The Ayurvedic Chef
“Food is our medicine, and with proper diet, medicine is unnecessary.”
As a young boy, I remembered helping my mother in the kitchen and being fascinated by preparing the family’s food and had no idea that I would find one of my career paths as a Chef as an adult.
Before the world wars cooking was a labor of love without the use of preservatives, fillers, extenders, or manipulating the tastes of our food, but leading up to, during and following those years, our society became flooded with dried, powdered, frozen, and canned foods that brought widespread use of preservatives.
As the world has become more fast-paced, it is unfortunate how important nutrition has become so overlooked and how our way of life has given way to fast foods, drive-through restaurants, convenience, prepared foods, and micro microwaves eating without daily awareness.
Fortunately, in the past decade, there has been a growing movement and awareness about nutrition and health, with many people understanding that “Our health is in our own hands” and with the increasing availability of local, organic, unprocessed foods and farmers markets popping up in our communities we have more opportunities to eat correctly.
When I was 16, I got my first job working at a gourmet food, cheese, and wine store, which started my path in the food industry. I spent ten years in the wine industry but ultimately enrolled at the Cordon Bleu in San Francisco, and after two years of training, I went off to France as an apprentice.
On returning to California, I worked way up in many fine-dining restaurants before becoming the Executive chef in my restaurant, a hotel, movie studio, and Hollywood events company. Fortunately for me, I have never been involved in any institutional foodservice operation and have always focused on local, seasonal, organic products, emphasizing health and nutrition.
Even with all my culinary training and work experience, I was surprised and delighted when I was introduced to the Ayurvedic medical system, which is based on the energetics that surrounds us in nature and explains our universe, environment, individual makeups including the foods, spices, and the herbs we all ingest.
According to Ayurveda, all existence expresses itself through the five elements: ether, air, fire, water, and earth and manifests in the body as the three governing principles/energies called doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Everyone has three doshas to varying degrees, with one predominant, one secondary, and one tertiary. When we are in balance, the doshas promote normal body functions and maintain overall health, but they create mental, emotional, and physical ailments when out of balance.
Ayurvedic nutrition considers our constitutions and emphasizes proper nutrition through correct food choices, food combining, and cooking methods. In Ayurveda, all food, drinks, spices, and herbs are categorized according to their taste (sweet, salty, sour, bitter, pungent, and astringent) and the energetic effect on the doshas. When choosing foods, it is essential to understand our constitution, so we eat foods with the opposite qualities to ensure a proper balance of the doshas.
Many of the culinary spices used in Ayurvedic cooking are also medicinal herbs, and cooking with them enhances digestion, absorption, and assimilation. Spices also provide a harmonious blend of the six tastes, which should all be present for a balanced meal.