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.

 

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The Weight of the Nation

I have recently joined an organization called Make Healthy Happen Miami. This outlet will allow me to get hands on with the community and voice the message from a chef’s mouth. Last night, I had the chance to few the screening of, The Weight of the Nation. A four part documentary series confronting America’s obesity epidemic, that will be airing on HBO beginning May 14 and also stream online free of charge on HBO.com in English and Spanish.

I was gritting my teeth at the statistics. Two thirds of adults and one third of adolescents are overweight or obese! With those percentages, I will reiterate this message again and again. Diet is directly related to five of the top ten leading causes of death in America including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, stroke and kidney disease. 147 billion dollars a year goes to obesity related health care costs. Need I say more? A full press release is here

For the first time in 15 years, the Obama administration has gotten Congress to pass new changes in school lunch policy. All government funded schools will double the amount of fruit and vegetables, require all grains served are whole grains, limit salt, french fries and trans fat and also set a minimum and maximum daily calorie intake based on students age. Unlike some raging parents and potato farmers, I think this is a great idea. What does it mean to Americans? The government is stepping in where they can, regulating what your kids eat and not going to let healthcare costs continue to soar because of the poor food choices that are made.

Between policies like these and hopefully future regulations on the amount of advertising of unhealthy foods on television, this costly epidemic can be reversed. In the mean time, chefs have a choice. We can get educated on nutrition, if we are not, and be cognoscente of our own health and therefore our guests. What better than the hands and artistic talent of a chef to promote and educate a healthy diet even if it is just to their coworkers and guests.

Let’s open up our eyes as chefs, consumers and diners to what we are serving in our restaurants and spending our money on. The chef will adapt to the demand of his clientele if he wants to stay in business. Additionally, diners will adhere to the slight changes in dishes such as leaving white flour and refined sugar behind and enriching menus with nutrient dense whole foods.

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Progressive Modern Philosophy

What are we left with after dining out? Whether a sandwich at a local lunch spot or a $200 seven course meal, all we really have is a memory, the bill and what’s left in our belly to nourish our body.

Is it fair to say that chefs have a pretty big impact on what the world eats and have molded what fine dining has become? Am I doing the unthinkable by saying we [the chefs]need to take responsibility for what we are putting in front of our guest’s and start incorporating the diner’s health into the equation at all levels of cuisine? Break down our menu by nutritional value and see what we are really feeding our guests. Wouldn’t our awareness collectively trickle down to the media and ultimately society’s idea of what to look for in a dining experience.

I used to get offended when people would say, “Don’t trust a skinny chef.” I was thin, of the undernourished variety, fast metabolism; the little I ate didn’t stick. Some discipline, Crossfit and a good diet have allowed great changes to happen for me physically and overall.

Now it dawns on me… Who do people trust to cook their meals? Is it the constipated diabetic chef with the pot belly? Is that the image society has developed? Would you listen to a dentist that let his teeth rot out or an obese personal trainer? Unconsciously we are putting that trust in the men and women in that kitchen every time we walk into a restaurant.

I have grown to get excited when I see a coworker drinking a shot of ginger juice or gulping down a nice nutrient dense green juice that I gave them. Why is that? My love as a chef is to feed people and watch them enjoy my creations. Furthermore, it truly brings me pleasure knowing that you are eating foods that will benefit you physically and mentally for the long run.Image

I was not always this way of course. It wasn’t until I took some steps in my own life to bring harmony into my body mind and spirit that I started to have an epiphany of what dining should be about.

It is as if the guest is totally dependent on what we give them to recharge their bodies. We are so spoiled that we forget that food is our fuel, our medicine and stress reliever. Able to revitalize organs, cure disease and increase longevity if we just consume the right ones. I am going to say that most people do not consider that enough or are just jumping on what the next guy does.

Yes, I have a deep respect for the art of food and the many ways to prepare and present it. My feelings are like that of many; food is most beautiful when it is simply put in front of the guest the way nature intended. Minimal change needs to be done when you have quality whole foods to work with. I commend restaurants that pay the price for good product and believe in this philosophy.

No one likes to dabble in everything edible without any restrictions the way a chef does. Unless you’re a vegan chef in a raw restaurant you probably have never heard of substituting an ingredient because of its lack of nutrients. Adding something like maca powder to a veggie burger not for flavor but the simple fact that it is full of amino acids and nutrients and its ability to combat stress and increase stamina should not be uncommon. It would be expensive but these are the types of things I would like to see as part of the “progressive modern” high end dining experience.

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.