Why “Urban Paleo Chef”?
I absolutely love to cook. I love everything about it: I love selecting the produce which will become my food, I smile while unpacking it after a successful shopping trip, I delight in selecting the ingredients for the next meal, I am soothed by the prep work of chopping and slicing, and finally I am excited to see the response my food brings. The art of food is one of my most rewarding past times.
I am neither a professional, nor professionally trained. I became a chef the old fashioned way: my mother taught me. To be fair, my father taught me too, but it was mostly my mother who instilled the values of the kitchen in me, and I carry those same values throughout my life.
In addition to cooking, I spend my time running, maintaining my plants, and doing the best that I can to maximize the minimal living space that a NYC area Urban Life offers. I like spending time out on the town, sipping a nice glass of red wine, and tasting the latest or newest food. I spend time with friends and family at every opportunity. But, this site is about food, so let’s get back to that.
Prep Work: Before, or during?
Ok, you caught me… I’m a prep-while-you-cook kind of guy! I like the hectic busy-ness that only comes from frantically trying to keep up with boiling pots, dinging ovens, sizzling pans, and chopping, dicing and slicing all at the same time. From time to time I get burned, and occasionally, that can be taken literally! But most of the time the scramble to finish each task as or before it’s due works out, and I love the challenge it presents!
Ahh, knives are often the easiest way to differentiate between how you should refer to someone. If they have their knives professionally sharpened (or not at all) then it’s ok to call them a cook. If they sharpen their knives themselves, then you had best call them a chef… -Notice the pause for dramatic effect? As for me: I do them myself. I have 3 sharpening stones (and yes, you can call me a geek just for knowing about this stuff – a Chef Geek!):
- A 600 grit diamond stone for when I’ve been terribly busy at work and have neglected upkeep. This stone is for fast cutting and heavy shaping, and should be used very sparingly on high quality knives!
- An 800+ grit diamond stone for normal shaping and sharpening. This is for when I’ve been a little remiss in my maintenance, and let a blade go for a week longer than it should have, or if there is a part of the blade that has been used more than the rest and needs a little extra attention.
- And finally my pride and joy: a 1200 grit Novaculite finishing stone. This is a beautiful stone, and the edge it allows me to put on my blades is very nice! I use this for my normal maintenance of my knives, every few days, and as a finishing stone to smooth the blade after using my 800 grit diamond stone.
For more on knife maintenance and tools, see here for a complete understanding on my tools, what kinds of knives and blades I choose, who I look at for knife advice and sharpening tips, and how I sharpen my knives.
Is there any part of cooking that you don’t like?
Actually, yes. The unfortunate reality of most people’s lives is that they have to buy things when they’re on sale, and store them frozen until they’re ready to be used. I really dislike thawing my food. Not that I let me distaste for thawing food keep me from being practical; I still buy food when it’s on sale, and freeze it until it’s time to use it. But I just don’t like leaving my food out for hours to make sure it’s ready for cooking!
But I don’t have time to cook a gourmet meal!
I’m so sorry to hear that!! See, if I thought that there was anything standing in between me and the food that I want to eat, well… You did read that I sharpen my own knives, right? On a more serious note: I work a full time job, just like most other people here in the NYC area, or most people I know. And my full-time job doesn’t leave me the countless hours in the kitchen that I would like. The truth is that a gourmet meal takes planning, training, and knowledge. But most of these meals don’t need to take hours of prep and cook time. And the few that do (among my favorites: crock-pot meals!!!) can often be done in a way that they cook while you’re at work, and are ready for you when you get home!
Above is a link to a separate page, where I discuss and share a select few of my personal thoughts on the health media and public health policy, as well as how I came to the Paleo diet, and why it makes sense to me.
About Paleo: What do you miss the most?
This has got to be the most frequently asked question about Paleo! I’ll be honest, it’s been 2 years now and I don’t regret my decision to give up grains or beans in the least. But there are some things that I miss, just a little bit. And first on that list: Bread. It’s not that I liked eating bread, nor the flavor… No, the thing I miss the most is the practicality of it. Making a sandwich is just a totally different proposition without bread. But, yeah, I miss the practicality of bread the most.
Paleo bread: What are your thoughts?
You’re looking to trap me in a corner here, aren’t you?! Alright, I’ll answer it. But don’t go complaining about this – you asked! I think that the “Paleo Bread” and similar Neolithic Paleo products out there are a great tool to assist people who are having a really difficult time converting from a SAD diet to a Paleo diet. And in line with that, like any “conversion tool,” I think that people should stop using “Paleo Bread” as a crutch once their bodies have gotten used to the new diet, and they have started to feel the benefits of grain-free living!
Ahh, the question for the ages! The media-doctors out there are raging against the Paleo movement with the honest fear of someone who sees their job vanishing underneath their feet! The talking heads are doing their dead-level best to put a stop to this information as fast as they can! I have seen websites proclaiming lists of absurd assertions that the Paleo diet (and similar diets) will cause this and that kind of damage. And all of this merely makes me shake my head, disappointed that they are so deep in the pockets of big-pharma that they’ll rail against the best thing to happen since sliced bread!!!!
But getting back to the food: Who doesn’t love a steak?!? A grass-fed steak with some quality veggies on the side, and perhaps a salad as an appetizer… Well, I can’t really think of any meal I want more often than that one! Does that make it my favorite? I don’t know. But it’s the food that we, as humans, were literally designed to eat! So, to answer the question again: yes. Paleo is for everyone. And there is no good reason anyone can’t make it work.
How I started out:
I was just like any other kid, more interested in playing outdoors than working in the kitchen. I was also just like many other kids in that I loved to be helpful. So when my parents would ask me to go to the garden and pick out a few cucumbers for dinner, I loved it, and did it with pride. Then, at the dinner table, my parents would give praise to young me, saying things like: “Everyone thank your brother for the salad.” As little as my part in the salad had been, that little gift of recognition was enough to encourage the behaviour. The next time, I was bringing in the carrots and lettuce too. Before long, I was participating in growing the garden. And thus they encouraged my participation. But none of that amounts to the big step, from participation, to Chef.
One holiday at my house, there was a large gathering. I couldn’t tell you which holiday, nor who was in the gathering – I simply don’t remember that part. What I remember is the hustle and bustle of people participating in the creation of the meal for that day. Now, remembering above that I had been rewarded for participation, I wanted to be in there, hustling and bustling just like everyone else. I wanted to participate in that group. And for whatever reason, the salad was no longer enough participation for me. I wanted more. Well, my mother saw me working my way in to the kitchen, and looked at me and said: “Only the chefs of the meal can be in the kitchen right now.” And that was it. I knew, then and there what the rules were. And since I wanted to be in that group of hustling and bustling Chefs, the only solution to my desire was to satisfy that rule: I needed to become one of the Chefs. And so I have.