Get Fresh with Brian Malarkey

The Top Chef: Miami contestant shares useful tips -- from years of experience in professional kitchens -- for battling one's culinary vices.

on Aug 17, 2009
Healthy Remix Volume 1

Working in professional kitchens for the past 20 years, and looking like I could not have been doing it for more than 10 years (healthy glow, not lack of skills) takes some proper eating and proper drinking. The kitchen is filled with so many “vices” -- from the endless blocks of butter and rivers of heavy cream, to refrigerators filled with an abundance of dark chocolate brownies, crème brulees, cake, pies, triple-cream ice cream, and sauces of sugar berries! And then there were the bars filled with my all-time favorite New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, micro or Belgian beers, Scotch, Cognacs, and Ports from worlds away. My customers and friends are always asking me, "How do you stay so skinny working as a chef?" Or my favorite, “I thought you were supposed to never trust a skinny chef." My reply has always been “Don’t trust the fat ones!”

Now believe you me (What does that mean? my father always says it), I love butter as much as Julia Child, and like her, I do not pass on any food or booze that is full-flavored and dripping of personality. The greatest advice I've ever heard was to keep everything in moderation and that includes moderation.

You see, we can have our cake and eat it too, but we must pace ourselves. We do not need to feel the guilt of giving into our “vices” but we must learn to, shall we say, dance with them -- a constant give and take without stepping on our own toes and falling on our face. What am I talking about? I'm talking about that morning-after hangover, with your cotton mouth still tasting of that last sugary cocktail, or that one-is-always-too-many shot of what ever it was, then stumbling down to the local “greasy spoon” to soak up some oil/buttery/fatty eggs and bacon to grease your screeching stomach. Of course that’s a bit of an extreme, but you are Top Chef people and we are not the type to idle in the parking lot; we are the type that likes to put the top down on the convertible of life and soak it all up. No kid gloves with this crew!

Now how do we balance our intake and overindulgence?

Water! Good old H20! Yes, it’s this simple! Drink more water and you will feel full, drink more water, and your skin will glow! Drink more water and the more you will go! Ha! You will not feel the need to eat huge portions or drink multiple glasses of sugar-laced martinis, and if nothing else, you can’t stick another beer in your mug if you got a good old glass of H2O! Let's practice: Have a piece of that beautiful oven roasted duck breast with Bing cherries and Orange Gastrigue, chew, relax, enjoy the aroma, the texture, all of the senses are now working at peak condition, swallow, breathe …. Now have a sip of the Petite Syrah you have been holding onto for the last two and half years. Awesome, now have a few sips of water to cleanse the palate. So easy. You did great. Now apply this to everyday life. Have a couple Doritos, fold the bag close and have a glass of water, knowing you can come back and have some more Doritos later. If you like fruits and vegetables, then you are just a “soul glow” away from looking great and feeling even better.

Fear not your “vices” but embrace them ever so gently, and like the Europeans do, go for a walk after a meal to digest and reflect. Or do as this crazy American does, and run like hell! I mean a gentle jog will do!

We are starting on the ground floor of “Get Fresh” and as the season progresses we will learn how to get more flavor out of foods with the proper cooking techniques, how to walk away from cream and butter and find simple refreshing vinaigrettes, deconstruct molecular gastronomy for casual at home use, and most important “Get Fresh.”

Share your thoughts and secrets. Until next week.