Thursday, May 13, 2010


Currently I am running another fun and fantastic cleanse group on Block Island. This time there are 12 members of the group, all with their own unique experiences and stories which have drawn them to this process. One of the members of the group is my good friend Aaron. He has made appearances in this blog before (here and here). Aaron is a chef and someone I always enjoy bouncing recipes and food ideas off of. He shares not only a love for food, but also a mutual respect for food and it's functions in our bodies, our cultures, and our environment.

Aaron has decided to journal his experience. This is something that I always suggest to those with the time while cleansing, it gives us something to do with our hands besides eat, or in some cases smoke, and it aides us in following through. Aaron has also decided to share his journals with me and I've asked if I could share them with you. I am really excited about this, it is a great gift, he is a pleasure to read.

So with no further ado, I will allow Aaron to introduce himself...

I am a chef. Not strictly by profession but by lifestyle as well, and if you are in the industry you probably know exactly what I mean when I say that. The professional culinary world is an environment filled with extreme discipline juxtaposed with unbridled gluttony and disregard. As chefs we cultivate a relationship with food that we strive to make healthy. We respect the environment by purchasing local, organic and sustainable product. We respect our patrons by offering flavorful foods without chemicals, hormones or preservatives, and we respect our co workers and staff through a family-like environment; but, many of us choose to simultaneously destroy ourselves with alcohol, drugs, tobacco, caffeine, grueling work hours and lack of sleep. It’s a massive contradiction and although its incorrect to assume that this is the case with all chefs, it’s more common than it should be. Why do we do this? What effect is it really having on us? And how can we change without sacrificing our careers? Over the next ten days, in collaboration with a health counselor and personal friend, Persephone Brown, that's exactly what I hope to find out.

It started early on for me. I'd always loved food and cooking but it wasn't exactly my passion for those things that drove me into restaurants. I wanted to earn a little money so I could buy the usual dangerous inappropriate stuff that a thirteen year old boy would want to buy (a moped,trampoline, or handgun) and I felt comfortable in the kitchen. I had cooked at home a great deal and even before I could reach the counter, I'd stand on a chair and knead dough or peel garlic with my mother or father. So it seemed like a natural decision, when at age 13, I got a job at a local restaurant.

The restaurant was like nothing I'd ever seen or experienced before. It was loud, hot, and what seemed like hundreds of people doing millions of things. People were crass and swore a lot. There was metal music on a small boom box, held together with tape and aluminum foil, that just refused to give up on life. The smell of food was intoxicating and the people making it were doing it so quickly. There were girls. A lot of them. Much different than girls at school or my moms friends, or even babysitters I'd had in the past. They were girls that you probably wouldn't want to hire as a babysitter at all in fact and they wore short skirts, athletic looking shoes, and tight functional ponytails. The chef was not a large man, but he had a huge a presence. Without knowing, you could point him out immediately. He was collected and calm but with a sense of immediacy; Potential energy like a large object ready to fall to the ground, or a lion crouching near a herd of antelope. He made a lot of sarcastic jokes and people laughed. He harassed the waitstaff and they giggled and rolled their eyes. To me, he was one cool mother fucker.

So that's how it went for years, through high school and onto college. Different locations but more or less the same scenario. Did I like cooking in the restaurant? I loved it. The pace, the intensity, the aroma, but what I really looked forward to was after work, after the madness of service, and chain gang-like cleanup, when the hood fans turned off. When I heard that sound (or rather lack of) it meant no more tickets, no more yelling, no more mopping, no more weeds. It was time to let loose.

Our lives were less than glamorous. We toiled for 12, 14 hours a day for minimal pay, and for one reason or another we all kind of knew it wasn't going to get much better. Most of us didn't want to become chefs or even loved cooking but for our own reasons, (criminal records, temporary insanity, etc) were either forced to, or uncontrollably drawn to it. And for that time, that's all we were: Cooks. But between the time when that hood fan shut off and sunrise we felt like something else. Anything else. We fed every visceral need we could think of with drugs, alcohol, sex, and more or less whatever came to mind.

Along the way I fell more and more in love with the actual food and cooking. I was enamored with the way kitchens worked and started to research famous chefs and techniques. I realized there was an entire world of food out there with endless potential for creativity and exploration and I decided to go for it.

After years of culinary school, fine dining restaurants and traveling, things are much different. I run a restaurant of my own which is very well regarded. I have a clear culinary identity and specific goals that I believe will make not only my food exceptional, but will foster environmental and socially responsible practices. But, the hours are still long, the stress is even higher and the pay hasn't got all that much better. I still resort to using many of the same tools to alleviate these aspects of my job, when the hood fans turn off.

The ten day cleanse is meant to focus on the poor overworked liver and the under-functioning digestive tract and all the problems associated with these two extremely common ailments. Through a carefully planned diet, I hope to rid my body of toxins and restore my liver to a healthy state, as well as clean and restore my digestive system so that it may effectively absorb the nutrients for healthy body and mind function. The following are my journal entries for those ten days. Follow me in: A HEDEN'S GUIDE TO CLEANSING AND DETOXIFICATION


Emily said...

I love this - what a fantastic idea P!

Jessie Kate said...

This is pretty clever and interesting too! Fun to read!! Thanks!