Ask the Chef

Make the Perfect Smoothie Every Time With Chef Lake Dawson's Tips and Tricks

For Floridians, there's no wrong time of the year to drink a smoothie. Since we live in what is sometimes hot, sweltering heat (at least until summer, when it gets completely unbearable), a smoothie can be just the thing to help cool off while getting a dose of your favorite fruits and vegetables.

Although smoothies are relatively easy to make, chef Lake Dawson, the product development chef at Tropical Smoothie Cafe, wants to help you craft the perfect smoothie so you won't ever have to complain about a smoothie being too watery, too thick, too sweet, or too icy ever again.

Believe it or not, there is an art to making smoothies. Once you're armed with Dawson's tips and tricks, you won't want to go a day without using your blender.

To start, it's important to always place similarly colored ingredients together. For instance, oranges and yellows complement each other well, while green vegetables easily blend together. If you're looking for added protein in your smoothie, please skip the peanut butter! Dawson says that "no matter how much you love peanut butter, it is never a good idea to mix it with vegetables."

If your smoothies are lacking the right texture, which tends to be a common complaint with smoothies, you have to make sure you have a 50/50 ratio of high-in-water content items (i.e., leaves, apples, oranges, pears, and watermelons) and fibers (i.e., bananas and avocados). And have you ever had a smoothie that was just too sweet or way too bitter? Well, your ingredients matter! Add apples, berries, mangoes, and oranges to your drink if you prefer sweeter smoothies, and if you're looking for the opposite, blueberries and lemons will do the trick. 

Dawson discusses his inspiration for creating recipes, the secret to making a healthy smoothie, and his favorite ingredients. 

New Times: What’s your inspiration for creating smoothie recipes?
Lake Dawson: I don’t like to limit inspiration and truly believe it’s all around. Whether I am having a meal at a local restaurant, walking around my neighborhood, or just reading a book, I am always attentive to what’s going on around me. Our most recent LTO Smoothies were inspired by cocktails and seasonal ingredients.

Have you always specialized in smoothies? What were you doing before this?
No, smoothies came after ten years of cooking in restaurants. Because of the fast pace demands of the kitchen, I used to frequently scrummage around to see what I could throw into the food processor to make a smoothie for a quick and easy fill for service.

What’s the biggest mistake people make when mixing up a smoothie? How does it impact the taste?
I think the biggest mistake is that people put too much ice into their smoothies, which ultimately waters it down and takes away from the flavors of all the ingredients. Nothing kills a smoothie like water.

What’s the secret to making a healthy smoothie?
Knowing your ingredients and taking the time to learn the nutritional make up.

What are your favorite ingredients for a smoothie?
That’s always changing but right now my two favorites are dates and avocado. Dates because they are a strong source of potassium (50% more than bananas) and are a very tasty natural sweetener, which is especially good when making smoothies with vegetables. Avocados are nutrient packed, fight on behalf of your heart, and help to create the most amazing texture for a smoothie.

Watermelon Smoothie

  • Turbinado 1 Scoop 
  • Watermelon ½ cup 
  • Strawberry ½ cup 
  • Lemon Juice of 1 lemon 
  • Basil 6 leaves 
  • Ice 2 ½ cups
In a blender, combine watermelon, strawberries, lemon juice, basil, and turbinado. Blend until fruit is puréed. Add ice and blend to desired consistency. Pour into glasses and serve.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe boasts 120 locations in Florida. Visit for a complete list of locations. 
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Gillian Speiser
Contact: Gillian Speiser