The Dirty Apron Teaches That Healthy Can be Tasty

Refuel your body without offending your taste buds

The Dirty Apron Cooking School is on a mission to do away with the myth that one has to choose between food that is healthy and food that is flavourful

The Dirty Apron’s recently launched cooking class, “Food, Fitness & Flavour–The Art of Fuelling Your Body Without Offending the Taste Buds,” by Chef David Robertson and Jana Finkbiner, Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Studeo 55 personal trainer, teaches you how to cook a nutritionally sound menu without sacrificing flavour. The two created the class after realizing there was a resounding need for it in Vancouver.

I had the chance to attend one of the classes and had a lovely evening and a great learning experience. The class ran approximately four hours in length, and we were happily engaged in observing, cooking, and eating delicious new creations as well as old favourites with a twist, under the watchful eyes of Chef Robertson and Finkbiner.

We live in a city of foodies who also want to be fit and healthy. Many people Chef Robertson spoke to had lamented that cooking healthy was difficult for them because the amount of information about what to include and what to avoid was overwhelming, and/or the resulting meal simply did not taste good.

I spoke with both Robertson and Finkbiner after our class to find out how to live a more healthy and balanced life while fuelling up right. Click through for my Q&A.

Interview with Chef David Robertson and Registered Holistic Nutritionist Jana Finkbiner

Q: In what ways are these dishes flavourful and satisfying but also fuelling the body in a healthy way?
Robertson: Most importantly, the dishes we teach students to prepare are all made with whole foods. There are zero refined sugars, hydrogenated fats, processed carbs and artificial sweeteners. When our body has clean foods, it can spend it’s energy digesting and absorbing the rich vitamins and minerals versus detoxifying and sparking up the immune system.

Q: Which foods and ingredients function best before and after your workout and why?
Finkbiner: Your body runs on carbohydrates for fuel and fats are burned for energy secondary to carbohydrates. Have a combination of fruit and/or a complex carb. If your workout will be longer and more intense, add a source of protein. Great options include organic low-fat Greek yogurt, a protein shake in water, or a handful of almonds. This approach helps your body to be efficient at using carbohydrates for energy, which lends to controlling body fat and avoiding fat storage.
Your post workout is about refuelling and replenishing with whole foods like carbohydrates and lean protein. If you’re making a smoothie, extras like maca, cacao, greens, glutamine and MCT oils can also be helpful in recovery.

Q: How can we make small changes in the kitchen to start becoming healthier in our daily lives?
Finkbiner: The best strategy is committing to how important your health is to you, and understanding that to achieve that, one must plan ahead. This doesn’t mean that it has to be complicated or difficult. Remove processed foods and unhealthy sugars from your kitchen. Invest in some quality oils, vinegars, herbs, spices and cooking supplies. Vancouver has many options available for people to eat healthy on the go and one can actually save money buying whole foods and minimizing packaged foods.
Stay hydrated during the day. Don’t skip meals, but instead have healthy, small frequent meals made up of whole foods (vegetables, fruit, protein, complex carbs and healthy fats) throughout the day. This will ensure your hormones are balanced and your energy is being used efficiently so that you have good focus, energy, a positive mood, as well as preventing fat storage while preserving strong and lean muscle.

Q: What are some healthy habits to incorporate into our cooking routine?
Robertson: Avoid sugar to add flavour. Look for natural ways to infuse your food with flavour: ginger, lemongrass, and chilli are great ways to add flavour while keeping your food clean. Also, keep the balance right. There really is no need to avoid carbs and fat altogether. Keep your carbs ‘whole-food’ and not processed. Fats should not overwhelm the dish either, and should be from high-quality sources. Make the vegetables the stars of your dish, with a serving of lean protein.

Q: For those with allergies, what kind of substitutions would you suggest?
Robertson: There are many ways one can substitute ingredients in a meal. If there is a nut allergy, one can get their healthy fats and energy from sources like avocados, olives, and chickpeas.

The great thing about the meals that we teach during our “Food, Fitness & Flavour” classes is that based on the composition of each dish, substitutions can be made for alternatives that best suit someone’s personal taste or dietary restrictions. So, in a way, with a little creativity, one can follow the same guidelines learned for one dish during our cooking class, and create dozens of new dishes by simply substituting one healthy component for another.

Click through for a healthy recipe from “Food, Fitness & Flavour.”

Roasted Chicken Breast, Serves 2


  • 2 pieces skinless chicken breast
  • 15 ml smoked paprika
  • 10 ml olive il
  • Salt and pepper
  • Lemon zest
  • Olive oil  (for pan


  • Preheat oven to 400° F.
  • In a bowl, season chicken breast with smoked paprika, lemon zest, olive oil, salt and pepper.
  • Ensure marinade evenly coats the chicken.
  • Preheat pan to medium heat. Add olive oil to pan and place seasoned chicken breast presentation side down in pan. Sear for approximately 1 minute or until golden brown, flip chicken breast over and place pan in oven.
  • Roast for approximately 8 minutes or until reached a desired doneness of 165 degrees internal temperature on meat thermometer.

Nutritional Value

  • Chicken is low in sodium. It is also a good source of vitamin B6 and phosphorus, and a very good source of protein, niacin and selenium.
  • Smoked Paprika is very low in cholesterol and sodium. It is also a good source of thiamin, magnesium, phosphorus, copper and manganese, and a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E (alpha tocopherol), vitamin K, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, iron and potassium.