(Jan. 13) Ann Gentry is chef-owner of the two Real Food Daily restaurants in Santa Monica and Hollywood, Calif.

In the early 1980s she explored the relationship between health and foods and fused the basic elements of macrobiotic cooking with her own culinary style. She came up with her own “gourmet whole food cuisine” and served as personal chef to Danny DeVito for a few months during the filming of “Throw Mama from the Train.” She answers questions for Produce Concepts.

WHAT IS MACROBIOTIC COOKING?

It’s based on the Asian philosophy of balancing two opposite energies: yin and yang. It’s a grain and vegetable-based diet where you’re always working with the five elements: water, fire, earth, metal and air. Out of those components come flavors, working in five: spicy hot, salty, sweet, bitter and pungent. As you build the menu or meal, you’re looking to have various preparation methods like steamed, raw, baked, roasted, working with those five taste elements.

It satisfies people when they get all five tastes. We love extremes. With macrobiotic, you’re trying to get a balance.

WHAT IS THE MACROBIOTIC VIEW OF WORKING WITH FRUITS AND VEGETABLES?

We work with organic fruits and vegetables grown regionally and seasonally. It’s primarily a vegetarian or vegan diet with the exception of fish.

In California, we grow everything. In Wisconsin, it’s trickier. In a snowstorm, you don’t want pineapple and mango, but hearty root vegetables with fall and winter fruit like apples and pears. So with regional and seasonal produce, you work with the five tastes and the various cooking methods. We’re using Asian condiments: miso, vinegars, mirin, tamari and sesame seeds made into a paste called tahini. We’ve taken vegan cuisine and enhanced it and brought it up to a higher culinary level.

Organics aren’t traditionally part of macrobiotic cooking since macrobiotics goes back thousands of years, and awareness of organics has only grown in the past decade. However, it goes hand in hand with macrobiotics because they are both about eating foods in their natural state.

WHAT TYPE OF CUSTOMER DOES THIS APPEAL TO?

People come to macrobiotics in a few camps. Sometimes they are ill. Many people with life-threatening diseases have gone down an alternative path. Macrobiotics teaches balance of body to create an alkaline system. If you’re healing yourself, you want more alkaline, which you do through vegetables and grain.

Others come to feel and look better and have more balance in their diet and life. A lot of people don’t know our food is based on the principles of macrobiotics. But they feel more grounded and balanced with fewer cravings at the end of the meal.

HOW DO YOU MARKET YOUR MACROBIOTIC CONCEPT?

In all our marketing, we never use the word macrobiotic. People who are knowledgeable about macrobiotics can take one look at our menu and know that they can get macrobiotic-inspired food. Those who don’t know, I don’t want to turn them off. We’re not a macrobiotic restaurant. We market organic vegetarian cooking.

DESCRIBE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES CARRYING OUT THIS CONCEPT.

Peoples’ misconceptions. The word macrobiotic is one. People also have misconceptions of vegetarian restaurants. Our mission is to raise the standard and expectation of vegetarian restaurants.

WHERE DO YOU RECOMMEND TO GET TRAINING IN MACROBIOTIC COOKING?

The Kushi Institute in Becket, Mass. (Web site: www.kushiinstitute.org).