Saturday, March 3, 2012

Top Chef Choice

She wanted a bacon cheese burger and he made her a veggie burger.  
Anyone who watched Top Chef Masters third season felt the controversy surrounding Chef Suvir Saran's departure from the show after tackling a 500 calorie health and wellness challenge.  We remember is anti-red meat tirade during a challenge designed to satisfy the favorite food cravings of folks try to shed enormous amounts of weight and the steadfast assessment by the judges that, while both beautiful and nutritionally dense,  Saran's dish had failed because he had not given his client a bacon cheeseburger.
Isn't it the bacon cheeseburger that caused the problem in the first place?
Certainly, a chef of Saran's caliber could create a miniature 500 calorie bacon cheese burger with ease.
For goodness sake I did something like that for fun just a few weeks ago and I am starless!
I had always suspected there was more behind that TV moment than a chef defending his losing dish and tonight I learned I was right!
My friend, Molly, invited me to attend a fundraiser benefiting an Asian American Journalist scholarship at the home of Anupy Singla (author of The Indian Slow Cooker) to meet Chef Saran and celebrate his new book, Masala Farm: Stories and Recipes from an Uncommon Life in the Country.  In addition to snagging a signed copy of his new cookbook, I had the chance to hear Saran defend his Top Chef choice and speak about food culture in America.

Chef Saran's restaurant  Devi in New York is the only Indian restaurant with a Michelin star and his considerable work in the field of health and wellness literally prevented him from making a microscopic cheeseburger that day.  "A calorie does not equal a calorie," Saran stated bluntly and carrying the burden of that knowledge forced him to make the less popular, but considerably healthier choice to drop the meat from his dish that day.  He did not mince words about his experiences on the show and went on to speak candidly about the hypocrisy of celebrity chefs that contributes to the obesity epidemic in this country.  

He named names. 
Drew lines in the sand.  
I was riveted.
And then he told us not to eat in his restaurant.  

He softened as as he spoke honestly about the value of eating at the family table.  He cautioned that dining  in his restaurant and others like it is an experience best reserved for truly special occasions; connecting over the family table is where really valuable memories are made.  Cooking and conversation are the linchpin to becoming healthier in every possible way.  He reminded us to speak about taboo subjects at the table...politics, religion and sex.  And to eat thoughtfully prepared food.  Considering I speak regularly about reclaiming the family dinner hour and rolled a condom down Finn's arm at our family table during a random safe sex chat the other night, I think it is safe to say Chef Saran and I speak the same language.
Rest assured there will be veggie burgers served at the Elsmo family table in the coming days to honor the conviction of Chef Saran and his passion for making our country a healthier place over all.  What an extraordinary chance to embrace the characteristics that make a true top chef.

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