From C-MO Jan 17, 2011

By: Craig Munhall, Executive Chef

What a blast it was doing our last theme meal.  Of course I hope the food was good, but the real fun was watching the chef’s at work.  Most people think that French Cuisine is a pre-requisite for cooking but in truth it really isn’t.  I’m sure there was a roux before Escoffier, however without his books and the books of others a lot of cooking knowledge would still be kept secret.  Several of the chefs, myself included, have gone through culinary school and although all schools are different they are still faced with the same challenges.  Like how do you teach a vast amount cuisine to a large group of people in a short period of time.  On top of that, most people when they graduate, go on to cook more modern foods or location-based cuisines.  So when the recipe calls for Robuchon cheese or French Roast Pork, everyone was like “I don’t know what that is -google it!”.    Now our next challenge will be Hawaiian food – the names alone have cause more than one person to say-“whose idea was THIS!?” he he.
 
I was asked by our Corporate Executive Chef, Denise Simmons, if I would talk about my diet a little.  A little while back, somewhere around March 2009, I read the book “The China Study”.  It’s a book based on disease and diet, it’s a good book.  It has tons of scientific information about how our body deals with protein, more specifically animal and dairy proteins.  I won’t do a book report here, but it is worthy of a read.  After reading the book I decided that if there was a way to reduce or eliminate the dreaded doctor speech- “Mr Munhall I regret to inform you that it’s cancer”, I was willing to make a change.  So I went vegan and ate whole fruits, vegetables, and grains.  It was surprisingly easy to do.  I was not going to be too rigid on myself, like if I found out that the soup had chicken stock, or the “burger” patty contained egg whites, I wasn’t going to loose it.  I would just learn what to do next time. I was surprised at how good I felt and how much energy I had.  Important to note here that I did research this further and found out that I needed to take supplements- most importantly vitamin B-12.  Apparently B-12 is the ONLY nutrient in meat that is difficult to get in a vegan diet.  People would tell me that you can’t get protein in a vegan diet and I would laugh and say – “Have you ever seen a cow? A horse? Etc. , they seem to get more than enough protein and all they eat is GRASS!” Plus collectively we eat too much protein, most people eat the same amount of daily protein as professional athletes and don’t exercise at all….check out some literature on that. Now for the skinny- I weighed 288 pounds when I started, one year later I was 239.  Some other things were happening in my life and in August 2010, I went back to a “normal” diet. Once I started eating everyday foods I started gaining the weight back.  In four months I was back to 276 and it kept climbing.  I think the problem was that as a vegan I could eat as much food as I wanted and my appetite increased, then I started eating all these dense calorie foods with the same appetite! I’m back on the vegan diet and down 7 pounds.  I’m starting to feel better and my energy has picked up.
As a vegan I find it more difficult to get food.  Normally, people get hungry while running errands and go through a drive-through and there are so many to choose from and they are all over the place.  But what do vegans do? Hunt for a subway? Get a pack of garden rolls from the grocery store? Also, at home it can be a pain because when you’re sitting on the sofa it can be a drag to have to work with produce and dirty up a cutting board, etc.  What has made it easy for me is the dining hall.  Soy milk and cereal, Salad bar with all the fixings, Fresh vegetables, starches, fruits, vegan sandwiches, and of course LOIS and her station!  There’s always something to eat.  Of course it can be repetitive but whether you do it for Health or for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, there is an inherent sacrifice involved.  So I’ve adapted to the routine.  Cereal in the AM, Lois’s station for lunch, and the vegan dish or salad for dinner.  I’m always open to suggestions for vegan dishes and  I change the menu frequently.  I certainly to not profess to know everything about diet and nutrition, there is a wealth of information out there to check out.  One last thing to note about the change in diet.  Before I went vegan my cholesterol was always around 240, and I was taking medicine at twice the normal dose.  So even medicated by cholesterol was high.  After the switch, about 4 months into it my doctor took me off the medicine.  After being vegan for about 10 months my cholesterol was 195, without medication!  If you have a similar story to share, please leave a comment.  Thanks
Today for lunch Lois has Hummus Plates and Tomato Soup, but of which she makes with love.  Steve is in the back getting ready to start preparing and marinated foods for tomorrow night, Fatma is making omelets, Tina is on the Sandwich station, Jason is cooking brunch, and we’re listening to some Richard Cheese, you have to youtube some of his stuff!

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