Chef Richard Chamberlain has the independence to do as he pleases. He's the founder, owner and executive chef of two restaurants, including a signature steakhouse in Dallas; and culinary director of steakhouses in Las Vegas, NV, and Telluride, CO.

“My operations and staff give me the flexibility to do a lot of things besides being tied to the restaurants,” Chamberlain says. “I'm fortunate to have that flexibility.”

But not as fortunate as the beef checkoff program. During this decade, Chamberlain has invested much free time working with checkoff entities to increase demand among global users of U.S. beef.

In 2002, the U.S. Meat Export Federation invited Chamberlain to South Korea. He conducted checkoff-funded education seminars in Seoul and Pusan for other chefs, launched U.S. beef promotions in several restaurants and conducted interviews with Korea's top food media.

Then, three years ago, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) and American Dietetic Association (ADA) incorporated his chef talents in a checkoff cookbook project. The result was the “Healthy Beef Cookbook,” a 288-page effort co-authored with registered dietitian Betsy Hornick, which hit bookstores last fall.

“This cookbook tells Americans beef is healthy when eaten regularly in the diet, as well as how to choose lean cuts in the grocery stores,” Chamberlain says. “We teach consumers how to cook lean beef so every meal becomes the best it can.”

Ten ingredients or less

Chamberlain and Hornick analyzed Americans' daily patterns. They developed most recipes with 10 or fewer ingredients from the average pantry. Busy Americans can also prepare most of the cookbook's recipes in no more than 30 minutes.

“We unveiled the cookbook at the ADA convention in St. Louis, MO, in October 2005,” Chamberlain says. “We received great response from these nutritionists.”

Activities didn't stop there. He's since addressed producer groups from Montana to Texas, as well as the media. In March, he traveled to Birmingham, AL, to conduct cookbook interviews just days after confirmation of the third U.S. BSE case.

Chamberlain attributes his unique relationship with the beef industry to three aspects of his life:

  • His grandfather ran Beefmaster cattle in South Texas.

  • He makes his living owning and operating his north Dallas restaurants, including Chamberlain's Steak and Chop House. He's also directing culinary efforts for two new concepts — “ENVY, the Steakhouse” at the Renaissance Hotel in Las Vegas, and “Tarragon” at Elk Mountain Resort near Telluride.

  • His family has a history of heart disease, so he appreciates the beef industry's efforts to educate consumers on why a healthy diet prevents heart ailments.

Speaking from experience

Whenever he gets tough media questions about beef, Chamberlain explains he's a steakhouse owner, chef and father of two healthy, athletic children who benefit from eating moderate amounts of beef in their daily diets. Even so, all the world's experience can't prepare him for every eventuality in dealing with the nation's media as they cover the beef industry.

For instance, there was the daily newspaper food writer who recently peppered him with questions about hormones in beef. Chamberlain patiently went through the facts and gave his perspective as a chef and father.

“As we were leaving, the reporter said, ‘I'll tell you in confidence. I eat a hamburger steak for lunch every day in the cafeteria at the newspaper.’ She had just barraged us with reasons why people shouldn't eat beef, and then says she eats beef for lunch. She's writing one thing and living another,” Chamberlain says.

A spokesperson's work is never done.

Doug Perkins, Austin, TX, is a former vice president of the Texas Beef Council.