IN THE KITCHEN WITH STACEY HUTSON
Tell us about yourself:
There is no easy title for what I am and what I do. I never went to culinary school, nor have I worked the line in a restaurant kitchen to earn my keep. My background is actually in journalism and marketing. And for the first ten years out of college, I was a copywriter. A year and a half ago, however, I quit my job to pursue my dream of becoming this title-less nutrition guru. Best way I can describe it is part-time food writer, part-time personal chef with a paleo specialty, and a strong desire to encourage people to get back in the kitchen to heal their bodies from head to toe.
I trained for a year under one of Chicago’s leading health & wellness personal chefs, Alia Dalal, and in addition, became certified as a Nutrition Coach under the Institute for Transformational Nutrition. Up until recently, this was my world. But six weeks ago, I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl and I am looking at a whole new world. I am still trying to determine how to be a personal chef/food blogger/wellness coach and mom at the same time. Until then, my husband and I are just basking in spit-up, cuddles, and a whole lot of love.
How did you get involved in cooking?
I grew up in a household where home-cooked meals — particularly vegetables — were very important. My mom, however, didn’t necessarily enjoy the cooking process; she just cooked because she knew it was better for my health than boxed macaroni and cheese and Lunchables. But for whatever reason, I was drawn to the kitchen. Once I reached high school, I decided to start cooking meals for my parents and became addicted to it. I loved the feeling of making something healthy and satisfying for the people I love, and then seeing how grateful they were to receive it. After being a home cook for 10 years, I realized I wanted to take my passion for healing through food further. That’s when I became an apprentice to a personal health & wellness chef. Today, cooking is my life — in and out of the home.
Describe your cooking style:
The style of the food itself is very nourishing. Think grass-fed meatballs, ghee-roasted parsnip fries, and salads with every vegetable under the rainbow. I always consider the source of the food, what it can do for the body, and how satisfying it will be to the person eating it.
When it comes to my style of cooking in the kitchen, the term “Mad Scientist” comes to mind. Ever since I was a kid, I loved to experiment with different flavors and textures. It’s resulted in some food fails for sure (along with a little ridiculing from college roommates). But I think it’s paid off in the end because if you experiment enough, you eventually come out with something delicious. Sweet potato pudding anyone?
How did you learn about grass-fed meats?
About five years ago, I incorporated the paleo diet into my life. I had been struggling with poor digestion since I was a teenager and was eager to see if it would make a difference. I started slowly by removing gluten and dairy. But once I realized how much better I was feeling, I went whole hog (pasture-raised, of course). I dove in deep to the literature and documentaries on the benefits of grass-fed meats and pasture-raised poultry. Once you learn about how the majority of our meat is raised and the detriment factory farming is to our health, you can’t un-learn it. Today, I try as hard as I can to make sure all the meat I eat, and that I serve my family, is grass-fed.
What is your favorite recipe featuring grass-fed meat?
Hands down, my hormone-balancing meatballs. They are a mix of grass-fed ground beef and grass-fed chicken or beef livers. Throw in a bunch of seasonings, spices, and a couple of jalapenos, and you have yourself the most nutrient-dense meatball you’ve ever popped in your mouth.
You’re stranded on a desert island; luckily you’re stranded with your top 5 ingredients and must-have kitchen tool:
Avocados, ghee, salt, pumpkin seeds, kale. The kitchen tool would have to be my cast iron skillet.
Best cooking secret/tip/piece of advice you’ve learned:
If you learn the basics of balancing the major tastes in cooking (fat, butter, sweet, acid, salt), then you can make anything taste good.
Favorite quote/song for culinary inspiration:
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Anything else you want to share:
The quote above is in reference to how long it took me to embrace that I was a chef, and a good one at that. It’s easy to doubt yourself in the kitchen with the abundance of foodies out there these days. But if you love food, and enjoy the process of making it, then you’re a chef. So don’t apologize and say “I’m not a real cook.” Just own it.
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