A “Sexy” Chef Shares Healthy Eating Ideas

Sam Talbot's new videos offer tasty recipes for diabetics like himself.

Chef Sam Talbot, host of the "Life is Better Healthy" cooking videos for Barnabas Health. Photo: Courtesy Sam Talbot

Chef Sam Talbot, a season two semi-finalist on Bravo’s Top Chef–and a 2012 People “Sexiest Man Alive”has teamed with Barnabas Health, New Jersey’s largest not-for-profit health care system, to create a series of Life is Better Healthy cooking videos.

Growing up in North Carolina, Talbot at age 12 was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. He immediately attacked the problem of modifying his diet in a spirit of experimentation, or as he puts it, “playing with food. I would eat a bowl of mashed potatoes and see what it did to my blood sugar. I would watch the balance of what was happening to my body, based on what I ate. At a very young age, I learned that everything counts, so I made some important choices.”

In his teens, Talbot started washing dishes in a restaurant. Being in the kitchen, he says, “gradually turned into a full-blown love affair.”

He studied culinary arts at Johnson & Wales University, and would have graduated had he not broken his foot in the mosh pit of a Beastie Boys concert. He later met a member of the band while surfing on Long Island, and they started a food truck together. Talbot eventually helped open restaurants in New York City and elsewhere on the East Coast. His most recent endeavor is the Pig + Poet restaurant in Camden, Maine. In 2011, he published a cookbook, The Sweet Life: Diabetes Without Boundaries.

When he was asked to participate in the Top Chef television competition, Talbot hesitated, but he credits the experience with teaching him how to take criticism. On the series, he became a “Fan Favorite,” which led to his being named one of People’s “Sexiest Men Alive.”

Now, at 37, Talbot has created 11 videos, each running five to seven minutes, for Barnabas health. In them, Talbot shows how to make simple, nutritious, inexpensive dishes, using healthy ingredients for a balanced diet. The videos can be seen HERE.

The video series was created with Barbara Mintz, RD, vice president of healthy living and community engagement for Barnabas Health. The videos include segments on breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Recipes using fresh seasonal ingredients like spaghetti squash with turkey Bolognese and shrimp lettuce wraps with corn salsa are mainstays of the program.

Barnabas asked Talbot to help createa true synergy of the art of cooking and the science of nutrition,” says Mintz. “Sharing the same passion for health and wellness helped facilitate a strong and meaningful partnership. It was a thrill watching him create such healthy and flavorful dishes.”

Talbot brings his boundless energy and rugged good looks to the series. “It’s fun, informative, light and lively,” he says. “It’s made for people who need a little guidance on how to eat healthy food.”

The message carries over into nearly everything Talbot does, including the recent launch of his national organization, Beyond Type 1, an advocacy network for people living with the disease and those endeavoring to find a cure.

Talbot says his mission is to “rally the community to show people that healthy food is accessible to everyone.”


Spaghetti Squash with Turkey Bolognese and Steamed Broccoli


1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
1 pound ground turkey
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
8 fresh basil leaves, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan


Steam The broccoli until al dente.

Cut 2 large spaghetti squash in half, scoop out the seeds and discard. Drizzle with olive oil and cook at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Once the strands of squash are tender, use the fork to scrape them out.

In a large skillet heat the olive oil on medium high heat. When hot, add the onion and garlic and sauté over medium heat until the onions become translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the celery and carrot and sauté for 5 minutes. Raise heat to high and add the ground turkey. Stirring frequently, break up the meat and cook about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook over medium-low heat until the sauce thickens.

Season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 2 hours. Finish with Parmesan and basil

Yield: 6 servings (1 cup squash plus 1 cup Bolognese per serving)

Nutrition Facts: 273 Calories; 13g Fat (2 g Saturated Fat; 0 g Trans Fat); 40 mg Cholesterol; 239 mg Sodium; 23 g Carbohydrate (5 g Fiber, 10 g Sugar); 21 g Protein; 17% Daily Value (DV) Vitamin A; 26% DV Vitamin C; 14% DV Calcium; 15% DV Iron.


Shrimp Lettuce Wraps


3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons sesame oil, divided
2 tablespoons soy sauce, divided
3 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
3 tablespoons Mirin rice wine
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound fresh, medium-size shrimp, peeled, deveined and chopped
2 red bell peppers, diced
1 shallot diced
2 green onions, diced
1 head Boston lettuce, cored, cut in half; or collard greens or Napa cabbage


In a medium bowl, combine lime juice, mirin, 2 tablespoons sesame oil, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, ginger and garlic. Add shrimp and marinate in refrigerator 1 hour.

In a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add shallots, bell pepper, green onions, and cilantro; cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Add shrimp and marinade and cook 3 minutes, or until shrimp are pink. Stir in 1 tablespoon soy sauce.

Divide lettuce into leaves. Spoon about 1/4 cup mixture into center of each lettuce leaf. Fold bottom edge and sides over filling. Repeat. Spoon the corn salsa over each packet.

Yield: 4 servings (1 lettuce wrap per serving)

Nutrition Facts: 209 Calories; 12 g Fat (2 g Saturated Fat; 0 g Trans Fat); 141 mg Cholesterol; 908 mg Sodium; 9 g Carbohydrate (2 g Fiber, 4 g Sugar); 17 g Protein; 26% Daily Value (DV) Vitamin A; 110% DV Vitamin C; 8% DV Calcium; 6% DV Iron.

Corn Salsa:


2 cups fresh shucked corn
One 4-ounce can chopped green chiles, drained
4 green onions, minced
2 medium tomatoes, chopped fine
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
3 tablespoons white vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
Tortilla chips, for dipping


Mix the corn, chiles, olives, onions, tomatoes, jalapenos, vinegar, oil and salt in a medium bowl and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Just before serving, add the cilantro.

Yield: 4 servings (1/2 cup per serving)

Nutrition Facts: 257 Calories; 20 g Fat (3 g Saturated Fat; 0 g Trans Fat); 0 mg Cholesterol; 276 mg Sodium; 20 g Carbohydrate (3 g Fiber, 8 g Sugar); 4 g Protein; 7% Daily Value (DV) Vitamin A; 52% DV Vitamin C; 3% DV Calcium; 8% DV Iron.


Read more Soup to Nuts articles.

By submitting comments you grant permission for all or part of those comments to appear in the print edition of New Jersey Monthly.

Required not shown
Required not shown