisine varies not only from country to country, but from person to person is fascinating to me! There truly is something out there for everyone when it comes to food preferences.
What do you view as your greatest achievement to-date as a food professional?
I did a very short stint of freelancing a few years back for a new meal-tracking app. I created meal plans and developed recipes for about 6 different types of diets (vegan, vegetarian, lactose-free, etc.). It was challenging, but so much fun. The company asked me to continue after my contract was up, but I didn't have the time to devote, unfortunately. It's something I'd like to do again in the future!
What’s your favorite food to make at home?
Shakshuka for breakfast. But honestly, I'd eat it at any meal. Shakshuka is a Middle-Eastern dish of eggs poached in a spicy tomato and chili sauce. The recipe I use is from Bleubird Blog. It goes great with some crusty French bread to dip!
What’s your favorite meal to order in a restaurant?
Thai Curry – any kind from panang, green, yellow, Massaman, Red. If it has “curry” by the name, I'll eat it.
What three ingredients could you not live without?
1. Minced garlic (because I'm too lazy to chop it myself)
2. Sesame oil. It's a game changer for stir fry!
3. Frank's Red Hot Sauce – my husband and I literally eat it on anything!
Name the food/ingredient you can’t live without.
Peanut butter! I never grow tired of it. It would be my “if you were on a deserted island and only had one food…” choice.
Tell us about a memorable meal you’ve had.
When I lived in Dallas, I befriended a lady at our church who had a knack for cooking. She was from northern Mexico and grew up watching her mom make everything from scratch. She did a lot of catering on the side and was also quite talented at making wedding cakes. She invited a bunch of us over for a cooking class one Sunday. We learned how to make chicken enchiladas with poblano cream sauce, roasted corn with zucchini and tomatoes, Spanish rice, and pico. We also made gin chupitos with jalapeno simple syrup, and sopapillas with cajeta (goat's milk caramel). The meal was delicious and everyone had the best time learning how to make each dish. Every time I've made her enchilada recipe for company, it's a hit.
What food or meal makes you happiest?
Thai curry! It's my comfort food and it has EVERYTHING: warm, sweet, savory, spicy, salty.
What food or ingredient would you never use or eat?
Beets. I choke them down when I have to, but I never voluntarily choose them. Yuck.
Please describe your perfect day.
My perfect day would start out with coffee and a donut from Top Pot Doughnuts. My husband and I get them every Saturday morning as our “treat” and they are my favorite donuts around! Whilst sipping on coffee and munching on donuts, I'd catch up on my favorite blogs while my husband catches up on his ESPN news. Next, there would be a good workout at the gym, to help balance out those donuts. After that, something productive for the afternoon: exploring an art museum, road trip to a local destination, exploring a Seattle neighborhood, or maybe even a hike. There are so many great hikes and quick day trips in the area and we try to take advantage of that when we can. Oh – and there would be plenty of sunshine on this perfect day. The day would end
with a great dinner – either at a new restaurant we've never been to or maybe trying a new recipe at home in my kitchen.