Don’t Get Distracted, Just Eat Whole Foods

no diet signBy now, my “progressive modern” philosophy of eating and cooking primarily plant based has an unshakable foundation. This way of life is deep and ever evolving, eco friendly, proven to cure and prevent disease etc etc. What’s distracting to most people I come across is all the he said she said of fad diets, cruelty free scare them with this, strictly raw that, high carb to no carb. I really like to keep things simple and also an open mind to not only my own body’s ability to change but the complex genetic make up and needs of those I am feeding and educating.

Example: I hear of people like Derek Nance of Kentucky. After years of being sick, he came to the conclusion that its only raw meat that he can eat without pain. Just one good example that we are not all made exactly the same. Who am I to tell people what their bodies need?

For me, it’s not about “my way of doing it is better than yours.” There are many reasons I choose to live this lifestyle and none of them have to do with the above mentioned “distractions.”After having many health issues my whole life including terrible gastro problems, I became open to try something I hadn’t before and take a look at how I was feeding not only myself but my guests. Through some meditation and fasting I have become conscious of my own body and well being and for me, I truly feel best when I eat a primarily plant based diet.  veggies

In my career, as a chef, I hold a position next to chefs of all levels playing a strong role in the way people eat and think about food. I feel with the statistics around obesity and diet related disease, the scandalous  food production industry of today and the deteriorating environment and nation as a whole, that it is my obligation to step up. Looking the other way and ignoring these things as a selfish slob is not an option.

It is just a matter of one conscious, proactive choice over the detrimental, mainstream other. This proactive choice trickles down to all those around you and ultimately contributes to the solution of bettering the health of all those you feed and saves the environment. (Not to mention the millions that would be saved if not for the health cost of diet related disease)

I really, really love my family, especially the innocent kids around me that tell me they love me and bring so much joy to my life. I love them so much that I am thinking into their future and what kind of rude awakening they could be in for and what I can do to change that. I eat this way and I cook this way because I love kids (most kids anyway lol).
We only get one chance in this incarnation to make an impression on those around us, to leave a lasting memory with those that will follow us and most of all the earth that set us up with an abundance of food and resources to use as we may.fruity kid
My message is this:

  • Do some research if you don’t know how our eating habits have effected our health negatively worldwide
  • Look at where all of this disease and pain started  with packaging processed foods to replace whole foods.
  • Don’t be distracted by fad diets or scare tactics
  • Get back to nourishing our body the way it was intended to be.
  • Be aware that the food industry is a business that runs off of consumers, repeat customers that buy their products. Just like any business except the health of the consumer is not part of the business plan.

Our bodies have not evolved to digest the processed foods we are feeding it. Maybe it will someday but as of now our bodies are functioning the same way they did when we were hunting and gathering. People are getting sick, very sick and it’s all because they are making a decision to eat one “food like product” over whole foods.
Share the message of eating whole foods. Rest easy knowing that when you leave this planet, you were not selfish. Instead you were considerate of the lives of those that had to depend on whatever resources you left for them to survive on.

 

Pride Outside Campaign, Top Local Chefs and the Anticipation of my “Closed Doors” Dinner in Wynwood

Two days after my Conscious Bite Out dinner, I get the opportunity to give back. A great source throws me in the mix to participate in the “Get Out of the Kitchen” launch event for the Pride Outside Campaign. They aprideoutsidecroppedre set out to raise over a million dollars to build new playgrounds in Bal Harbour schools. The new St. Regis was the host of the event and I was among 16 other top chefs in Miami and Fort Lauderdale volunteering their time and food for a great cause. Jose Mendin chef of my favorite spots in Miami, the Pubbelly Group, Timon Ballo of another one of my go-to places Sugarcane, Giorgio Grapicavoli, Chopped winner and chef/owner of Eating House, Jeremy Ford from 3030 Ocean, who I know now, is practicing being self sustainable and growing his own produce in a greenhouse at his home in Fort Lauderdale, and many other local reputable top chefs dished out our best to this well dressed crowd.

(some more pictures from the event)

Each of us had our own station set in the ballroom with a table of 12 in front of us. We chose the menu and the décor for the table based on our restaurant. I obviously do not have a restaurant but Sacred Space Miami provided a beautiful set up to go along with the only plant based menu of the night.

We were allowed three courses without dessert. I start with an amuse bouche (single bite)

Kale Napoleon with Raw chocolate, Mamey and Pistachios. (Oh, this is a fancy event so I will use some fancy words. Once again, bridging the gap between tree hugging and the mainstream chef.)

Next is another variation of my Bee Pollen Salad- swiss chard, fennel, mango champagne coulis. 2013-05-02 20.52.06

Appetizer was Coconut Corn Cake-black bean puree, scallion-jalapeno salsa and turmeric paint.

Entrée was the best and here I did something a chef should never do. Rule of thumb: never do a dish for the first time when you are in front of a live audience. I tend to want to take this risk often and has yet to totally blow up in my face. Maybe a little splatter, but not totally. I do a pasta duo: Purple pappardelle with porcini cream and maitake mushrooms and a Whole Grain Risotto with Kale pesto and marinated red beets. It was the pappardelle that I had practiced just hours before and decided to put it on the menu. It paid off. The lighting in the room illuminated a florescent purple and my guests were left asking what it could possibly be if it wasn’t pasta.

I had some great help from my friend Misha, a fellow chef here in Miami and overall the night was a great success. My non-vegan guests were continually surprised at what was going on in their mouth after every bite. The questions poured in and gave me all the room to pass on the benefits of eating this way, even in such an upscale environment.

Putting this plant based lifestyle at the 2013-05-02 21.22.02foundation of my philosophy as a chef is a risky one and coming from my meat and potato-Bostonian heritage, it is more like frowned upon. Well, I have always been a bit of a risk taker and not afraid to stand behind something that does not get the majority rule. Sadly, in this case, it is more of a skewed perception and lack of education than a valid reason to not see the benefits of a plant based culinary foundation. In my opinion, this will be the future of all cuisine if we are to sustain this planet and increase the declining health of our population.

After the event, Executive Chef of the St. Regis, Tom Parlo, put out a spread in a few of their meeting rooms and invited us chefs back for a bite and a cold one. I got to meet some great chefs; some that I knew, some that I have wanted to meet. I spoke to some of them about getting together in the future as I plan a “closed doors dinner” at my new place in Wynwood. The minute I moved into this up and coming artsy neighborhood and saw the potential of the huge space I live in, I thought underground dinner club!! Showcase a local artist, maybe a guest chef once in a while, food you cannot find anywhere else. It’s just what we need here in Wynwood.
Stay tuned for more info on this small invite only dinner that I want to hold at least once a month.

Conscious Bite Out+Superfoods=No Strings Message About Dining Out

Having one of the most amazing, stressful, labor intensive, exciting weeks of my life this past week, I quiet myself, regroup and get even more clarity about the message of a plant based lifestyle I am so eager to share.

First though, I get the opportunity to fulfill one of my dreams as a “progressive modern” chef. I am asked to be the feature chef of Conscious Bite Out, a monthly dinner held at Sacred Space whose philosophy encompasses all of my beliefs: stay local, educate guests to make better food choices, encourage healthier options in restaurants and most of all, they bring awareness to our future generation by donating to Edible Garden Schoolyard Projects. 

This dream of feeding guests, in a formal dining experience, the absolute maximum nutrient dense flavor profiles that nature has to offer is something I have not been able to explore up until this point. I honestly put the idea on the back burner and told myself that it is going to wait until I launch my own concept here in Miami.

Well, wouldn’t you know, one of the founders of Conscious Bite Out, happened to be at a tasting that I did and gave me the honor of leading this last event of the season before the Sacred Space undergoes renovations for the summer.

I didn’t tip toe around my ultimate motivation to nourish my guests and chose “superfoods” as my theme. I took things like fresh local bee pollen, goji berries, coconut, raw chocolate and an abundance of nutrient dense-local-organic fruits, vegetables and grains that most people do not even know exist and made them the star of the show.

This casual/upscale event started with an hour of passed hors d’ouevres; coconut and mamey with cilantro, Jamaican jerk roasted boniato with nutty local honey, small spoons of quinoa with sweet potato and maple toasted pecans, bok choy and pineapple skewers with tahini and toasted cashews.

Jordan, a good friend of mine, came to the event representing Whole Foods South Beach, who also donated most of the dry goods. He was juicing shots of ginger, cucumber, mint, etc, and coating the rim in honey and the most buttery bee pollen you will ever taste, also donated by a local bee keeper.

The 65 total guests then were seated in a separate room minimally decorated with white candles and just golden light illuminating from the floor. I started with a bee pollen salad. Just when you thought it was only good in smoothies or on top of yogurt. This amazing, complete protein was put into a dressing with sesame and lemon and then coated onto the mango turmeric paint on the plate. red and golden beets, swiss chard and pickled mango were also there to accent the flavor.

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Next course: White corn and zucchini cake with pistachios and a superberry “crema” Organic corn being in season here now influenced this concoction. For the “crema” I started with cashews and mamey as a base and rehydrated gojis and mulberries.

Entrée: Lentil arancini, tomato broth, jalapeno “butter” and roasted rainbow carrots The broth was reminiscent of where my heart lies, in the North End of Boston, and the lentils were like a rich stew of mushrooms, vegetables and herbs.

Dessert: I decided to do a “semifreddo” duo: Chocolate hazelnut with salty hempseeds  and strawberry guava. Jaboticaba is also at peak season here now so I made a caramel with this deep purple exotic tasting fruit to drizzle around the plate.

I came out to talk to the diners and express how blessed I felt to be feeding them in this way and also some Q+A about the meal they just experienced. I hit them with so many flavors, textures and most likely added on a year or two to their life along with a boost in their libido for that night to say the least. The look in their faces and overwhelming gratitude that they expressed fueled my motivation all the more to continue this journey.

After an event like this, the “Progressive Modern Chef” in me is left with this question, “What has happened to a guest’s perception when they dine out and what is my role as a chef that is feeding them?”

Most people lose sight of our most predominant survival instinct and why they are eating and more about what kind of emotions they will feel when experiencing their favorite flavor or texture or even the thrill of who the name is behind the restaurant and, in Miami, the celeb they are sitting next to. This I could shout from the rooftops and at the same time would be frowned upon by my fellow chefs making a killing off of their patrons lost instinct to nourish their bodies.

Hey, don’t get me wrong, no one respects the history of food and the many cuisines as a chef does and I will forever refer to those that came before me for the technique, execution and passion that they demonstrate. But, the bottom line is that chefs are feeders. That’s what we do. We feed people in many ways. Casual “grab and go” ways, “fancy” ways, in ways that people will never forget as it is what molds many, many traditional celebrations. No matter what caliber you are at or what recognition you have gotten, if you are a chef, you feed people. Period.

When a therapist provides services to a patient, the results of their work will show after some time, No? If they are misdiagnosing them and keeping them on medication to keep the money rolling in and the patient inevitably is taken for a ride, what kind of therapist are they? Although the person can surely make the decision to not listen to the therapist and walk away if they know what’s best for them, is it still ok to take advantage of their distorted perception and falling to manipulation?

Same goes for a chef. If I go to eat at your restaurant on a regular basis, eat your food and then end up overweight, diabetic and full of dietary disease, who is to blame? What if I just go sometimes and just get a little sick each time whether I know it or not?

I know, I may be a little harsh here, especially on these chefs running French bistros and diners and what not that may not have two micro-nutrients to rub together, but I am making a point based on my own awakening. I was not taught this, necessarily led this way in any one conversation, it is a strong intuition that pushes me to bring this awareness to chefs and anyone that dines out.

This country has a serious “eating” problem. You can blame the media and advertising that manipulates kids while they watch their Sunday morning cartoons all you want, but as a chef, what can we do to contribute to slimming down this obesity epidemic and educating not only our guests but our peers on what foods will benefit them most and which ones may be killing them slowly? Let’s put our cost sheets down for a second and put some morality behind what is on the shelves in our store rooms and walk-ins.

I have a lot of love for the restaurant business and even more love for those that not only dine and keep me employed but look up to us chefs like we are God sends, admiring our talent and constantly patting us on the back. I say, it’s time to give back and maybe in an anonymous way. A sincerely good deed is left unsaid. If we pay attention to what we are serving, the guests are more inclined to be aware. Awareness like this on a global level will reshape the entire food industry and more importantly our ever increasing “eating” problem.

2012earth

2012… Apocalypse or Shift in Conciousness?

 For some of us, the anticipation of what is to come in 2012 is like waiting for test results at a clinic after spring break. It is one of many dates set prior in history predicting a plague or the “return of Christ during The Rapture” or a catastrophic disaster that will wipe out our existence. It is actually around 224 times throughout history that this “end date” has been forecast by one group or another.

Columbus had the first European association of the Maya with eschatology [study of the end of times], predicting that his discovery of new lands would bring about an Apocalypse in 1524 with the second Great Flood. Then of course, it’s one of the translations of Mayan writings that an Armageddon would overtake human kind and annihilate our present universe that’s most talked about these days. It is 12-21-2012 that is the final day of a 5,125 year cycle in the Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar. According to NASA solar flares will touch down on Earth as some say we may also collide with some object as a black hole or passing asteroid. Although astronomical alignments and numerological formulae cosign this theory, mainstream science is not acknowledging it.

What the hell does Plant Based Body or my passion for nutrient density have to do with the ideas around 2012? Well, it is the New Age theory that is ringing true to me in my new found journey as a chef of showing people how to facilitate bringing nutrient dense foods into their life. It says this end date in 2012 is really a new beginning; “Suspicion toward mainstream Western culture, the idea of spiritual evolution, and the possibility of leading the world into the New Age by individual example or by a group’s joined consciousness.”

Hmm… Could this idea of a spiritual evolution start with a plant based diet” Well, let’s see…

• Impacts the environment –in a positive way, believe that? According to Environmental Defense, if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off U.S. roads.

• Prevents and reverses disease- all of the top diseases taking lives everyday are directly related to diet and exercise, studies have been done to prove that plant based diets reverse diseases such as cancer The China Study

• Slims the worlds growing obesity epidemic- this crisis is crippling our nation’s workforce and shortening our kid’s lifespan. We are developing new diseases at a rapid rate because of the man made substances like refined sugar and hydrogenated oil that we put into our bodies. (my synopsis of The Weight of the Nation.)

I realize that the way the world eats may not have a decreasing effect on some more serious worldly issues like human trafficking or wars in the Middle East. The foods we choose to eat only affect us right? What would happen if the majority of society refused to purchase any products with toxins that would harm them and their kids? What if they started putting their money into buying only foods that benefited them the most? Is this shift in our thinking part of this “joined consciousness”?

The cereal aisle in grocery stores would be gone! Now an abundance of whole grains, legumes, oats, dried fruit and nuts in a bulk section in 50 lb tubs instead of 1 gallon containers. Bushels of leafy greens would now be lining those middle aisles instead of the processed crap that makes up 70% of our selection now. The cookies and snacks made from hydrogenated oil, refined sugar and MSG wouldn’t be missed but just made more naturally without harmful toxins. Locally sourcing products and produce will support farmers and small businesses enriching our communities.

These big bully advertising and marketing companies would not have a target and would ultimately either fold or adjust to the demand of the health conscious consumers. No longer could they manipulate society, primarily children through television ads during the cartoons they watch, into eating and eventually needing processed foods that will ultimately kill them. No longer could they slip unlabeled genetically modified frankenfoods into our supermarkets.

Now, the only action we have actually made is the conscious decision to eat the foods that will benefit us the most. This should be our natural human instinct. We did not have to submit to communism or give up our first born, not even do anything but keep an open mind to the foods that can essentially save our lives, our kids lives and our planet.

In my point of view, making this decision simply means, “I have decided I want to live a full life and not just be another statistic that dies from diet related disease.” If that is not the shift in our thinking we need in 2012, I don’t know what is.

That's one Tough Mudder Fu#$er! This is just around the end of mile 1. 

Shock therapy and double diamond peaks still to come.

My Journey to SoCal: 10 Miles of Tough Mudder and the L.A. Food Scene

There has always been a west coast/east coast beef whether it’s among rappers or rival sports teams. “Our loud, closed-minded edgy New England rapport is better than your hemp growing, generic tree hugger lifestyle!” Growing up, I was always flaunting how proud I was of my heritage and my Bostonian Scotch/Irish roots, and with that naïve pride, by default, was not receptive to any other culture.

Personally, I think placing stereotypes on anyone is just a cop out for shortsighted people. It is only from breaking free of the mindset I was brought up around that I have been able to grow and ultimately welcome life on life’s terms as it unfolds in its many forms.

Last week I went out to the west coast for the first time. I took on one of the biggest physical challenges of my life while there, Tough Mudder So Cal, a 10 mile military style obstacle course in Snow Valley Peak Ski Resort, Running Springs, CA. It was a friend of a friend that organized a team of 10 coming from as far as Australia., rightfully named East Coast Fury. Together we climbed up and down double diamond peaks, plunged into icy waters and ran and crawled through 10,000 volts of electric shock to the head and body for 5 straight hours while screaming “ECF! EAST COAST!”

I trained long and hard for this event running and doing Crossfit but my real reason for going out there was to scope out the food scene in and around Los Angeles that I have heard so much about. I stayed in downtown for just 3 short days but traveled through the burrows of L.A. to Santa Monica and Venice Beach.

My first thought when I got to West Hollywood was, “damn this city is spread out and pretty dirty,” compared to my well kept little neighborhood on South Beach where I can bike everywhere I need to go. I guess I wanted to see an abundance of beautiful California produce lining the sidewalks while some free spirited, hallucinating hippies danced around chanting Greenpeace.

Luckily I was not swarmed with the smell of pot smoke, patchouli and dirty dread locks like I had expected but what I did find were concepts I have been envisioning, creating and sharing with clients and all of those around me. Healthy fast food everywhere! Freshii, Tender Greens, Greens Up and Real Food Daily are just a few chain restaurants I got to experience that are spread throughout L.A. County putting raw, organic, fresh nutrient dense foods conveniently at your fingertips.

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Jinky’s in Santa Monica, known for its breakfast and many chilis (6 different daily options) and also Caffe Primo in downtown had the whole grains, raw options and superfoods as, not just an afterthought, but a substantial part of their menus. Jinky’s served up a massive bowl of Kelp noodles, sprouts, greens, raw veggies and seared tuna for $14. I can hardly find kelp noodles, which are low calorie and packed with 70 minerals and 21 amino acids, at a one of the few raw vegan concepts in South Florida, never mind at just a regular cafe known for chili.

Primo’s also had a brown rice bowl full of raw veggies with your option of tofu, chicken or fish for $10-$12. Big portions of whole grains and vegetables, endless healthy options no matter where you go all well within reasonable prices sets L.A. aside from anywhere I have been here on the east coast.

My last night there, a friend brought us to Chateau Marmont, a historical landmark hotel with a small French restaurant next to, Bar Marmont. My friend was entertaining a few Columbian models he had met at the hotel so I figured I would take one for the team and eat some unhealthy calorie dense French food for one night. Well even here, at a see and be scene destination, I find kale, raw, in a salad along with lentils and brussel sprouts to remind me that I am still in California. Nutrient density at all levels of cuisine, not that hard is it.

This experience has motivated me even further to develop nutrient dense dishes, educate those around me on simplifying healthy cooking and conceptualize my “progressive modern” approach to the food scene here on the east coast. Without a doubt I thought about, still thinking about, moving to L.A. to surround myself with this progressive lifestyle but feel like the east coast can benefit from my “progressive modern” concept much more than the west coast.

I say, “Get Humble East Coast!” The way we are eating sucks and we need to open up to what California is doing. I am confident that it will only be a matter of time before areas on the east coast, especially South Florida, will have more convenient healthy options eliminating the need to grab the fast food crap so readily available that is detrimental to our health.

An Energy Bar a Caveman Would Club You For

I talk a lot about nutrient density evolving to be next to flavor, texture, appearance, portion size etc. while creating dishes and more importantly when choosing our own meals at home and in restaurants. This idea shouldn’t be such an eye opener to chefs and consumers considering the reason we eat is to nourish our body, isn’t it?

Never mind all the myths surrounding the year of 2012, we are facing the fact that our high maintenance lifestyles will soon burn up all of our natural resources and quite possibly only the self sustainable will survive. Maybe not in my time, maybe two generations from now, but it is not far-fetched looking down the road we are headed. Without getting too in depth, as I like to keep this blog light, is that what it will take for people to start recognizing that the food you put into your body will either benefit you, prevent and even reverse disease or will harm you and rapidly do just the opposite?

Let’s take a trip back to the primal days when there were no 5 star prix fixe menus and million dollar Coca Cola ads sugar-washing the brains of children. The intellect was not nearly as advanced and the mechanical resources obviously minimal. No grab and go crap or even the machinery needed to make vats of MSG or refined sugar to poison the population with. Even if there were, like many animals, our human ancestors would have listened to their body’s needs and intuition and not ingested the toxic substances. They probably wouldn’t have been fooled by shiny labels or convenient packaging. If only we could maintain that mindfulness and eat for optimum survival, our population would be a much, much healthier one.

Sadly, it is our cultural influences through the media and advertising that lets us think eating fast food and Cocoa Puffs is acceptable. On top of that is our hectic lifestyle that tells us that we don’t have time to cook at home or to stop and grab something nutritious to our health. “There is just no time!!”

While working with individuals and families on how to simplify cooking nutrient dense meals at home, I am always on the lookout for a convenience food that is organic and nutrient dense. There are a few decent grab and go bars that are natural and just what they should be without any man made extras, but, then there is one that has 52 superfoods in it! Yeah, 52…

They’re called Good Greens bars, based out of Shaker Heights, OH, and not your typical dry flavorless health bar. With super greens like spirulina, chlorella, wheatgrass, barley grass folded in next to spinach, Nova Scotia dulse, beet juice, alfalfa sprout, and hemp powder to name a few, you would think these bars tasted bad, real bad. Not the case. From the level of sweet, clean and chocolatey flavor I figured they must be juiced up with sugar to mask the Z-52 formula. Nope, these bars are low glycemic and suitable for diabetics. More-so, the carbs here are “Good Carbs,” stabilizing blood sugar levels and insulin production as well as curbing hunger.

Not only is one bar a full serving of your fruit and vegetables for the day but it’s the DHA and Omega 3s that improve cognition, the acai berry, green and white tea extracts that increase energy and the chia seed, ginger root, aloe vera, milk thistle and ground flax powder that are going to detoxify your cells while you are on the go.

The only problem with these bars, for me, is that they are not stacked up in place of Snickers bars and Skittles in the candy aisle of every grocery store with shiny packaging and cartoon characters to market them the way these junk food giants do. I love the idea that the superfoods are snuck into these delicious bars. Oh and they will most likely sell for around $2 a piece. Not bad for the amount of nutrients you get for just 200 calories each.

There is also Good Greens powder that can be used in smoothies and juices and contains all of the same benefits as the bars. Go to http://try.goodgreens.com/ to get a free sample and also a 50% discount on your first purchase.