Things are Happening at Hilton Head Health: Introducing TRUE Restaurant
Author: Rebecca Edwards | Photographer: Denman Bennett
Lobster bisque. You know it. You love it. And like a siren’s song this flavorful, French-inspired soup might wreck your weight-loss or maintenance goals—unless, of course, you’re dining at Hilton Head Health’s newly renovated restaurant True. Through sheer culinary magic and mindfulness, True’s executive chef Hicham Elmadi has reduced this 248-calorie soup to 60 spoon-licking calories without, mind you, sacrificing the dish’s signature aromatics, creamy texture and luxurious lobster morsels. With every spoonful, a mental battle is waged between the voice in me that says, “Becca, show restraint” and the knowledge that this is actually guilt-free. Then our server brings the next course—the Mediterranean plate. Before me, beckoning me to elbow out my three fellow tasters, is a trio of white bean salad, eggplant ragu and hummus garnished with marinated artichokes, feta cheese, sliced tomato, cucumber, cured olives and grilled whole grain pita. Minutes later, my Greek shrimp salad arrives and I make the happy mistake of inquiring about Chef Elmadi’s off-the-menu-but-available-upon-request, special vegan cheese, which he delivers in person moments later with his broad, healthy smile. I’m in skinny hog heaven.
Originally from Casablanca, Morocco, Elmadi has been cooking around the world since graduating from culinary school in 1988. He speaks five languages and said, “I learned the languages and my dishes from Moroccan, Spanish, Italian and French mothers and grandmothers.” He infuses his diverse cultural and professional experiences into his food. The lunch menu includes global goodies such as chicken shawarma, Mediterranean tomato soup and Thai chicken flatbread. Elmadi takes great pleasure in combining international flavors with local ingredients to make nutritious meals.
“When I moved to the U.S., I realized how much prepackaged foods people used; in 2005, I started learning a lot more about nutrition and decided to have that be my focus,” Elmadi said. “Everything from our bread to our sauces is made in house, because I want to know exactly what’s in the food. Rather than using creams and cheeses, we focus on herbs, spices and colorful vegetables.” Also, to create a true culinary experience for H3 guests, Elmadi has created a fine dining menu for dinner.
“We want to immerse people in Lowcountry comfort and wellness,” said H3’s brand manager Adam Martin. Martin, who began working at H3 in 2005, has seen the weight-loss and health resort not only thrive, but be voted as “Best for Weight Loss” for the past five consecutive years by SpaFinder and “Top 5 U.S. Health Spas” by Lisa Drayer on The Today Show.
“When I started, we only had two servers,” Martin said. “Now we have a huge culinary staff. I was the first full-time fitness instructor and now we have six full-time instructors and 15 part-time ones. The facility has really expanded, too, and we are gearing up for the next two phases of development—the addition of Indigo Spa and the 30-room Inn.”
“The Indigo Spa will provide a 4D total relaxation experience for guests. They will feel immersed in serenity with Lowcountry images, soothing fragrances and world-class services,” said H3’s CEO Michael Tompkins.
Tompkins, who previously worked for the prestigious Miraval Resort & Spa in Tucson, Arizona, joined the H3 team in July and has lost over 20 pounds eating Elmadi’s food and exercising with H3 trainers. “Our core mission is weight loss, and we are good at it, but what makes us the best in the country is the fact that our guests lose the weight and keep it off.”
Martin and Tompkins attribute this to H3’s comprehensive approach to wellness. “All the meals go through a registered dietitian and ESHA [nutrition analysis software],” Martin said. “Plus our guests receive counseling, instruction from the best fitness trainers, attend hands-on cooking classes, and form lasting friendships with other guests.”
Martin continued by explaining H3’s three health programs. LoseWell is H3’s most intense weight loss program. It lasts four weeks and is really for people who are seeking guidance and to be held accountable to lose 40 or more pounds. LiveWell is a weeklong program focused on those who need to lose 10 to 30 pounds and who need a quick reboot to get back on track. PlayWell is H3’s brand new initiative. Still targeting the health and wellness conscious, this package focuses on all the fun recreational outdoor offerings you can do on Hilton Head such as golf, beach yoga, parasailing, walking tours in historic Savannah, paddle boarding, and kayaking.
For those of you who want to shrink your waistline but not your wallet, you can save on accommodations and airfare and try H3’s one-day or three-to-four day package which includes breakfast, lunch and dinner, access to all the fitness classes and facilities, wellness discussion classes, cooking demos and resort credit for spa services like massages.
“What’s great is that locals can enjoy a stay-cation at H3 and get in shape,” Tompkins said. What’s also convenient is couples or travel companions don’t have to do the same program. Maybe one person chooses to do the LiveWell program while the other does PlayWell. Furthermore, you do not have to be a guest to participate in H3’s healthy kitchen offerings, which include chef tables, cooking classes, and sound bites (30-minute demonstrations). After begging Chef Elmadi to teach me how to make his lobster bisque and vegan cheese he replied, “Sure, sure. I love making nutritious food for people and I am happy to help anybody learn how to eat better.”
Becca Edwards is a certified birth doula, holistic health coach, yoga and Barre instructor, writer/blogger, and owner of b.e.well and b.e.creative (bewellbecreative.com).