Nutrition-forward to me means eating seasonally according to what is best for our health and the health of the soil that we so heavily depend on. To sustain a biodiverse, nutrient-rich environment that will produce healthy, nourishing vegetables year after year, we have to consider integrating animals into our gardens, farmlands and overall food choices. The practices found in regenerative agriculture rely on integrating animals to graze and fertilize the land as much as they do the sunlight that initiates photosynthesis, keeping the soil covered, undisturbed, maintaining crop diversity and live roots in the ground year round.
About 30% of available land is used to raise live-stock and we cut a lot of forest to make room for this. What else does this mean? We’re producing a lot of methane emissions. Cows being the biggest culprit, producing nearly 10% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emission, and 65% of all livestock emissions. Does this mean we cut meat out of our diets completely, specifically beef? I don’t believe so. Red meat, especially lean, red meat can be a superfood. And with all things, it’s about doing it smarter; raising our animals under healthier conditions, raising them with quality over quantity in mind, and considering the long term impacts on both the health of our planet and the health of our own bodies.
For me, it goes back to the initial question. Why grass-fed?
HEALTHY ANIMALS = HEALTHY PLANET
The amount of methane, nitrous oxide, and carbon dioxide our livestocks produce isn’t an inevitability. By using better practices and technologies, we can have healthier animals that have a smaller footprint. One major reason why raising our livestock on a grass diet that involves plenty of roaming is beneficial for the environment is because of regenerative grazing. This practice really is like going back to the beginning, the way these animals were meant to live: allowing them to graze in open land, their waste returns to the soil, and a pleasant cycle of growth continues. It means more soil conservation, maintenance of an area’s biodiversity, less erosion, and less water pollution. This land used to feed our livestock also helps draw carbon out of the atmosphere and even the playing field, a phenomenon called carbon sequestration. The numbers all add up to a significantly more carbon neutral footprint.
With all good things comes downsides, though…
Most of our grass-fed cattle comes from Australia where they have an abundance of grassland and temperate climates. In the US we have our heavily subsidized corn-belt in the middle of the country that faces harsher winters. This is a big reason why we finish livestock with grain in the first place, it’s what is available and what is convenient…
But we are past doing what is convenient.
HOW WE HELP CHANGE THE GAME
In its current state, going full on grass-fed livestock isn’t viable in the US. This is where our own personal decisions and lifestyle come into play. This is how we dictate a market that is already bolstering irresponsible livestock raising through a robust number of subsidies. Going grass-fed and eating leaner red meat can have major impacts on the system and your own health. In fact, plenty of studies have been done showing why grass-fed beef is the healthier option for you and your family. Going grass-fed means reduced mono-saturated fats, a slight increase of omega-6 fatty acids, a significant increase in omega-3s; grass-fed is much higher in Vitamin A and E, and cancer fighting antioxidants. And then a big one that is consistently being researched: the amount of conjugated linoleic acid in grass-fed beef, a type of fat that is thought to decrease heart-disease.
The decision seems simple enough… the way we are consuming red meat now — the levels of fat we choose, to the weekly intake — leads to some of our biggest health problems. Alzheimer, heart-disease, inflammation… It doesn’t have to be this way.
Likewise, while we help ourselves by making smarter nutritional decisions, these decisions can also go a long way in promoting more sustainable farming techniques used here in the US.
HOW WE MAKE GRASS-FED DELICIOUS
At AC Kitchen, when we think of whole food, nutrient-dense recipes, we know that lean, grass-fed beef can in fact be a part of what fuels us. We don’t have to eliminate this flavor from our palates entirely. We just have to play the game with some wisdom. Still, there are hurdles between accepting the health benefits and actually getting people to go grass-fed… One major bump being — and this is particularly big for a chef — the flavor…
… It’s simple. Less fat = less flavor.
It’s a cruel twist of fate, but it’s true and we say it over and over again: healthier foods often come at the cost of flavor. Green veggies like collard greens are often bitter, leaner meat lacks the same umami/richness we get out of a well marbled cut of steak. But this is where the chef can come shine because we all know how far preparation and care can take a dish. Well, the same goes for grass-fed beef, which because of its different fat make-up, lacks the same flavor punch as a conventional, fatty piece of beef. Follow the motif here, though: with time and care, we can change the game.
Another reason the transition to grass-fed can be difficult is simply the cost. Grass-fed will be more expensive than your conventional grain-fed beef and not everyone is going to want to pay…
But this brings me back to the beginning, and really the overarching philosophy at AC Kitchen. There’s a reason we only use avocado and coconut oil, there’s a reason we do our best to source from local farms, and there’s a reason we choose to cook with only grass-fed beef. Despite these options being more expensive, more time consuming, and overall more difficult, the future results are well worth it. That’s what we believe in AC Kitchen: making time now will free time later. Choosing the healthier option, the more sustainable option, even if it costs you something in the short-term, will pay in dividends in the long-term.
Plus, if you try our chili you’d understand…
We think Valentine’s Day, we think heart-shaped boxes filled with…
Yes, it’s chocolate…
… but is this really the best food for the love holiday?
The paradigm of chocolate as an aphrodisiac has been long perpetuated, dating all the way back to the ancient Mayans who believed cocoa to be of divine origin (it’s not, not true). Chocolate as love-medicine, chocolate as the great sexual stimulant. Well… Is it? The association isn’t without its merits: chocolate contains tryptophan and phenylethylamine (or PEA, which is much kinder on the lips) — the first is a building block to serotonin, one of the more popular brain chemicals — and for good reasons — it’s involved in our sexual arousal. PEA is a stimulant that releases norepinephrine and dopamine, it’s responsible for the head-over-heels, can’t-stand-to-be-away-from-you feeling associated with falling in love. But is chocolate really this powerful? In the end, the exact amounts of tryptophan and PEA in chocolate are small, so small that it’s hard to really determine how much of our relationship to the stuff is physiological or psychological, with most of the hard science pointing closer to the latter (I’m sorry I had to tell you this way). What we do know is that chocolate with cocoa content ranging in the 70-85% range has the highest traces of tryptophan, so take this into consideration when you’re shopping for your loved one. We all love chocolate, and with moderation, I’m not going to tell you to go without.
What I will talk about are some foods that do have science backing them when it comes to how we love…
LET’S TALK TREE NUTS
Almonds and Pistachios…
… Ever been to an Italian wedding? There’s a reason these nuts are thrown at the bride, and it’s not bridesmaid-spite (maybe only a little bit, though). A long known symbol of fertility, the almond faces a lengthy heritage when it comes to sexual benefits not unlike chocolate. However, backed by stronger science, it’s the high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in almonds that play such an essential role in their health benefits. Few nutrients have been studied as thoroughly as omega-3 fatty acids as they provide a myriad of health benefits, among which is boosted testosterone and a healthy labido. Nuts like pistachios and almonds also have a nice, low Arginine-Lysine ratio (0-24 in almonds, and 0-57 in pistachios). Low levels of l-Arginine have been linked to men with high levels of erectile dysfunction. While these tree nuts alone won’t solve all your ED problems, they are part of a healthy diet that has shown specific blood-flow benefits if you know what I mean.
AVOCADO = TESTICLE TREE?
It goes without saying Avocado has exploded in popularity due to its high levels of monounsaturated fat (people just say “healthy fats” these days) which help lower cholesterol, not to mention how delicious they are. But did you know back when the Aztecs discovered them in 500 B.C. they dubbed them the testicle trees? I know what you’re thinking, and it’s not all about their odd shape and look, but their benefits as well. Avocados are high in vitamin-E, a well researched nutrient that was originally labeled as “Antisterility Factor X” when it was first discovered in 1922. The research on vitamin-E is extensive and there are solid finds illustrating how it can help with fertility in both men and women. So if you’re on the fence about paying $15.00 for avocado toast, let this help with the decision making.
MACA … WHO?
What is Maca, again? Asking for a friend.
… Maca is technically an Andean plant in the mustard family. What you find on the shelves in powder form is actually Maca root. It has been used for centuries in the Andes to enhance fertility, being rich in amino acids, iron, calcium, and arginine as well. The plant has been linked with increased sexual behavior, increased sperm count and sperm motility. While studies continue to be done on this newly popular (although very old) root, the current findings and its nutrient make-up certainly warrants it some shine on this list.
CAROTENOIDS… THAT’S ALL DOC
Carotenoids are what produce the bright yellows, oranges, and reds you see in fruits, vegetables, and plants… But they’re good for much more than just adding color to your dish. Foods like sweet potatoes, kale, and carrots are high in carotenoid and many of us already know these foods come with their own wealth of health benefits. These foods are rich in antioxidants, vitamin-E, and beta-carotene, a powerhouse of a combination when it comes to some specific sex-benefits. Studies have shown an increase in sperm motility, sperm count, and sperm health in diets that contain more carotenoids. Plus, you get all the other nutrient benefits as well — it’s really a win, win… So if this is something that interests you, I’d keep carrots and sweet potatoes in that meal-plan.
I’m tempted to include a “spice up your relationship” or any other number of spice puns here… but I will resist for the sake of education…
… Capsaicin is a chemical compound first isolated in chili peppers and also found in jalapeño, cayenne, and especially hotter paprikas. It’s what helps give all these foods their spicy kicks, and also that energized, I’m so alive! feeling spicy food lovers often get. Well, this is no accident… capsaicin triggers your body into releasing endorphins in order to counteract that hot, spicy pain you’re feeling. We’ve touched on the power of endorphins a little: a feel-good hormone that also gets released during sex. It can help create the feeling of intimacy and relaxation, stave off anxiety and even depression. If you’re sensitive to spice, maybe this one isn’t for you… If not, perhaps add an extra teaspoon of cayenne in tonight’s dish.
MOST OF ALL… HAVE A HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY
A perfect meal is just another element that adds to the atmosphere of a beautiful night with the one you love. Nutritious food has the power to boost your health and heck… even your sex. For those who plan to cook or even eat out on Valentine’s Day, consider these foods, and enjoy the love.
The best part of waking up…
…was mediocre drip coffee and people were plenty satisfied. These days, people are adding everything from massive amounts of fat to CBD oil and psilocybin. Yes, microdosing psychedelics are now legal in one state here in the US and coffee makers are brewing up some magical morning brew said to improve “physiological, mental and spiritual health.” Seventeen-year-old me is pumped, 38-year-old me is saying, really? We think people will do this in moderation like they “do” sugar and caffeine in moderation? Will people even make it to work? The epiphanies, the self-discovery and deep philosophical conversations with random strangers on the train; this should be interesting…
Like 90% of adults in this country I thoroughly enjoy coffee, not only for the taste but also for the immediate cognitive enhancement aka, instant gratification that turns dull into inspiring, immediately.
Does it interrupt my sleep pattern? If not consumed in moderation, at the right times, YES. Coffee can throw off my whole circadian rhythm. I honestly do better with teas like yerba mate, a more effortless pick-me-up.
What does the research say?
The research(1)tells us that caffeine is a double-edged sword. Primarily in the form of coffee, caffeine is looked at by not only athletes but also the Military Nutrition Division of the US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine (that’s a long one) with “substantial evidence,” as performance enhancing, improving endurance, concentration and increasing muscle strength.
On the contrary, some studies link caffeine to sleep deprivation. The findings here show that the fatigued person is more likely to consume higher amounts of caffeine which leads to interruptions in the sleep pattern which leads back to more caffeine to wake up in the morning. This is the vicious cycle that many people are wrapped up in. The percentage of Americans who sleep fewer than 6 hours a night increased from 13 – 20% from 1999 – 2009 with caffeine being a possible culprit.
Here are some more, very interesting facts on sleep.(2)
Many things can cause sleep deprivation and one can certainly improve cognitive and physical performance without caffeine. For those athletic types, one suggestion is to limit caffeine in your downtime in order to get the maximum benefits when you need it most, during training and competition.
Know this, caffeine is the fastest acting stimulant drug known to man. Like any other drug, we need to be cognizant of its effects, good and bad, and also look more closely at our intentions while consuming it.
If you are one that is caught up in the vicious cycle of being sleep deprived as well as dependent on coffee everyday, I challenge you to switch over to drinking only green tea or yerba mate no later than 3:00pm for 30 days and see how you feel.
A couple tips for good sleep suggested by Matthew Walker (check out his TED Talk: Sleep is Your Superpower):
(1)Risk Manag Healthc Policy. 2018; 11: 263–271. Published online 2018 Dec 7. doi: 10.2147/RMHP.S156404 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6292246/
(2) Matthew Walker scientist and professor of neuroscience and psychology Book: Why We Sleep TED: Sleep is Your Superpower
Yet again, the Pats are onto the Super Bowl! It’s absolutely incredible to see them here again for the third time since I moved back to Boston in 2013! The third. Numero tres. Nummer drei. Namba tatu.(that last one is swahili, just in case) This is a historical and monumental time for us New England natives and fans. We will be reminiscing about this for a long, long time!
As busy as I am preparing to launch Avail I always make time for the Pats. And, no matter how strapped I am for time or what the occasion may be; a game, a birthday or a dinner with friends I am always looking for clean eats. What I fuel my body with is a top priority. You do not need to be an elite athlete to strive for the benefits of eating a meal plan that is founded in plant-based, whole foods. Life is a sport. If you don’t stay on top of your game, make the right food choices and exercise regularly, you will inevitably become part of the statistics around dietary related disease.
Here are a few Patriot-themed, delicious, simple recipes that you can whip up before the big win on Sunday!
“GRONK SPIKED CHICKEN BITES”
Togarashi Roasted Chicken with Spiked Ranch
3 lbs bone-in chicken breast
2 tablespoons coconut oil
3 tablespoons togarashi spice
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 tablespoon scallion, sliced thin
Spiked Ranch (dairy-free)
1 cup cashews
1 cup water or (insert spike here by replacing 1 tablespoon of water for liquor)
¼ cup lemon juice4 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon salt (to taste if needed)
pinch chili flakes
“The Mending Squirrel Needs a Good Source of Nuts!”
Rosemary Walnut Turkey Meatballs with Creamy Tomato Sauce
½ cup walnuts, toasted (@375 8-10 minutes)
¼ cup yellow onion, diced small
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
3 tablespoon coconut oil
1 lb ground turkey (mix of white and dark or all dark)
¼ cup rosemary, chopped fine
pinch chili flake
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon coconut oil
handful basil leaves
Creamy Tomato Sauce
2 teaspoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves
1 ½ cups canned whole plum tomatoes with liquid (organic San Marzano are best)
¼ cup water
pinch coconut sugar
¼ cup raw cashews
¼ cup water
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
salt to taste
“The Limber GOAT”
Spinach and Avocado Dip
2 cups baby spinach
1 avocado, cut in chunks
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
1 garlic clove, grated
pinch chili flake
salt and pepper
Fresh cut veggies or tortilla chips
(I prefer Siete tortilla chips )
These recipes were also featured in the Boston Herald
IT”S NOT A DIET, IT”S A LIFESTYLE.
By now, my “progressive modern” philosophy of eating and cooking primarily plant based has an unshakable foundation. This popular way of life is dynamic, constantly evolving, eco friendly, proven to cure and prevent diseases, and more! Eating whole foods is not about the distractions that we encounter along the way…
Eating whole foods is not a fad diet.
Eating whole foods is not a cruelty free scare.
Eating whole foods is not a strictly raw-high carb-no carb jumble.
Eating whole foods is what I do…keeping it real simple.
Eating whole foods means keeping it simple and keeping an open mind to not one’s own ability to change…
It means acknowledging our complex genetic make up and the needs we have.
IT MEANS I GET TO KEEP FEEDING AND EDUCATING…
I hear of people like Derek Nance of Kentucky. After years of being sick, he came to the conclusion that the only meat he could eat was raw meat. When he ate any other meat, it would cause him too much pain. Raw meat literally gave him life. Yet another beautiful example that all human beings are not made exactly the same. Who am I to tell people what their bodies need?
IS MY WAY BETTER THAN YOURS?
No, it’s not…none of what I do is 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 encountering my own health issues, including terrible gastro problems, I became open to try something I hadn’t tried before. 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.
In my career as a chef, I playing a strong role in the way people eat and think about food. The deeper I get into my craft, and this lifestyle, the more I learn the facts and statistics about obesity, diet related diseases, the scandalous and harmful food production industry, and the deteriorating environment.
MY JOB IS TO LEARN AND SHARE!
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.
My message is this:
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.
Unexpectedly moving back to Boston, abruptly for a job, after living a life full of sunshine, Crossfit and daily conversations about health and wellness on Miami Beach for the last half decade has been quite the culture shock. I grew up in this season changing climate, never really adjusting and feeling the gloom as I morphed into an angry Bostonian all winter long, year after year. Some say seasonal depression, others say lack of water and vitamin D that kicks off the sickness and ultimately dark mood that seems unshakable while the sun goes down at 4:30pm every day and most of our time is spent cooped up inside.
I have to say, I clearly saw this coming. Maintaining high spirits and overall inner peace and a healthy body and mind is a bit more work in a colder climate. It is not harder, per se, just a whole new ball game of prioritizing meals, exercise and stress relief, to avoid the winter blues. As consistent as I have been with this “conscious” lifestyle for the last four years and working mostly 7 days a week, getting into a rhythm here in Beantown has been a challenge.
So, like many remedies I have found, I look into the ancient system of Ayurveda. When it comes to a holistic approach to living, I intuitively have been drawn to these 5000 year old teachings. It just makes sense to me. They tell me to not foresee the winter months as the dreadful “cold season” or “flu season” but a chance for the body to strengthen not only our immunity but also spiritually and emotionally. This was music to my ears. Where has that suggestion been my whole life?
Nature intends to nurture us in these cold months and our digestive system is ready to keep up with the appetite that we gain now also. Like anytime of the year but especially now, it is important to eat clean! Organic, unprocessed whole foods will give us the overall nourishment we need to reap the benefits we can gain at this time physically, emotionally and spiritually. Foods high in vitamin D and good fats like sweet potatoes, mushrooms, dandelion greens as well as fatty fish like wild salmon, tuna and mackerel and also organic eggs are going to help with the loss of sunlight in your life. For those strict vegans, learning the difference between vitamin D2 and D3 could be helpful also.
Getting into a routine with a meal plan, exercise regimen and overall wellness practice, for me, is priority. I am of no service to anyone never mind a shining beacon of healthy eating if I fall into a slump and end up settling for the easiest fast food around because I am too cold and angry to cook. For me, this means getting up earlier to hit the gym and also planning my own meals ahead of time while I am planning those for my clients. This might seem like common sense but not many chefs, even private chefs, will plan their own meals ahead of time.
I didn’t always know this but my spiritual and emotional state is the core of my existence. I know that sweeping emotions under the rug and looking the other way when life happens is not an answer today. For me, I have found an amazing healer that I see bi weekly for body work and acupuncture. Abhyanga or self massage is something that definitely sounds a little strange for this westerner but a ritual I have been practicing for a few years now. I was originally seeking to clear the break outs on my skin and realize through this unaccustomed routine I am stimulating my organs and immune system as well as building resistance to stress and disease. Our skin is the biggest organ of our body and the most accessible, bringing awareness to it through this moving meditation/self massage can be life changing for someone that may be closed off to the idea.
It looks like we have a choice this winter, to wallow in our junk food and whine about wanting to go to a warmer climate (speaking of myself of course) or take action and take advantage of the growth opportunity. Here’s a quick side dish recipe that is sure to build your immune system and warm your frail belly.
Roasted Root Vegetables with Winter Spice
1 cup diced Butternut squash
1 cup diced Sweet potato
1 cup diced Celery Root
1 cup diced Carrots
1 cup diced Parsnips
1 T coconut oil, melted
1 T fresh picked thyme, chopped
½ t ground turmeric
½ t ground cumin
½ t ground ginger
½ t ground black pepper
½ t cinnamon
½ t salt
Preheat oven to 425. Feel free to use any of the root vegetables or what is available to you. Combine turmeric, cumin, ginger, pepper, cinnamon and salt. Toss diced vegetables in bowl with coconut oil and spice mix. Roast for 10-12 minutes. When fork tender, remove from oven and finish with fresh thyme. Serve next to some garlicky kale or pour into a bowl of lentils. Enjoy!
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 are 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.
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.)
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 foundation 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.
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.
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.Read More
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.Read More