When we caught up with Iron Chef and restaurant proprietor Geoffrey Zakarian at the 2013 South Beach Wine and Food Festival, he clued us in to a few things we could be doing to make our cooking—and healthy living—experiences a little more successful.

Never skip S & P.  As a judge on Food Network’s Chopped, Zakarian sees his share of rookie kitchen mistakes. The most common blunder? Nope, it’s not screwing up a reduction or burning a soufflé—Zakarian says the number one mistake that new cooks make it not seasoning food with good ol’ salt and pepper, the most bare-bones way to bring out flavor.

Don’t create a kids’ menu.  A father of two, Zakarian says the trick to getting kids to eat healthy is to feed them the same food you’re eating (yep, even veal) instead of offering up kid-friendly alternatives like chicken nuggets or PB&J. Also, cook everything you can at home. If your kids are craving a cheeseburger and fries, make your own recipe instead of getting them hooked on Happy Meals at an early age.

Keep your core strong to be a better cook.  Maintaining a certain level of fitness is essential to scrambling around the kitchen and standing on your feet all day. Zakarian’s workout of choice: Pilates plus cardio.

If listening to Zakarian makes you want to cook, check out The Fit Kitchen, MF’s hub for cooking how-tos, healthy recipes, and all the gadgets you need to make a meal come together in a flash.