Rocco DiSpirito is changing the way we think of cooking in every way. He says cooking gives us the control to prepare delicious and nutritious meals for our families, while at the same time getting in some much-needed physical activity. The list of reasons to cook is limitless, but with our hectic schedules and insecurities in the kitchen, cooking can seem like a chore rather than a rewarding craft. When we interviewed Rocco for our May/June cover story we asked him five questions to guide us in the way of chef stardom in our very own kitchens. He gave us some great tips and ideas!

Q: What are staple ingredients you recommend we have in our kitchens?

A: “Salt, pepper, olive oil, parmesan, oregano, Greek yogurt, lean proteins, herbs (ginger, garlic, lemon grass), shallots, onions, herbs like thyme, cilantro, basil, chives, tarragon, citrus, hot sauce (an extremely effective weight loss ingredient; my favorites are Tabasco and Cholula), sugar, ketchup, sugar-free chocolate, and monk fruit. It’s a nutritive, all-natural, no-sugar-added sweetener.”

Q: What is a dish that you have prepared that is always a winner with children?

A: “Chicken carnitas. Fried chicken carnitas. When you fry foods, the amount of fat absorbed is not a function of the quantity of fat you are cooking with. It’s a function of how long that food sits in the fat. I use flash frying, which takes ten seconds, to cook chicken nuggets, and the result is it’s two-thirds less fat, and very delicious.”

Q: Share with us a decent amount of cook prep time/cooking time?

A: “You can spend as little as ten minutes, but you should be able to accomplish anything you want to accomplish in thirty. You have to remember this is probably the best investment of your time. Think about how much parents are concerned with video games and what their children are watching on TV or seeing on the internet, but are slowly poisoning their children with unhealthy, fatty, bad-for-you foods over the course of their lifetime. We are raising the first generation of children that will die five years younger than their parents, which is just unacceptable. Also, when you invest time in cooking with your family, I don’t think there is a better ROI than healthy children and healthy adults. Children love to cook. Children really care about food and cooking, because they are concerned about their parents.”

Q: Do you have a recommendation as far as what veggies and herbs to keep in the fridge versus fresh out on the counter or in the pantry?

A: “We refrigerate a lot of things we don’t need to, like condiments, eggs and tomatoes; once you put tomatoes in the fridge, they’ll never be the same. I think you should keep truly perishable items like meats and dairy, in the fridge, and you can keep garlic and ginger, herb plants, condiments like mustard, all out on the counter. Vegetables, ideally you’ll be buying so fresh and so often, you don’t need to refrigerate them ever. One big reason for Italians’ successes in cooking is that they buy food for that day, not for the week, so all their food is so fresh.”

Q: Do you recommend preparing all your ingredients before you cook or while you cook?

A: “Depends on your skill, I can prep and cook at the same time, but most people prepare before. “

Rocco DiSpirito is a James Beard Award winning chef, health advocate and author of 11 highly acclaimed cookbooks, including three #1 New York Times bestsellers. Seen on ABC’s hit series Extreme Weight Loss as the Healthy Food Coach, DiSpirito recently created Cook Your Butt Off! At Home organic meal kits that deliver all the ingredients you need to prepare healthy and delicious recipes.