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.

 

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.

Choices: Overweight Doesn’t Mean its Over

Just a reminder: The Weight of the Nation streams online for free on HBO.com.

The second of this four part documentary, Choices, first reminds us that Americans have built a cheap food model as a result of being mislead through television and advertising. It is the profitable foods that are in our face the most that become our go to options as we constantly look for the more convenient way to eat.

At the National Institute of Health they are trying to look at what drives obesity through metabolic clinical research in hopes of developing better therapies to treat and prevent it. They can see the brains response to more pleasurable foods but the biological systems involved in obesity are complex and have posed a challenge to science. The sensible conclusion of most studies: Small changes in lifestyle will reduce weight. To me that means more discipline in making healthier choices driven by the desire to want to live.

The documentary reiterates much of what has been said for years about diet, exercise, and diabetes and obesity prevention. When it comes to fad diets, author of The 100 Year Diet Susan Yager, tells us these diets are meant to be temporary, if they solve the problem they will be out of business. The legitimate dieticians, doctors and researchers all have the same suggestions about this shift in lifestyle in order to lose weight. The first suggestion to prevent obesity is:  Stop drinking sugary drinks! Soda, red bull, orange juice, any sugary juice extracted from its fiber needs to be eliminated. Dr. Robert Lustig Professor of Pediatrics at UCSF says, “The sugar in the fruit is nature’s way of getting you to eat your fiber.” I agree. There is a reason that nature does not produce little sacks of pure fructose. We are not meant to ingest sugar without fiber present.

It is not breaking news that to lose weight, caloric intake must be a few hundred less a day than what your body needs to function. Those calories do not need to be all carbs/no fat/no protein, all lean protein/some fat/no carbs, or whatever the next 2012 Diet of the Mayans before the Apocalypse might suggest. Obviously nutrient dense calories would be ideal here and resisting trans fat and toxic calories are common sense. Toning down all three macronutrients; protein, carbs and fat is suggested. They talk about not going extreme with a caloric intake that is too low, starving yourself, because it will slow your metabolism and therefore burn no fat.

Scientists in this study do not agree with the Biggest Loser’s approach to intense physical activity being the primary solution to lose weight. Although exercise is just as important as diet, portion control and gradual weight loss is much more effective for the long run. What exercise does do on top of burn calories is reduce stress and raise levels of opioids, the chemicals in the brain that allow us to feel pleasure. Sugar, white flour and fatty foods also raise this level and eliminating these without adding exercise is part of the struggle while transitioning to a healthier lifestyle.

 

As far as diabetes prevention as talked about in this film, Dr. Epel of USCF conducted a study with two identical twins in their 50s to see if a lifestyle intervention could decrease diabetes. In 95% of cases, if one twin has diabetes, the other one also gets it. The patients in this study were the Daly twins. The one who was a little less active and a little more overweight got the warning of pre-diabetes from his doctor in his early 40s. He continued his lifestyle while the healthier one increased exercise and a healthier diet to prevent his chances even more. Ten years later the unhealthy twin has full on type 2 diabetes while the healthier twin does not. Doctors are suggesting that with weight loss, exercise and proper diet that he can reverse this health problem that could take his limbs if not his life someday.

The stress epidemic is in direct relation with the obesity epidemic. Part of one study is to teach the patients about bringing awareness to their food and listening to and feeling the body’s cravings for foods. Being able to see when we are eating out of stress is key in maintaining a healthy weight. Stress literally causes your body to go into fat storing mode and look for these fatty, sugary foods. When the brain is stressed it sends a message to the adrenal glands to release adrenalin and cortisol. Cortisol floods the body creating enzymes in the fat cells that turn them into fat storing machines. This rush floods the brain and like the drive for a drug pushes you to look for these fatty unhealthy foods.

To sum up, no matter what you are genetically predisposed to or what your current state of health is, through a few small changes in your lifestyle you can achieve a healthy weight and prevent and reverse disease such as diabetes high blood pressure. This is a topic that I am very passionate about have began working with clients through Plant Based Body on a one on one basis. Going into their homes setting up their kitchens teaching them how to simplify cooking these healthy foods at home is how I am beginning to make this my life.

Two days ago I was laid off from the hotel I was at after 3 ½ years. I am now looking forward to pursuing my passion full time and helping those around me find the love that I have found for nutrient dense food. I have the ability to bring my 17 years of culinary experience to show them how to utilize what nature has given us and make this lifestyle that much more simple.

Food Trend Starts with Progressive Modern Chef

Before I put the cart before the horse, I want to emphasize a few topics I would like to think most are tuned into at this point of our existence. The awareness of diet having a direct correlation with one’s health is a given, right? How about our many pushes at relieving stress from the dominating work load we carry? We do want to remain liable to our passion for the long run without sacrificing our well being, right? Good. And lastly, we have all heard the phrase, “You are what you eat,” (more like you are what you consume). Excellent. This is a good starting point for you to see where I am going with this.

I have been in the industry for 16 years and can count on two fingers the number of chefs, owners and co-workers that have uttered the words, body, mind and spirit in a non-sarcastic direction. Through 8 ½ years of hands on education I was never advised to eat right and exercise or seek organic (non-chemical) solutions to relieve stress. Bahaha!! That’s unheard of!

It’s no wonder that this industry has double the percentage of substance abuse and divorce rates over any other workplace in the U.S. You think that the awareness would be more vocal and therefore present more prevalent solutions. Front or back of the house, this has not been my experience.

Isn’t it the lifestyle of our leaders that we inherit and consider the norm? I am going past the farm-to-table, all organic with shaved truffle on top hype. It is not the caliber of a chef’s cuisine that will bring them good health and sanity. Don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful for the chefs I have learned from and do not feel cheated by their message or lack there-of. I truly feel that until I was open to it, I wouldn’t have heard them anyway.

Like most of my predecessors, I am also to blame for not wanting to inconvenience myself and just sweeping it under the rug when I had nothing to offer. Gaining humility and a willingness to think outside the box is the only way I could see the light at the end of that tunnel.

I have always known that chefs can impact those around them greatly. People are entertained by them, donate to charities that they put their faces on and read about them like local celebrities. Is it going too far to say that these chefs can impact much more by first taking action in their own lives? What could it do for the freshies coming into the industry or even the rising obesity issue in this country? Where would food trends go?

I say out with the old, in with the new. FIFO, first in first out. Break out of the old school mindset, if you’re up for it, and into the next progressive modern chef.