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Posts Tagged ‘Natural Gourmet Institute’

Our grad Colin Zhu serving up omega-rich food at WellBeingMD Center

Our grad Dr. Colin Zhu serving up omega-rich food at WellBeingMD Center

“Alignment” can be defined as an “integration or harmonization of aims.” I use the term here more specifically to describe an interconnection of events that could not have happened to me otherwise, if I was not honest, open, aware and – most importantly – authentic with myself.

The series of events I refer to led up to my experience with Dr. John Principe, the creator and founder of WellBeingMD Center for Life in Palos Heights, Illinois.

Some doctors’ offices have nutritionists on board, some have chiropractors and physical therapists for rehabilitating patients, and some alternative practices work with an acupuncturist. However, few doctors’ offices, if any, boast what Dr. Principe’s office has – a professional teaching kitchen with hands-on cooking and demonstration classes, complete trainer-guided exercise programs ranging from Zumba to Tai Chi, as well as acupuncture, chiropractic and massage.

Did I mention the other side of this coin is a full medical practice? The two approaches, like Yin and Yang, form a unique recipe called the Roadmap to Wellness program, whose main goal is to help patients take back control of their health.

I had the distinct pleasure of working with Dr. Principe for four days at the end of November, after hearing about his unique practice in a New York Times article in April of this year.

Aware that I was a resident physician and a Natural Gourmet Chef’s Training graduate, Dr. Principe put me to work the very first day! I saw patients in the morning and, by the afternoon, I was making french omelets for the employee staff for lunch. This was a unique experience because I saw patients with chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, which could be prevented by preparing health-supportive meals.

By the second day, I was sautéing and roasting locally grown carrots and peppers in preparation for a Teach & Learn class on omega fatty acids. For this class, we prepared wild-caught Alaskan salmon and carrot bisque with kale-chia seed pesto on extra virgin olive oil-laced whole wheat baguette.

By the fourth night, we prepared and served a meal to the Emergency Medicine Journal Club of Christ Hospital. While it is certainly a privilege to teach patients the importance of healthy eating and living, it’s likewise an honor to share those concepts with colleagues as well. The menu:

  • Dr. P’s homemade marinated black olives with fresh bruschetta
  • Wild-caught, grilled Alaskan salmon with roasted whole wheat couscous on balsamic-glazed mixed greens
  • Red wine-poached pears with whipped ricotta cheese

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Dr. Principe’s mission at WellBeingMD is to promote and educate about healthy and sustainable living so patients can take back their health. I was very blessed and fortunate to work and learn from him for that short time, and I know his pioneering vision is shared by many and is just the beginning. To learn more about Dr. Principe’s work and related topics:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtT6_1vtjzQ (Dr. Principe’s TEDx Talk)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2RNTsJpDfM (Kale-Chia Pesto Demonstration)

http://www.healthykitchens.org

Colin Zhu with Dr. Principe (left)

Colin Zhu with Dr. Principe (left)

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Natural Gourmet Institute CEO and founder, Annemarie Colbin

November 9 marked another milestone for Natural Gourmet Institute – 35 years since our founder Annemarie Colbin anticipated  the current trend by starting a cooking school in her home that emphasized the connection between food and healing.

While “whole,” “local,” “seasonal,” “organic,” and “sustainable” are the watchwords of the day, they’ve been a way of life and a commitment for NGI instructors, students, and graduates for over three decades. 2500 Chef’s Training and several thousand public class students later, we’re still at it and growing stronger.

The anniversary celebration was held at the school with NGI staff, instructors, graduates, and students in attendance. Kudos and thanks go out to NGI staffers Mollie Berliss, Mark Mace, Brandon Reichert, Sue Baldassano, Jeri Rostron, and Merle Brown, who worked together to create a warm, memorable, and festive evening.

The evening kicked off with a reception featuring elegant seasonal appetizers prepared by Chefs Jay Weinstein and Olivia Roszkowski, with the help and talent of Chef’s Training Program students. While guests feasted, schmoozed, and reminisced, they were entertained by the quartet Violet (featuring our own Assistant Director of Admissions Meredith Minogue) and classical guitarist Rudolph Vernaz-Colas.

The evening was also an occasion for recognition. The Natural Gourmet Institute Award for Excellence in Health-Supportive Education went to two outstanding people in our field – NGI grad, chef and author Louisa Shafia and whole foods chef, author, teacher, and media personality Andrea Beaman.

Our founder, Annemarie Colbin, of course, was our other honoree. Check out our tribute video where colleagues, students, and instructors share their thoughts and feelings about Annemarie’s contribution,  foresight and leadership in the field of health-supportive eating.

The evening’s festivities were capped by raffle prizes, courtesy of our friends at Maimonide of Brooklyn, Dirt Candy, Pure Food and Wine/Lucky Duck, Fort Reno, Palo Santo, and Chef Rich LaMarita. A gong ritual finished the ceremonial portion of the evening, followed by champagne and celebratory cupcakes topped with the stunning fondant creations of our graduate Sachiko Windbeil of Mimicafe Union. All in all, a good way to kick off the next 35 years.

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doctor-chefs-in-training

On October 15, Natural Gourmet Institute had the privilege to host Dr. Robert Graham, his wife Julie Graham (a certified holistic health coach), and 13 residents from New York’s Lenox Hill Hospital for a special, hands-on evening of healthy vegetarian cooking. The Grahams and NGI created the event to draw attention to the Meatless Mondays campaign and give doctors the knowledge and tools to treat common lifestyle illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity with healthy food choices and cooking techniques.

The evening kicked off with hors d’oeuvres and a meet-and-greet between the doctors and NGI staff. Then it was into the kitchen for the doctors to prepare a healthy, balanced vegetarian meal under the direction of NGI instructor Richard LaMarita, who designed the Italian-inspired menu.

Colin Zhu, a recent graduate of NGI’s Chef’s Training Program and first-year resident at CentraState Health Care System, introduced the evening’s recipes and talked about their health benefits and nutritional highlights. Chef Rich followed with a quick knife skills tutorial, and then the doctors teamed up to make a healthy, seasonal four-course meal.

The class was a resounding success and the first in a series where these internists, each committed to promoting the role food choices make in our health, will learn basic vegetarian cooking techniques they can share with patients.

 

 

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So, just a few weeks ago, our grad Nancy Ligouri asked me – NGI’s social media guy – if she could start a Facebook page for grads and current students. I told her that it was a great idea. Several people had offered to do it before, but never got around to it. It seemed like a project that should come from a student or grad, so I never interfered.

To my surprise, Nancy had the page up and running in about 2 seconds flat. Within a day, it had about 1,000 members (at current, 1,037). I could put an exclamation point following that, but I never use them.

More to my surprise: the page rapidly took on a life of its own – or maybe more accurate to say the life of its members. Dialogue of all kinds proliferated, and members were talking about all sorts of things I’d never imagined the page would host.

To me the page is very exciting. You could almost say “organic.” It truly expresses what our students do, think, want.

Some members use it for sharing tech info . . .

Some for braggin’ rights . . .

Some share their own social media . . .

 

Members have been sharing news about upcoming events . . .

 

 

Have a question about culinary zeitgeist?

 

How about advice for upcoming exams . . .

 

Did ya hear about that field trip with Chef Rich?

 

 

 

 

and JOBS . . .

 

This is just a sampling of what the page is doing. If you’re a future, current, or former student, join up. You’ll learn something.

 

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A bowl of magic on Converting day: miso soup with vegetables, seaweed, tofu, and shitakes

A few days ago, at the request of students, I posted on Facebook a recipe for miso soup I always make during a baking class.

The class, Converting Practicum (about which I’ve written before), is an all-day laboratory for our Chef’s Training students. Working in pairs, students take a conventional baking recipe (with white sugar, refined flour, and processed ingredients) and convert it step-by-step to a more whole, vegan alternative. It’s a brilliant exercise in how minimally refined sweeteners, whole grain flours, and natural additives work.

Each student group makes 6-8 batches of their cookie, cake, or muffin recipe in the course of a day. By a rough, conservative estimate, we make 700 portions of dessert. Heaven knows the students try their best to taste judiciously, but all that sugar and flour (even the “healthier” choices) eventually gets to them. Imagine the challenge of remaining intellectually focused with starches and sugars as your mind’s only fuel.

The Converting day process

That’s where the miso soup comes in. Making a big pot of this Asian elixir is – and has always been – an integral part of the Converting class. It’s our chosen antidote to expansive, acid-forming sugar and flour. A bowl of alkalizing miso soup, chock-full of vegetables, live with digestive enzymes and rich in minerals from seaweed, is the perfect balance for a sugar high. When the students eat it, I actually see them “come down” almost immediately and re-focus on the task at hand. And they consume the soup greedily throughout the day.

So when a student asked for the recipe last week I decided to post it on Facebook for other students who asked too. I was more than a little surprised when 62 people quickly “liked” it and 26 people enthusiastically commented on it. There was a lot of waxing sentimental over some simple miso soup among those comments.

Now I didn’t invent miso soup – and I didn’t even re-invent it. Students remember my recipe fondly, yes. And yes, I’ve gladly accepted the unstinting praise it garnered. But I rather think what students really remember is how the soup worked its magic to soothe sugar-induced nausea and confusion.

This reminded me of a simple, profound truth that is the foundation of our work at NGI: whole foods have a power to restore balance, to heal – if we know how to use them. Ask any Chef’s Training student how to cure an upset stomach, nausea, bloating, a headache, a hangover, insomnia, a sugar binge, and they can give you an effective food remedy. Food and healing – it’s our thing.

Elliott’s Miso Soup Serves 6-8

2 tablespoons sesame oil (NOT toasted)

1 onion, saute slice

1 carrot, matchstick

2 ribs (pieces) celery, diagonal slice

8-10 shitake mushrooms, sliced

6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 piece of kombu

1 teaspoon salt

¼ cup wakame, soaked 15 minutes and drained

¼ cup arame, soaked 15 minutes and drained

½ lb. tofu, diced

2 quarts (8 cups) water

ginger juice to taste

lemon juice, to taste (not traditional) (a student of mine suggested rice vinegar – awesome too)

1 cup (or more) miso of choice scallions, sliced, for garnish

1. Heat oil in a 3-quart pot. Add onions, carrots, celery, shitakes, garlic, kombu, and salt. Sweat for approximately 15 minutes on low heat, covered.

2. Add wakame, arame, and tofu. Continue to sweat for another 10 minutes.

3. Add water, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for another 15 minutes. Turn off heat. Let broth stand for 5-10 minutes. Add ginger and lemon juice.

4. Temper miso mixing with 2 cups of the broth. Add tempered miso back into the soup. Serve, garnished with scallions.

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Heads up, vegans (and food expo habitués). Here comes The Seed Experience. On June 16 and 17 at 82Mercer in Soho, there will be a multi-media vegan event that includes speakers, film screenings, food tastings, demos, workshops, and more.

Speakers will include Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Kathy Freston, Nick Cooney, our friend and blogger JL Fields, and many more. Check out film screenings including Vegucated, Forks Over Knives, Lunch Hour, and Fat, Sick, & Nearly Dead. Tastings will be provided by Cinnamon Snail, Pure Food and Wine, Candle Cafe, Blossom, Cafe Terri, among others.

Most importantly, look for demonstrations by NGI’s Olivia Roszkowski and Fran Costigan. Olivia will prepare Spring Shoots with Asparagus, Miso-Spiced Eggplant, Adzuki Beans, Edamame, & Black Sesame Seeds in a Ginger Dressing at 4:00 on the 16th (Stage B). Fran will prepare Irresistible Chocolate Vegan Desserts for Everyone on the 17th at 2:00 (Stage B).

Follow the event on Twitter @theseedexp. Also, rumor has it there’s a 50% off Groupon waiting for you.

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Today I had the pleasure of dining at Maimonide of Brooklyn for the first time. Neal Harden, a Natural Gourmet graduate, is the chef of this vegan newcomer to Boerum Hill (open since December). I don’t want to write a gushy restaurant review (though I’d gladly), so I’ll just say you should make an effort to try Neal’s food.

While my lunch stood on its own as a fresh, creative, carefully prepared meal, it was also the best vegan meal I’ve ever had in New York. Particularly noteworthy and appreciated was the conspicuous lack of any processed, analogue meat substitutes or faux comfort foods so common to the genre.

I recently took the opportunity to catch up with Neal and ask him some questions about this, his latest culinary adventure.

Chef Neal Harden of Maimonide of Brooklyn

Your career is varied and colorful. Give us a thumbnail of where you’ve been working since graduation and what you’ve been cooking.

Thank you for saying so. Since graduation I have been floating around a bit. After an internship/brief employment at Millennium in California, I did a long stint at Pure Food and Wine, initially as a line cook, followed by a very lucky and rapid promotion to Chef, and subsequently Executive Chef. That was my first amazing opportunity, which allowed me to work on cookbooks, travel from time to time, meet lots of interesting people, and grow my career.

My follow-up project was to open the restaurant at a health spa luxury resort in Bali, Indonesia. That was also incredible. Your local products are chocolate, cashew, bracken shoots, rice, wild long pepper, lemongrass . . . I learned how to cook all over again while I was supposed to be teaching others. Prior to my current job as Chef of Maimonide of Brooklyn/MOB USA, I had been doing some short-term restaurant work and some catering and private work.

How did you get involved with this project? Who are your partners?

I simply responded to an ad that name dropped Alain Senderens in a vegetarian food concept. I was familiar with him as the famous champion of Nouvelle Cuisine in France who told the Michelin guide they could take their three stars back! I couldn’t help the curiosity of what a vegetarian project would look like with him on the team.

After meeting the primary partner, Cyril Aouizerate, I knew I wanted to work on this project. Admittedly, the concept sounded bizarre to me at first, but his infectious energy and drive sold me. I have always been at home working for people a little left of center.

What are you trying to do with the food? What do you want newcomers to know about Maimonide of Brooklyn?

With the food we are trying to do a couple different things at once. Firstly, important to the owner is that we keep the food cost down so that we can provide the public with very affordable, friendly dishes.

We also want the dishes to be simple and accessible, but also gastronomically interesting and delicious. Finally we are trying to create lighter vegetable-focused cuisine which is purely reliant on mushrooms, vegetables, fruits, grains, beans, and natural sweeteners, and avoids fried foods, mock proteins, and heavy preparations.

Also, we really just want the restaurant to be a totally fun place to gather and linger. We have communal seating, a patio, and a nice program of music, both recorded and live.

What’s with the name? Where did it come from?

The name comes from Maimonides, the medieval doctor and philosopher. Although he had a diverse catalogue of philosophy on topics like spirituality, he also believed in treating health ailments with food first and medicine second. Our owner studied philosophy extensively and has been a big fan for a long time.

There’s some connection to comic books?

We decided to put the story of the restaurant and the concept of some of the food in comic book form. It is a fun way to get people interested, adults and children alike. Who doesn’t like a good comic book?

What’s with those Brooklyn Bridge dishes? Who designed them?

The owner designed them in conjunction with a small French factory. They are an unabashed tribute to Brooklyn, the bridge and otherwise.

The food looks different from other vegan places. What’s setting you apart?

I hope we are set apart partially stylistically. There are many greasy spoon dingy vegetarian restaurants, or alternately restaurants that have kind of an outdated style.

We strive to be colorful, modern, fun, and completely unique aesthetically. In the kitchen, I strive to base my menu solely around products that grow. I’ve never ordered ingredients such as tempeh or seitan, though we do go through 25 cases of different mushrooms and 250 pounds of locally milled, organic wheat flour a week, for example.

Would you be up for some Natural Gourmet interns?

Absolutely. In the beginning I was far too swamped to put together a good enough program for interns, but I think now we are able to take one or two on occasionally. Put them in touch!

What is Neal Harden’s culinary signature?

Various little touches all over the place that I’ve only recently started to notice I’ve been doing for years. 500 different uses of mushrooms, a focus on the forgotten salad, far more fresh herbs than most people would reasonably consider using, an occasional expression of the cuisines that inspire me such as Persian, Moroccan, Japanese, or Maine (my home).

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