Counting Calories in the Kitchen

After slaving away in restaurant kitchens, I learned why most chefs aren’t role models for healthy lifestyles. You spend 14-hour days on your feet under relentless pressure, hunched over a counter that’s knitting a knot in your back. It’s enough to make you cry out for relief and food is the most accessible anecdote.

I remember inhaling many a family meal while standing at my cutting board. Some of my favorites included our sous chef’s pho with hoisin-spiked meatballs, and the porky posole one of our line cooks made (my dream was to combine the two into the ultimate soupy delight, “phosole”). My all-time weakness was my fried chicken and biscuits. I dredged buttermilk-soaked chicken in seasoned flour, egg wash and flour again, then fried it to golden perfection. The biscuits, packed with pearls of cold butter, baked up like puffy pillows. I could crush half a chicken and a pan of biscuits all by myself.

In a kitchen dripping with intensity, it was also oozing with irony. We were knee-deep in amazing ingredients like fresh porcinis as long as my forearm, squash blossoms picked so fast they housed a bee or two, and potatoes still warm from the ground. But it was interesting to see how the kitchen staff chose to eat. Some of the cooks effortlessly gobbled up everything in sight without gaining a pound. (I hated those guys.) I knew one chef who could go all day on nothing but a handful of trail mix. That’s an adequate diet for a medium-sized squirrel but not for a guy pounding through a long service. I figured I was eating family meal instead of lunch and dinner so I was ok to consume as much as I wanted. Except I wasn’t. After just 1 year, I gained over 30 pounds.

Since I didn’t want to keep expanding and eventually wedge myself between the counter and stove, I needed to feed myself well while feeding others. I had to mentally separate the food I was making from the food I was eating. This mindset came in handy when I ran a test kitchen. Eating my test dishes as lunch saved loads of time, but buying bigger pants cost way too much. I added a tasting plan to my prep list so I sampled just what was needed. By being aware of how much I was tasting, I shed those extra pounds.

Now I treat professional cooking like a sporting event, inspired by my husband who just completed a 70.3 Ironman triathlon. Athletes take in fluids and calories to keep their energy stable, and now I follow suit in the kitchen. I refill my tumbler of water constantly and I pack protein bars in my knife kit so I can grab a quick, healthy bite. If I keep my hunger in check, I can cruise by the rolls on the speed rack without blinking.

These days I work in my home kitchen, inventing healthy recipes for clients. And though I’ve swapped foie for farro, I still have to watch what I eat. Even when you’re enjoying healthy foods, it’s easy to blow it on calories. Plus, when I really get going, hours can fly by and suddenly I’m starving. No matter what kitchen I’m working in, I have to first focus on what I need so I can put the best of myself on every plate.

Anne Haerle didn’t grow up cooking. She was raised in a Southern family who prepared, debated, and discussed food endlessly but didn’t take much interest beyond cleaning her plate. She has now discovered the real reason she loves to cook and chronicles her journey on her blog yourinspiredchef.

A Weekend in the Red Rooster Kitchen, Part I

By: David Roldan

Going into it, I was nervous. I thought I wasn't going to know a lot of their ingredients. But once I stepped into the kitchen, it felt good.

These were some of my fears going into Marcus Samuelsson's kitchens at Red Rooster Harlem and Ginny's Supper Club. I was visiting New York City for a long weekend and had the opportunity to stage under Executive Chefs of both kitchens, Michael Garrett and Jeremie Tomzcak. Although Marcus was out of town that weekend to check up on his new restaurant Norda, in Sweden, he still allowed me the chance to visit his restaurants and work under his chefs for the weekend.

A stage is a brief apprenticeship where you donate your time in a new kitchen for new knowledge. The main reason you partake in a stage, or estage, ("st-ah-je") is because you want to learn under a particular chef of caliber, or a specific trade that you may not know about. Back in the days, there weren't a lot of culinary schools, so young aspiring cooks would go to the chef of an established restaurant and offer to cook for free or for food. Kids as young as 13 years old would start by washing dishes and taking out trash, then gradually move around in the kitchen and learn from every station.

Now staging is more structured and more corporate, and you most likely need some sort of a connection in order to set one up with a well-known chef. One thing is for sure, it's not as glamorous as it may seem; it's hard work and you have to be humble and willing to learn. They can ask you to take out the trash or wipe the floors or clean the fryer, which is one of the worst tasks, or do one particular task for the entire day.

I went into this stage as a first-time professional. I'm an Executive Sous Chef for a large hotel in San Antonio, Texas so I've been cooking for over 15 years, so I wasn't there to learn how to cook. New chefs have the opportunity of learning a vast amount of cooking skills and procedures, while more experienced chefs can perfect their skills, learn new techniques, or see the differences in how kitchens can be run. I didn't know what to expect going into the Red Rooster kitchen, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn as much as I did in such a short time span.

Like I said, I was nervous, but once I stepped into the kitchen I saw some familiar ingredients, similar techniques and seeing how this kitchen was similar to others made me feel comfortable. My first day was in the kitchen at Ginny's Supper Club. I started off doing prep for later that night and their first-ever brunch the following day. I also got a glimpse into some of the ingredients on their regular menu.

At first, I didn't expect the kitchen to be as small as it was, for how many guests they serve each day and for the large staff; but it was very well-managed by Executive Chef Jeremie Tomzcak.  I noticed all of the orders go out on time and Chef Jeremie makes it a point to also train the wait staff, which is very important. It's nice seeing a chef that cares about service as well as food. I worked my way up from prep and eventually made it to the line that night for dinner service. It was exciting to see how the staff adapted to the new menu for Ginny's and how they put new techniques to work in creating the menu for this new restaurant.

Stay tuned for Part II of David's stage experience at Red Rooster Harlem and Ginny's Supper Club.

Photos: David Roldan

For more insight to Red Rooster Harlem, follow me on Twitter (@MarcusCooks)

Best Cookware To Help You Go Green

By: Allana Mortell

Earth Day is just a few days away and while you may be thinking of direct ways to celebrate this date, such as planting, beach clean-ups, etc, there are some other ways you can go green this year right in your own kitchen! While purchasing new cookware, consider more eco-friendly products that will not only put less stress on the environment to create but can also benefit your health in the end.

In terms of cookware (pots, pans, nonstick, stainless steel, etc), the options are endless and shopping for said items can quickly become overwhelming. One factor to be kept in consideration is teflon-free cookware. In the past five years, a relationship between cancers, liver toxicants and other icky chemicals appeared with materials in non-stick cookware. Once that material, such as teflon, degrades or is heated, it releases Perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, which can be found in the food you eat and has been linked to thyroid disruption and cancer, to name a few.

So if you're looking to go green with your kitchenware, check out some of our favorites below...

Ecolution: To compensate for the PFOA coating, this eco-friendly company prides themselves and their hydrolon-coated products on a "Cook Well. Do Good" campaign. Their aluminum pans are coated with a water-based, non-stick coating that allows for even-heating and is dishwasher safe. Additionally, their packaging is printed on 70% recycled materials and their website features a "Do Good" campaign, which discusses ways to renew, reuse and recycle all old cookware products.

Earthpan: Based on sandflow, non-stick technology,  all of these PFOA-free pans are coated with a non-stick layer of product derived primarily from sand. This Australian manufactured brand heats up to 25% higher than its competitors making it ideal for high-heat cooking. The products are all dishwasher safe and industry results show Earthpan outlasting other eco-friendly cookware 3:1. With options ranging from woks to frying pans and French skillets, the Earthpan cookware is ideal for any kitchen trying to remain eco-friendly.

Cuisinart "GreenGourmet": Instead of being petroleum based, this line of cookware from the culinary giant Cuisinart is ceramic based, making it completely free of PFOA. The ceramic coating is applied at a temperature of half that of traditional non-stick pans yet the hard andodized construction provides extreme high heat conductivity. That specific construction ultimately requires less energy to reach desired cooking temperatures. Finally, the stainless handles are made from 70% recycled stainless steel, making it easy to grip and safe on the environment.

Scanpan Cookware: The "Green Tek" line of products from this popular cookware destination are all ultimately PFOA free. Even though Scanpan has always eliminated PFOA in their coating, the ceramic and titanium non-stick surface of this new line is made from a compound that eliminates any need for PFOA entirely. Additionally, all of the products managed by Scanpan are made from recycled aluminum.

Preserve Plastic Products: Made from 100% recycled and recyclable #5 BPA-free plastic, all of the food storage and kitchen items featured in Preserve's line of products are lead and PFOA free. With the same idea as Ecolution, this company rears its angle on "Nothing Wasted, Everything Gained." By reducing, reusing and recycling old products, the #5 plastic is sorted, cleaned and tested until eventually being turned into new preserve products. By choosing preserve products over traditional plasticware, you are gaining significantly less oil, gas and water used in making plastic alongside a sizable reduction in greenhouse gases emitted.

What are your tips for going green?

Photo:  theloushe

For more healthy tips, follow me on Twitter (@MarcusCooks)

Five Inexpensive Kitchen Improvement Projects

Photo: gardener41 on flickr

It is no secret that food brings us together, whether it is sharing a meal or swapping recipe ideas with friends. And while our palates and dishes are ever evolving, our most important tool-our kitchens,-is often ignored and remains stuck in the past. Get your kitchen out of its slump by following these simple tips to improve your kitchen and better your life! While you're at it, why not also check out these great guides to making your kitchen greener and more beautiful!

  • Bringing reusable grocery bags to the supermarket or the farmers' market is the one of the first steps to living more eco-consciously, but often times we still come back home with a few stray plastic bags from herbs and produce. The talented girls at BBBcraft found a way to combat this problem by making their own miniature market bags for fresh fruit and vegetables with everyday materials. For instructions, visit BBBcraft's website.
  • Invest in a magnetic knife holder. The magnetic strip holds your knives in place out in the open, so you don't lose them in messy drawers or dull them in wooden knife blocks.
  • Lacking cabinet space? Take a page out of Julia Child's book and invest in a pegboard, either a small section or a whole wall, to hang your pots and pans. They'll be easier to find, use and put away than if you keep them stacked in a cluttered mess. Go a step further and outline each tool on the board, making for a quick and simple clean up after cooking.
  • Pegboard 2.0 - If you are already a fan of pegboard for your pots and pans, why not try a smaller section to house various knickknacks, such as keys, umbrellas or magazines. Derek and Lauren, owners of The Curiosity Shoppe installed a pegboard unit with bungee cords to hang their various food and wine magazines, a great way to get organized without having to sacrifice space or those beloved recipe ideas. For more information, click here.
  • Never lose that bottle opener again! There are a variety of magnetic bottle openers that will stick right onto your fridge, great for easy access and easy clean up. Not in the mood to spend? Magnetic strips can be found at any pharmacy or craft store and can be easily attached to the back of an opener with crazy glue.

What are your inexpensive kitchen improvement tips? Let us know in the comments.

Photo: gardener41

Introducing My MOZO Shoe Line

The Greek philosopher Plato called necessity the mother of invention.  I've definitely found this true working in a kitchen, there are always problems that need to be solved, and often chefs have to think on the spot to find a solution.  When it came to designing shoes for chefs, I knew that there were a lot of ways to improve on the time-honored shoe and make it timely.  I'm really excited about my new line of shoes and proud to collaborate with MOZO shoes on a stylish and comfortable solution to chef shoes. My three styles are called The Uptown, The Downtown, and The Madison.  Each has its own flair, and look great whether you're inside or out of the kitchen.

I wore the Downtown shoes to the 2011 James Beard Awards; they're my take on what Manhattan would have been like in the 1940s, when it was custom to always be decked out with a nice hat and in a pinstripe suit.

The Madison is chic for stepping out from behind the stove and heading for a night out with your buddies; and the Uptown takes cues from the copper cookware in classic New York diners.

I wanted the young chefs in my kitchen to have an affordable yet stylish option.  All the gear you need to be a chef is really expensive and it's hard to be paying out of pocket for all the tools.

Whether you're a professional or an avid home cook, I hope you find these a stylish and comfortable addition to your kitchen wardrobe.

Now available on Coming soon to