A personal health crisis led Chef Debbie Lee, a classically trained chef, cookbook author and finalist on "Food Network Star," to start Southern California sustainable meal delivery service Mind Body Fork . Lee tells O2 Living why she shifted her focus to “conscious cooking,” and why (we hate to say “I told you so”) it’s crucial to check every label.
What is conscious cooking, and what motivated you to focus on it?
This all started when I battled my own health. After a blooming food TV career, restaurants, a cookbook tour, media appearances, etc., I was diagnosed with pre-diabetes and my weight increased up to almost 215 lbs. I am not even 5'3" so that's a whole lotta Korean! It was at that moment when my doctor told me I won't have a career if I am not standing on this earth, that I made a vow to live a healthier life and thus my journey began. Conscious cooking is knowing the true source of your food. This means asking your local farmers if they use pesticides, making sure everything is non-GMO, buying pasture raised protein, sustainable seafood and most important, looking at the labels and ingredients on all packaged food (this is a MUST!). Taking it a step further, I am the cook of leftovers. My mother never threw anything out and always found a way to reuse for the next day's meals. This is a practice with Mind Body Fork, as food waste is such an issue in the world today.
What can people do at home to practice conscious cooking?
I think the practice of wholesome conscious cooking is really easy to live by nowadays and here are a few tips: rid your cabinets of sugar, try to shop all produce at local farmers markets, buy sustainable protein and always, always look at the back of your ingredients. You will be surprised how just a few things make all the difference.
How did Mind Body Fork begin?
It started out as a hobby so that I could still create food but at the same time deal with my food addiction in a healthy space. It took me almost a year to just go to the daily farmer's markets and get to know my local farmers and ranches and ask a ton of questions and then start creating my new and improved meal concoctions. My boyfriend was my guinea pig and saw a true need for this type of unique service...think along the lines of a blind basket chef competition and whole foods having a baby. At Mind Body Fork we do not plan menus as I determine what to cook when I go to the market that morning. It also changes as we go into the kitchen as a lot of the meals we have never made before, so it's experimental in that clients do not know exactly what to expect until they open their bags that night.
What are the biggest dietary mistakes you find people make?
Like most, people have thought that fat is the enemy when really it is sugar. There are so many products on the market today and their aim is to be "fat free," which is extremely misleading. The fat is replaced with hidden sugar which in essence makes fat...so the jig is up! The first book I read on health and nutrition was called Food Rules by Dr. Cate Shanahan (who now happens to be the medical adviser for Mind Body Fork). I remember reading the purpose of whole foods, which included chicken skin and even bacon fat, and I was sold. It was how I lost weight and the inspiration behind Mind Body Fork.
Chef Debbie Lee's famous bone broth will be available nationwide this month at (www.mindbodyfork.com). For her recipe for Lemon Sumac Grilled Chicken Broccoli Tabouleh and Minted Tahini Sauce, go here: http://bit.ly/2AnZDt6.