Sophie Menard

Nutrition specialists David Katz SPH ’93 and Catherine Katz returned to campus on Thursday, where they first met more than two decades ago, to cater a dinner featuring a wide array of delicious and wholesome cuisine ranging from couscous salad to turkey bean pot au feu to creme au chocolat.

The event, co-hosted by Yale Dining and the Yale College Council and held at Commons at the Schwarzman Center, was open to 90 participants, chosen by lottery. The couple met in an epidemiology class at Yale while Catherine Katz was finishing her post-doctoral training. Bonding over a common passion for healthy cooking, the two have brought to their professional life a philosophy of “loving food that loves you back” — a philosophy that the 90 attendees wholeheartedly embraced as they shared the meal.

Catherine Katz, who holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Princeton University, created her own website two years ago showcasing recipes and cooking class videos. David Katz is the founding director of the Yale University Griffin Prevention Research Center, an initiative that aims to prevent and control chronic diseases through community-based efforts.

The two-hour foodie event featured a discussion on healthy eating, a cooking demonstration and a question-and-answer session at the end.

“This is what we eat all the time. This is what we cook for our family,” David Katz said of the food served.

Catherine Katz grew up in the south of France before moving to America at age 14. David Katz’s expertise in nutrition has had an immense impact on her cooking style, which now combines Mediterranean French cooking with an eye to health and balance. Like a scientist in her laboratory, she explained, she changes one “variable” at a time and revisits traditional dishes until she gets the perfect marriage between taste and nutrition. For example, the secret ingredient to her decadent yet healthy chocolate creme au chocolat is black lentils.

While healthy food could sound plain or boring to college students, participants interviewed said the food brought by the Katzes exceeded all expectations.

“As someone who doesn’t usually eat healthily, I was really surprised by how much I actually enjoyed the food,” attendee Layla Lopez ’20 said. “The halibut was significantly tastier than the cape shark.”

Alissa Wang ’19 shared her appreciation for the healthy, non-processed options at dining halls, which include a variety of vegetables and whole grains. The Yale Dining website explains the work it does to diversify the plant-based proteins they offer for students who follow vegetarian or vegan diets.

In response to an inquiry about how to maintain a balanced diet in a stressful college setting, the Katzes emphasized the value of fresh plant-based products such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes. Although the menu included animal products, the Katz are proponents of lowering meat consumption.

Dorsa Amir GRD ’19 said food security is no longer a major issue for most and that people have greater flexibility in their food choice.

“While this doesn’t mean that we should eat like cavemen used to, it does mean that we should at least reflect on our dietary preferences more critically, especially on the amount of meat we consume,” Amir said.