What’s your take on “green diet?” Eating healthily or organically would likely pop into your head, and you might think that’s about all there is to it. Wait until celebrity chef Curtis Stone has shared his views on the topic.
For those of you who are not into cooking, Curtis Stone is a leading green-diet chef and TV host in multiple TV shows such as Take Home Chef, Around the World in 80 Plates, and Top Chef Masters. His cookbooks, Relaxed Cooking with Curtis Stone and Cooking with Curtis, have also made their way into various best sellers lists.
Curtis strongly recommends that we buy produce that is in season. In fact, he stands out from the pack not only because he cooks so well but because he pays so much attention to the health of the planet. The way we eat tend to have a great impact on our environment, he says, but, sadly, only a small portion of people are genuinely concerned about this crucial matter.
I had the privilege of interviewing Curtis in mid 2010 when he visited Taiwan. I asked his opinion about “green diet.” Back then I was a high school student and a big fan and follower of Curtis (still am) and lacked the publicity wherewithal to promote his green concept. Now that I have recently had a blog to my name, I decide to post the content of my interview with Curtis, partly to express my gratitude for his insight sharing, partly to hope that his vision of green diet would become a positive influence on more of the general public.
Q: Is there a definition and a scope for green diet, from your angle as a globally recognized chef?
Curtis Stone: I think what’s important when we talk about “green” is we understand the meaning of that word. To me, food should be very natural. When I say natural, does that mean organic? Does that mean in season? Yeah. It just means growing food naturally. Unfortunately, there are so many people on earth that we can’t just live on natural food, and we can’t just live on wild food. So we need to use that resource to farm. Doing that responsibly means we can produce the best food but also take care of the resource. So I think when we talk about green food, the important thing is we grow them the natural way, and that means growing them in season.
It also means not wasting — utilizing all parts of the animal. That’s why so many Taiwanese cuisines are so interesting. You guys have a fantastic way of using everything. You use the blood, skin, etc. In other cultures, some of that is thrown in the garbage, which is a horrible shame. To kill an animal only to throw them away, I think that’s terrible
Q: Is it possible to actually strike a balance between healthy eating and environmental protection? What actions can we take?
Curtis Stone: When you talk about healthy, again, it comes back to being natural. If you think about what things come out of the earth — fruits, vegetables, animals, and then you think about what we take out of the packet — chemicals, artificial stuffs, etc. When you’re getting to that part of processed food, I think it’s really dangerous. Cancer rates are rising, diabetes, allergies to certain food, etc. In my opinion, it’s because we accept so much processed food. We eat stuff from a packet. In order to put stuff into a packet and let it sit on the shelves for months, we need to chemically modify it. That’s really unhealthy.
I just had lunch at a fantastic countryside restaurant. The restaurant only cooks of naturally grown ingredients; barely anything comes out of a packet. They come from the ground. It seems very much a self-sustained place. They don’t necessarily take much from the earth. This sustaining ability is great because you can continue going on that way.
Q: Taiwan is an island country which you’ve visited twice at least. In your opinion, what are the food advantages and the disadvantages that we have as we become an environment-conscious nation?
Curtis Stone: I think Taiwan is a really aggressive place. Taiwan has different influences from China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, etc. So I think what’s really special about Taiwan is its geographic position, even though Taiwan is a small country. Sometimes being small makes it a lot easier. If you think about a big corporation to make a change, it’s really difficult. For a big country to make a change, it’s also very difficult because the influence structure is so massive. But as a small country, you can make changes relatively faster.
I think what’s incredible about the youth, you know, when I was just back, this time, the fashion’s changed here. Fashion might seem like something that is not really important, just what you wear, but I think it’s a great representation that how young people can make a major difference. You can change the entire way the street looks because everyone’s wearing different clothes.
If every single person in this country use disposable chopsticks, for lunch and dinner, that’s 46 million pair of chopsticks getting thrown into the garbage in one day. So imagine how many trees get cut down just for that. If you can make a change, not overnight, but gradually, then everybody starts to use their own chopsticks — this would be a massive change on how much wood product get produced in this country. What’s really special about small countries like Taiwan is that you can really make a difference, and not just in food.
Q: Is there a reason for your promoting fresh and seasonal produce?
Curtis Stone: Yes, there is. If you buy seasonally, you usually buy it locally. If you buy a local produce, it doesn’t have to travel that far, thus reducing contamination during transportation. And it usually means you’re supporting your local community, which also helps solve the local economic problems.
If we go it the other way round, if we buy food produced by big corporations, local farmers will benefit relatively less than the big corporations. These corporations are so big that they become so powerful and they may not be environmentally conscious. In other countries, like the beef industry in USA, I think it is controlled by two giant corporations. They control about 90 percent of the beef produced in USA. In my opinion, they don’t do a very good job. They don’t treat the animals the way they should be. And the problem is that 90 percent of the nation’s beef is potentially having that adverse effect on the health of its people.
I’ve always been very close to my food resource and the raise place. You get an animal, you cut it up, and so you’re very aware of what you eat. This is a pig, and he was running around a yard, so I respect his life. I’m not saying you should be vegetarian, that’s not my opinion. But I do think that you have to have lots of respect for all the ingredients, and for the life.
Sooper Jerry’s notes:
1. For fear that I might not get passed Curtis Stone’s agent in Taiwan, I did not disclose the foregoing questions beforehand when I called in to make the gutsy request to interview Curtis in person. That’s why it was so amazing to see him ad-lib the whole interview with grace.
2. The interview enabled me to form an impression that Curtis is an ardent chef of vision. He’s remarkably approachable, humble, resourceful and creative, as seen on TV. Talking to him was a most refreshing experience and cool like a summer breeze.
3. He enjoyed pineapple cakes, one of the many popular Taiwanese snacks.
Your two cents’ worth is always welcome:
What’s your take on the green diet movement?
Is green diet taking form or established in your country?