CHATHAM BOROUGH, NJ - On Saturday, November 6, shoppers at Chatham’s Farmers’ Market enjoyed some unusual items as part of the New Jersey Mayors Wellness Campaign. To promote the Campaign, Jesse Kraft, the Executive Chef for Sodexo at Saint Barnabas Hospital, dazzled market goers with delicious, healthy fare including grilled cod with quinoa salad, along with roasted vegetables drizzled with a tarragon-lemon vinaigrette.

“I’ve come to see my favorite chef!” Bea Fania proclaimed as she stepped up to sample Kraft’s creations. Fania works at Saint Barnabas with Kraft; she and many others who already knew of his talents were eager to taste what he made. Others were just as delighted with the flavors, and surprised to discover how healthy everything was.

“Use fresh produce,” he shared. “That’s number one.” The salad he served was made entirely with fresh ingredients, and the tarragon and lemon vinaigrette left no one wishing for any thick, creamy dressings. The grilled cod, which also received rave reviews from the samplers, is a fighter of prostate cancer due to its high protein and fiber content.

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Kraft, who has traveled the world studying different cuisines in Europe, Asia, and Africa, grew up in Connecticut and Morris County, and is the son of two sustainable farmers. “Since I grew up with a sense of sustainable farming, healthy cooking was always a part of my life,” he said. “And I always wanted to be a chef.” His upbringing and goals translated quite naturally into the decision to become part of Saint Barnabas, where he’s been delighting customers with his delectable cuisine for five years.

“I love to teach people about healthy cooking,” Kraft said. “Of course, if you eat healthy, and you exercise, you won’t have to come to the hospital.”

Luckily for Chatham residents, Kraft brought his food outside the hospital on Saturday. Some other simple rules he suggested included staying away from processed foods, which have high sodium content, and using fresh herbs while cooking.

Letting people realize that healthy food doesn’t have to be boring and flavorless is a small part of the Mayors Wellness Campaign, which serves the larger goal of decreasing health care costs through community activities and events throughout New Jersey. Other events will begin at the Chatham Library in January, and will promote not only the idea of healthy cooking, but healthy living.