Cooking for flavor + nutrients and why I left restaurants

As some of you have followed along my journey, I decided to go to culinary school after graduating from University of Delaware with a degree in Dietetics. Health and wellness have always been passions of mine, however, I decided that the first step in my career would be to go to culinary school. Even though I was living an overall healthy lifestyle and cooking at home, I still felt like food and its preparation were foreign to me. I wanted to overcome this both personally and professionally. Additionally, I wanted to learn more about the prevention of disease in the health and wellness world. I believe that begins with our food choices and what we decide to put on our plates, rather than only the treatment of people who have already become victims of their own poor diet. What we consume is a huge component of preventing disease and I deepened my knowledge of this during my time in culinary school at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City. 

During my time working in restaurants, I gained invaluable experience that I will carry on for the rest of my life. It was a fun, yet challenging, experience working in fast-paced kitchens, but ultimately I was fulfilled to be working with food, especially local + seasonal food. I grew tremendously during this past 4 years of my life, both professionally and personally. However, it wasn't until this past year that I really started to become unhappy in this career of mine. For one, the hours are extremely difficult. Long shifts, stressful nights, and little sleep. The life of a chef is really hard and I honestly don't know how people do it for so long. Number two, I realized I started to lose my passion of health and wellness. 

Chefs are not thinking, for the most part, about nutrients and health when it comes to food preparation. Their view is flavor. I came to the realization that I wanted to see both flavor and nutrition as a part of cooking. Going out to eat at restaurants is fun and should be enjoyed every now and then. However, after working in a few kitchens, I believe they are not the healthiest in my own opinion. The restaurants I did work in, would buy from local markets at Union Square in New York City, which was very fun to be a part of! Some of my favorite moments were being able to be a part of those market runs. However, if something is being fried or cooked, it is usually in canola oil or other cheap, unstable vegetable oils to save costs. Restaurants are expensive to run and I understand why they are buying and using these oils, but I also understand and see the harmful effects these oils can have on our bodies, especially when using them long-term. They are simply not healthy for us.

A major takeaway from my work experience is that I want people to understand that eating healthy, nutrient dense food can be both accessible and delicious! Flavor should not be sacrificed for nutrition's sake. I learned to prepare seasonal fruits and vegetables I did work with in creative, flavorful ways! This knowledge was a revelation because it led me to understand that eating with the seasons is not only healthier for you and the planet, but it is also tastier and more affordable too! It makes nutrition for enjoyable and exciting. I have seen this firsthand with my own family. I have taken the skills from my culinary experience into my own home and have allowed my family to learn from me and I hope to do the same for others too. 

I am very excited for this next chapter of my life. I have been accepted to a Master's of Nutrition program combined with a dietetic internship. I am looking forward to combining both of my of these experiences of food and nutrition together. I can't wait to see where this will take me, however I want to offer tools and resources for people to get back to the basics of healthy living and cook simply, not only for flavor but for nutrients too! Thanks for being along for the ride!