Brussels-born classically trained spa chef Michel Stroot retired several years ago from helming the Golden Door kitchen, but he’s still as active as ever in the kitchen and the community. Recently he invited a group of friends—all of them colleagues during his 25 years with the Golden Door—to a garden brunch at his house near San Diego’s Mission Bay.
Believe us, an invitation like this is truly golden, in more ways than one.
Michel loves to cook and garden: his backyard is a delightful maze of brick and tile pathways that wend through lemon, lime and apple trees—all in fragrant bloom. Every patch of sunlight is either occupied by vegetable beds where red-veined chard thrives, or tables where he and his wife Irma can dine outdoors year-’round (after all, this IS San Diego!). One seating area designed by Michel is anchored by a concrete “sofa” completely covered in tile—a very permanent fixture at about 400 pounds plus! He calls it Tres Hermanas in honor of the times when his wife and her two sisters sit there together.
He may have been classically trained as a young apprentice in Belgium, but there’s nothing heavy (zero cream or butter for example) about Michel’s spa cuisine. Many call him the father of spa cooking. Along with Golden Door founder Deborah Szekely, they “de-calorized” just about everything (no meat dishes, however) while keeping flavor intact. The presentation? Always beautiful.
Oddly enough, many guests who’ve been to the Golden Door have particularly fond memories of the traditional mid-morning break to snack on Potassium Broth and raw or lightly blanched veggies fresh from the garden.
They need it, and they love it,” says Michel. “It’s possible to lose 500 to 600 milligrams of potassium after two to three hours of strenuous exercise. But just as important, it gathers people together...just like today in the garden...and everyone sips and talks.”
By 11 a.m., anyone in the midst of exercising all morning realizes it has been a long time since breakfast. Spa guests gather in the courtyard and sip what Michel and Deborah Szekely long ago decided to call “Potassium Broth.” It’s really not much more than a soup pot of vegetable trimmings that’s been simmering for hours, but nothing tastes better between breakfast and lunch. Packed with potassium, it helps restore overworked muscles and prevent muscle cramps, regulates blood pressure, helps flush toxins from tissues, supports kidneys and adrenals, hydrates your skin, contains immunity boosting nutrients among many other benefits.
Not to mention its cost: you’re using kitchen scraps from some other vegetable-rich feast!
As this weekend’s guests arrived at his house and stepped into the garden, Michel was there, just like the old days, making sure everyone received a cup of broth. The only difference from being at the Golden Door? Well...we quickly moved on to white wine—another important form of “fortification,” especially when accompanying a brunch featuring quiche, shitake mushroom rice, salad, and the first strawberries of the Southern California season dipped in chocolate. Belgian chocolate, of course.
We think you’ll like this simple way to extract every last vitamin from your precious vegetables. It’s fortifying and refreshing, and a lot better for you than some packaged sports drink. Thank you Michel for bringing back memories!
Golden Door Potassium Broth
Makes 12 4-oz. Servings. Recipe can be easily halved.
46oz organic tomato-based low-sodium vegetable juice*
2 cups water
3 cups vegetable trimmings, such as celery tops, onions, mushrooms, bell pepper, zucchini, carrots, lettuce, parsley stems
1 tsp chili pepper flakes (optional)
1 tsp dried basil or 1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
* A V-8 type drink, but organic, such as an R.W. Knudsen brand. Or make with 12 to 14 plum tomatoes, quartered (2 pounds). Cook in a about 11/2 quarts water, in addition to the 2 cups water listed above, along with other ingredients.
In a small soup pot, combine vegetable juice, water, trimmings, chili pepper flakes and basil. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 40 minutes. Strain, pressing to extract liquid, and discard solids (hopefully to your compost heap!)
Serve hot or cold.