KETO and Lipoma

As a TCM (traditional Chinese Medicine)-druid and personal chef I have often written blogs about travel, food and nutrition. This blog originated from a personal curiosity to experience what it feels like to place myself onto a strict diet regiment equal to what I design and guide many clients/friends to achieve, when they acquire my professional help. My motivation was to document my physical and my mental challenge and to share about the various sensations while preparing, adapting and maintaining a strict lifestyle.

It turned out to result in much more than I expected.

The astonishing result deserved to be shared. There is not enough scientific based evidence and research available about Keto to factually make any valuable claims. However, I have attempted to document and verify as much details as a singular chef can, to present others with an “idea” of how to correctly tweak your own journey and maybe benefit with a similar health success.

Thank you to my doctor for taking time to explain my blood tests and play along.

Thank you to my pharmaceutical buddy Cady, for your patience in explaining the complexity of lipids and your curricular research whenever I needed science based info.

Thank you for my bicycling buddies, the “sexy7” for keeping up with my diet restrictions and being good sports and support!

Somewhere in January 2018, I knew about as much about Keto as you do probably… I was familiar about the Netflix documentary “The Magic Pill” helping Autism and diabetics… In my profession I research food and its effect on us beyond average. No, I’m not that easily convinced, even if the editing is brilliant! As a nutritionist/chef I am well informed about food-studies, health trends, over-blown food-claims, questionable benefits on shiny packaged pills and powders and the dangerous endorsements by celebrities and TV doctors desperately promoting dietary products or elixirs that (ab-)use ancient wisdom. I studied TCM in Singapore and worked closely with some of the world’s foremost scientists DNA fingerprinting plants and essence we consume for health benefit. That usually results in me warning others about crazy diet-trends; from Kombucha to Juicing… Serious crap that’s packaged under the umbrella of nutrition promoted with borderline dangerous hypes to sell products wrapped in “health and longevity” but lacking a scientific base: being a TV doctor does not override science… The simplicity that “one idea” could be right for everyone is so absurd.

I just stand there, quietly, when confronted with the “…what do you think”- question: unable to response to people holding a plastic bottle filled with “essence” in hand, trying to get me to verify that their fresh product – with an expiration date of two months – could be beneficial to their well-being. No, but I admire your support for placebos and junk-science.

Everything you consume, through your ears, eyes, nose, skin and mouth becomes medicinal as soon as you have a purpose or goal to achieve. Just “living healthy” is a myth in 2019!

My trial started in January when I started a daily dose of Cordyceps Sinensis (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adenosine_triphosphate). A byproduct of an invasive fungus that grows on caterpillars and is well documented in Chinese Medicine, recorded as far back as two thousand years, for its liver and kidney boosting functions and lung Yin nourishing properties. It popped up in modern mainstream media around 2008 after Chinese Olympians where accused of doping – it turns out they took Cordyceps supplements which modern science has shown to boost athletic performance abilities…

As an avid road bicyclist in preparation for my 7th ALC (www.AIDS Lifecycle.org) – a 545 mile journey from San Francisco to Los Angeles – I started a daily regimen of 1000mg (qd) to improve vitality and boost energy by increasing ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) levels. Six weeks before the strenuous 7 day bike ride I went “cold Turkey” on a Keto-esk diet.

(Energy on a cellular level occurs when ATP is broken down to ADP and an inorganic phosphate. It is the cleaving off of one of the phosphates that creates the energy for the individual cells.)

My basic food intake was designed to fulfill three main categories. No processed or artificial sugars, a tiny amount of carbs and no coffee. The idea of being free of bonking and cramping was alluring… If you’re not familiar with some terms, google them– otherwise my blog could become endlessly long. My diet was designed to bike ride for 7 days, an average of 80miles/day.

I choose to exclude ALL grains, some starchy and sweet fruits; I avoided bananas, pears and melons. However avocados, berries and an occasional apple or citrus fruit were okay. Blueberries are high in carbs, though strawberries, rasp- and black-berries are fine.

For breakfast I started with a generous scoop of coconut fat; it tasted delicious after ten days. Eggs, cooked broccoli, bacon and avocado were staple items. I skipped my routine of adding sauces, dips and preserves and opted for salt only. This included a few dried dates, figs and variations of salted nuts and sugar free peanut butter. No crackers, rice, oats, millet or quinoa products.

I avoided any “Keto” products; the preservatives/additives are terrible and strenuous on your digestive track. The same motto should be applied when going Vegan. Products named after meat items (…yes, its super odd…) are regularly substituted with agents that clog digestion and are unhealthy. All radical change sounds difficult at first: but I had a clear goal in mind.

My bike snacks consisted of starch free coconut bites, soft meat jerky (yes, measure your sugar content) and walnuts. I reduced sugar loaded protein shakes and my electrolytes were all chosen to be sugar free and without artificial colors. I carried boiled eggs with me and dates.

For lunch I ate limited uncooked greens except salad leaves. No kale and no raw veggies; Broccoli, spinach and sweet peas need to be bruised or steamed to avoid digestive struggles (gas). I sternly reduced my intake of garbanzo beans, peas and carrots. Salad greens (young leaves), cucumbers, radishes, bell-peppers occasional cooked/baked yam and gourdes are all fine. No potatoes, no corn, or grains. No fresh dairy or soy-milk, except aged cheese and butter… No LDL  oils (no palm oil or canola) but  Avocado, sesame and olive oils are good; (Lots of it)! I drank lots of (unsweetened) coconut water, daily teas with real honey (again, this is my suggestion – honey is medicinally high on my chart).

My fat intake tripled: from crisp bacon to all meats, chicken skin on, fats and fish. My “snack” exceptions were cashew nut milk, occasional figs and dried ginger (wash sugar off) and dark >80% cocoa low-sugar chocolate. I measured as best as possible my sucrose intake; not to overreached 20g/day. My carbohydrate intake was fewer than 50g/day. I prepared for a high-intensity sports week, burning 5000 calories/day and relying on a constant fat-supplement intake during the ride. That included boiled eggs, dried meat, raisins, pumpkin and sunflower-seeds and macadamia nuts.

I will elaborate on my precise foods upon request; but each of us is different and you need to find a personalized solution. In my case I cut out alcohol and substituted coffee with dandelion powder (www.Dandyblend.com). Yes, I’ve heard it all, from the sexy7 coffee addicts (my bike team) – but it actually tastes delicious and boosts spleen function responsible for both digestion and fat burning!

Simplified, the Keto diet is based on the body transitioning from converting (burning) carbohydrates into energy from either sugars or starches (complex carbohydrates) to using ketones to fuel both the muscles and the brain. Ketones are produced from fat, which is why nutritional ketosis is so appealing as a lazy weight limiting solution; although increased activity will dramatically speed up the results. It’s appealing to athletes because in this state they have a virtually unlimited reserve of fat calories to pull from. An athlete can only store 1500-2200 calories worth of carbohydrates in their muscles, blood and liver. When re-fueling (energy bars loaded with fructose, sucrose, maltodextrin and fast absorbing whey protein) you have sugar-energy available within seconds but ketosis (fat-energy conversion) takes minutes to activate. This is why you have to calculate your re-fueling on long-distance events.

In bicycling (and other sports as well) “bonking” means that you haven’t taken in enough carbohydrates and have exhausted your body’s glycogen stores, leaving you with abnormally low blood glucose levels. That’s when your body screams for carbs, your muscles ache and you feel dizzy and sweat a ton.

A bicyclist being fueled by ketones is desirable and bonk-proof. Once the brain adapts and starts to use ketones for energy you can sustain long distances without carb cravings and irritating mind games. Thus, you have no sugar highs and lows where the brain is starving for energy, as it can get all the energy it needs when it needs it. The brain derives 75% of its energy from ketones, and the remaining parts of the brain uses glucose stored in the liver. (Gluconeogenesis (abbreviated GNG) is a metabolic pathway that results in the generation of glucose from non-carbohydrate carbon substrates such as lactate, glycerol, and glucogenic amino acids).  Yes, your lactic acid actually converts back to fuel instead blocking your muscles and making you cramp. You are off the insulin and glucose rollercoaster: no shakes, rapid glucose drops, or painful lactic acid after-burn; because your pain-regulating natural epinephrine and cortisol levels are elevated.

Proponents of Keto, point to the metabolic advantage of relying on fat instead of carbohydrates.  Critics point out the physiological limitations of eliminating carbohydrates as a quick-fuel for performance.  Scientists and coaches prefer high-carbing because in competitive sports a millisecond establishes world records and lots of money is invested in selling sports products that enable the quick absorbable carbs that make that possible.

Keto products are rising in the current marketplace too. As a TCM chef I’m opposed to chemically or genetically manipulated foods. I did occasionally sucked down a GU gel (www.GUenergy.com) before tackling a hill; clearly feeling the energy boost derived from it!

Let’s start with a few science facts and simple logic: High-Fat Low-Carb (HFLC) Ketosis does not improve endurance performance… you have to train your body! Exogenous ketones could be an additional fuel source for endurance athletes. However dietary ketosis has limitations that make it difficult to implement practically. Carbs are way easier to intake, convert, and absorb while biking. However, in the long run, with Keto your submaximal pace is less stressful on both your liver and your muscles! Your recovery is less dramatic.

It takes approximately 20% more oxygen to liberate energy from fat as compared to carbohydrates. This means relying primarily on fat reduces its economy as an energy source. That’s when Cordyceps balances the problem: On a HFLC and Cordycepts regiment my heart-rate came down 10% and my blood oxygen level rose 20%! This super exceeded my expectation.

However without stored and exogenous carbohydrates during competition I had very little fuel available for anaerobic glycolysis. My metabolic shortcut to rapidly produce energy by partially burning carbs was not available. I could not keep up with energy demand during short high-intensity efforts. After comfortable high-speed flat rides, my fellow group of riders (the sexy7) climbed up a hill, yet I was unable to produce the energy burst needed to keep paste.

In Ketosis, despite my liver still producing glucose, I had no immediate reserve or ability to access to a much needed high-intensity burst of energy from carbohydrates. I was forced to maintain a slower but painless speed.  On the flats I was rewarded with a shorter recovery time , able to catch up and my average heart-rate was lower even during hill-climbing compared to previous recordings.

While long cycling events may have a moderate overall intensity, there are peaks of high-intensity with periods reaching lactate threshold. My conclusion: Keto is not ideal when a competitive fast burst of energy makes a winning difference. Athletes in ketosis can perform well at a steady endurance pace, and can do so for many hours while consuming far fewer calories than carbohydrate-dependent competitors. As a result, ketosis may be a good solution for athletes who consistently struggle with gastric distress (GI) during long-distance events versus relying on “chemically” fabricated energy bars and sugar loaded intake.  Iron Man, here I come!

Keto is not a new diet. Think of hibernating animals consuming large amounts of plant carbs and then in the winter-stage, they lower their heart-beat while their body transitions – after one month of sleeping -from burning carbs into ketosis burning energy from fat. They awake slim but alert, strong and energized sufficient to hunt, re-carb and defend themselves while re-gaining strength and weight.

I expected this to be a challenge and therefor prepared accordingly. Within eight days of starting my diet, my body turned Ketonic – much faster than expected! I woke up and felt crisp, alert and energized. I had avoided the Keto flu (Keto flu symptoms can actually feel similar to withdrawing from an addictive substance) like I had experienced in past trials. I believe this was because of my strict implementation of increased activity at the gym and on the bike.

During the next two weeks of “transition” my training performance suffered. My average pace was slower than normal. I took three boot-camp morning lessons per week, feeling sluggish and heavy; my perceived exertion levels went up at all activity intensity levels. Recovery however was faster than normal. Once my body adapted to fueling itself primarily on ketones my optimal athletic performance bounced back. Still, I often felt that my need to produce increased output and power required more mental and physical effort.  I outperformed on all levels (compared to prior Strava* results over the same terrain and hills from the past).

*Strava: GPS analytics and performance app for sports enthusiasts.

I started the high endurance event in my seventh week of my Keto diet. During the 7 day, 545 mile ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles I lost 5lbs of body weight. I started at 6’1”/190 lbs at a young age of 55. Throughout life I’ve never had a serious weight problem. For years I have remained within athletic norms with only a little amount of belly and lower back fat accumulating.

That’s gone. My skin is thinner. I feel alert, awake and fit. My skin quality has improved, my bowel movements are regular and the chronic sciatica (diagnosed spinal stenosis) is no longer a bother.

There was one “hick-up” to report: On day 3 on the ride, I ate one sugar cookie and consumed sugar loaded drinks exceeding my limited carb intake by about 35g of processed sugar. That night I awoke with violent stomach cramping and vomited three times. I continued the next day with “my” strict Keto diet and all went smoothly.

I did a full blood-panel on the fourth week of turning ketonic and to the surprise of my doctor all my vital signs had improved and even my borderline diabetic lipid indicators showed healthy and normal result for the first time in many years!

What is even more astonishing is a “side-effect”:  I only discovered after the ride. Having had Lipoma (Lipoma is a benign tumor composed of adipose (fat) tissue) for the last twenty years, I have searched for a treatment for an equal amount of time. There is no scientific resolution in coping with these fat deposits. Plastic surgery leaves a scar, steroid injections do not produce satisfying results and injecting them with calcium chloride was unsuccessful and dangerous. My doctor had documented 121 of these benign visible lumps on my torso, upper legs and arms and clearly they are invisibly present in my interior; maybe even in areas where they can cause serious hazard (think pressing on spinal nerves, or causing swelling of organs…).

They are all nearly gone! The largest of lipoma documented on my lower back was 4.5cm x 2.5cm and now is 90% reduced. Not just some, not just reduced… Most of them are gone!

If you are someone with lipoma and interested in consulting with me about a personalized Keto-based diet, I would love to help you find an efficacious personalized regiment. In exchange you will be helping me create an anonymous blind study to document my discovery and present it to UCLA’s medical board. It would be a combination therapy with Cordyceps (www.EuYanSang.com) and a high-endurance sports effort to stir up scientific interest.

Please share this blog as you see fit, it is estimated that there are more than 5 million people living in the US with incurable Lipoma.

chef raphael

Managing Depression

On my travel out to New York I sat in the plane next to a lady who after a quick introduction involved me into a deep discussion about “food and depression”.

It was not one of those agonizing in-flight stories; Actually I would have loved to converse with her hours more! People living in busy urban environments all know of others suffering from loneliness, having introverted torturing thoughts and being pained with inadequate feelings… I too sometimes feel “down” or not as perceptive as I know myself to be. However, I have several methods of “coping” with the onslaught of depression. One of them is to change the “interior monologue” from bad to positive: Instead of allowing the thinking process to assume negativity we willingly can adapt to “correct” our thoughts. I point in the mirror and say: He you, I love you!  I will make you laugh. When I “frown” back, I actually crack a smile…

Take a cold morning shower, meditate, even a two minute yoga stretch initiates change; simply getting out of bed, opening the windows, allowing oneself to be happy by not  drowning  in “darkness”. Instead of watching NEWS listen to your oldies (loudly), take a quick dance step, lift your chin high and say something nice about yourself: “Hey! I’m the shit!”

We are clearly the result of what we do and what we eat. Food is a major factor in how we feel; here is your blog that might encourage you to change a few things to curve your mood and for the wise one to avoid loosing your mind.

First off, if you are a moody person, cut back on sugar and never, NEVER consume anything that contains Aspartame. Let’s learn something about the chemistry that directly influences our neuro-receptors in the brain. This is important to understand when activating your full brain function while studying or preventing inherited genes from “freezing” our mental capacity. Whilst we are at the NEVER – avoid power-drinks named fittingly “Monster” or “Booster” – you kinda know they are bad, it’s just not totally respected how horrible their side-effects are. Manufacturers quickly jump onto modern science to create supplements based on isolated information and they will express (advertise) that we are all made from the same matter and hence react uniformly.

That’s when I am telling you to turn the NEWS back on and realize we are NOT the same. Made of equal matter, similar prepositioned in mobility and limited by genes and gravity – but certainly not the similar when acting outside human compassion towards others.

“Brain foods” are obtained from eating high protein such as meat, dairy, avocados, soy products, and certain nuts and seeds. What makes them ideal for mental health is their high content of phenylalanine that through proper combination and digestion convert into tyrosine (another amino acid) used in protein synthesis. For the few I lost above: A healthy brain needs cottage cheese, avocado, lentils, chick peas, seaweed, pumpkin and sesame seeds. For the lesser vegetarian there is lots of phenylalanine in meat, fish, eggs and butter!

In humans, phenylalanine is an essential amino acid that must be obtained from the diet and not from an isolated source. In contrast, tyrosine can be synthesized in your digestive track from phenylalanine and is considered a non-essential amino acid. Both compounds can be altered into chemicals that affect mood and brain functioning by controlling the “side-dishes” you swallow at the same time. We eat terrible combinations of foods, they are often deprived of natural sources for phenylalanine and tyrosine, so frequently we take them as nutritional supplements. This is not ideal; it’s like a chest implant; it might look nice but there is no strength or actual physical function.

L-Phenylalanine turns into L-Tyrosine that is converted into L-Dopa (dopamine) which stimulates the brain to either “like” or “crave”… A healthy brain needs this to function! And here is a dilemma, it can be abused to make you addicted to the wrong foods if viciously added. Industries (as do drug dealers) keep you hooked when promoting you to consume chemically altered substance…  Some people suffer from a genetic disorder called phenylketuria (PKU), in which phenylalanine is not metabolized. It can build up to toxic levels and cause retardation and death. The artificial sweetener Aspartame is one of the modern spike for this growing illness in babies! A combination of aspartic acid and phenylalanine are a common component in diet sodas. I have clients with serious mental problems consuming daily sodas, pop-corn and artificially enhanced products while medicated to prevent loosing their mind. We are a weird species!

Anyone with a family history of Alzheimer. Amyotophic (ALC) Lou Gehrig’s and neurodegenerative diseases should never consume artificially modified food products. Before you run to the health store and buy DL-phenylalanine synthesized supplements try eating accordingly. Nature is chuck full with healthy solutions that are tasty and cause no side-effects.

Changes in dopamine levels can have beneficial effects on mood disorders such as depression and diseases such as Parkinson’s. People with PKU or who take antidepressants as well as women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take supplements of phenylalanine (there is a hint from the manufacturers…)

Start your day with a positive thought! Drink a glass of room temperate water and eat bran cereal or oatmeal that is only slightly sweetened (honey). Eat plenty of berries and fruit but do not eat bananas that are totally white. They are not healthy and do not contain as much phenylalanine as “spotted” ripe bananas.

You should eat an avocado every week, increase your consumption of pumpkin, blanched kale, broccoli and spinach. They are very difficult to digest raw! Eat chickpeas, humus, lentils and pumpkin seed whenever they are presented; It’s super rich on brain oil. Consume a few sunflower seeds, walnuts, almonds or any (unsalted) nuts when feeling like “snacking” they curve appetite and nourish your skin and lungs. Pumpkin seeds and fresh pressed oils are ideal if not roasted or baked with… Avoid pop-corn, sodas and anything that is lazed with sweetener, it most certainly will block good dopamine effects and is merely designed to keep you hooked. Dairy products when fermented (cheese, some yoghurt and butter) are healthy and rich on brain-fatty acids. If you are already affected with a neurological disorder you need to stay away from too much soy product, avoid too much artificial starches (bread, pasta, pastries) and you should consult with your doctor about foods that might interfere with your medication.

I am working on a cookbook specifically targeting foods that benefit the brain…

Until my flight back to Los Angeles… Enjoy and share!

chef raphael

Celiac disease & TCM

Yesterday I was strangely tested when during a lunch meeting my young friend sternly corrected me that he had Celiac disease and there was no cure available.

I did point out that he might want to study everything there was available about the dilemma he seemed confronted with, especially in fact of his youth and having to deal and balance his ailment for many years – there might be solutions to milder or better his condition. He tested me with a very Western general question: “Are you saying TCM can cure me?”

There is so much response in his rejecting defense and a lunch break in a busy shopping mall is not fitting a scenario to reflect to his high-energy and self-confident loaded ponder. Equally, I remember a sentence expressed by Lao Tzu that “he who knows does not speak; he who speaks does not know.”

For the bloggers searching for a cure or quick solution about Celiac disease, let me put the facts at the beginning. Yes, there are several solutions to better the condition for anyone with digestive or autoimmune disorder. TCM offers no monolithic perspective on treating gluten intolerance as it is diagnosed in modernity, but the symptoms, treatments and positive effects for digestive help are well respected, understood and documented by Eastern medicine practitioners for hundreds of years.

You will never hear a respected TCM practitioner using the word cure or healing. Modern TCM science clearly demonstrates that with precise efforts great results can been achieved in making the condition of people severely affected by Celiac disease manageable and sometimes even reverse the condition to norm.

To the young man at lunch, I wanted to point out that his dilemma had already affected him – not just physiologically. From my humble distance, I think he is a great person, a strong-minded individual because of the inherited genes that have influenced his ways of dealing with his circumstance. Often people will not embrace any idea of change because that would require a changed perspective towards oneself and having to seriously study new ideas and abandon toxic Western medicines concealing the symptoms.

Often, people with a handicap are defined by their condition. I walked away from the lunch meeting with a strong sense that even if I could “cure” him it would be taking away the very essence that gave him the drive to become himself and now was not the time to change what seemingly keeps him in balance with life. A rescue swimmer might know such a scenario: You can’t help someone that screams and fights – they will most likely take you down with them; you have to wait in a safe distance until their energy faints or they come to embrace someone’s intention to aid.

Back to the Celiac dilemma: Being intolerant to food is often a good thing, not a bad one as proclaimed in most information available about gluten intolerant articles.

It is not a disease from the perspective of TCM: It demonstrates merely a disharmony of organ functions and with very little observation (tongue, pulse, talk and touch) – solutions are available to better most people dealing with these conditions.

Since this is a general blog I will give you a general advice: It’s perfectly okay not to consume wheat products that are puffed, sticky and merely fill your belly with quick conversion to carbohydrates. When starch enters the body it is digested by enzymes in your mouth and stomach via amylase – which turns the starch into maltose – which brakes down to maltase, into glucose – which can then be used for respiration. However, if you are not active (exercise, yoga, brain use) it turns to stubborn fat, the kind hard to get rid of!

Celiac is referred to the inability of your body to deal with celiac sprue (a gluten-sensitive enteropathy) This digestive and autoimmune disorder causes damage to the villi, the hair-like structures on the lining of the small intestine (mucosa) when foods with gluten are eaten. Glutens are a form of protein found in some grains and for unknown reasons (current research pins to genetic manipulated food sources) your own digestive enzymes attack your stomach lining instead of breaking down starch. The damage to the intestine makes it hard for the body to absorb nutrients, especially fat, calcium, iron, and folate.

Currently we have a worldwide epidemic of this condition. Kids are born with starch sensitivity, possibly a reaction to our modern food consumption. An inherited gene will cause a series of side-effects that are treated in Western medicine with a combination of medicines that often cause elevated sensitivity and toxicity to the very organs already stressed by the original condition.

Eastern medicine would activate supporting organs to strengthen your digestive track and balance the responsibilities of supporting organs; In this scenario the harmony of Pancreas and Spleen needs to be supported with foods that are ideal for their activity i.e. Yam, Butternut Squash, Mango, Pears, Walnut, Sesame, Lemon and Ginger…

If you have a personal experience or would like to consult with me about your condition please share your thoughts on this public forum.

TCM chef Raphael

intolerance, racism & hate

Although this is a chef site and most of my blogs reflect about TCM in a broad way – today I am adding another personal story to the blooming pseudo-political aspect of tolerance and racism…

In 1995 I participated with my ex-partner Mathieu in a catalogue production based out of Healdsburg Sonoma Valley. TZABACO. This shopping-magazine targeted gay consumers with a story line of Mike and Alex, a gay couple that lived in a cabin in the Sonoma Valley and had friends visiting. Michael (Mathieu’s character) was a bartender in the city and I portrait Alex, a writer and home-buddy. We had a sleepy golden retriever named Bob and everything you would find in the catalogue pictures/story was for purchase. It was a gutsy and risky undertaken by the owners to “openly” promote products with a gay couple in the days where gay people hardly were seen kissing in TV shows and way before Queer as Folk or gay sports personas would ever step to the front and admit their natural preference. The meaning “transgender” was unknown to most and is still unclear to people living  revoked from urban modernity or “sheltered” by religious dogma.

Tzabaco with Mike and Alex chef raphael gamon
Tzabaco with Mike and Alex (mathieu mcbee raphael gamon)

My modeling agency warned me that this might be a bit “homophobic” for my carrier. Although I grew up unconcerned about any gay issues – I had no problem with admitting my sexual preference when asked about my lack of girlfriends. Growing up in Switzerland where being gay was not an issue – not even when I joined an elite branch of the army – I had never been threatened, harassed or bullied for being me. Quite the opposite, I think my “gay” upbringing was rather exciting; I got laid left and right and ponder in hindsight about the friends I knew in my “active” youth that are today happily married and seemingly content as well. As an intelligent child I would have told you that if I had a choice, I most likely would have preferred to be married and have children as well; but I am sexually and psychologically attracted to the male body. I have had beautiful sexual experiences with woman; it is not as intense, as exciting and I never fantasize about making love to a female… Actually, I can’t explain it correctly – but I know with certainty – I am gay. Fascinated about extreme sports and always the first to strive for dangerous adventure, my sexual desire have nothing to do with the person I am in my professional life, although I choose to life in a gay city. My sexual preference is rarely influencial in any of  my dailly actions. I get along with pretty much with anyone nice, sane regardless of their life-style preference or even religion.  I never made a big point about mine either. I’m the spirit that was raised to embrace the positive aspects of being, to express the likes before the dislikes and point out that my reality quietly included the obscure, difficult and disharmony that makes life colorful.

So many out there have this strong urge to express their dislikes. Why?

I listen better than most. Very aware of the words used when talking, writing or even drawing my ideas into reality. Religious extremes are quick to voice their unique views and hide behind multiple translations of bible verses and confusing moral correctness created mostly by peeps that used brutal force in past times to doctrine their worldly existence beyond their living time. Preachers today confuse followers with rhetorical old-time views that don’t reflect current science. Hate is simply an emotional expression from a perspective of one-sided righteousness. It often lacks logic and requires a very narrow view. Such individuals invest a great deal of energy, intellect and excuses in why their deep seeded feeling is acceptable and they often use physical power to manifest their ideology.

I’m utterly irked when people promote their personality in chat sites with racist wordings like: “…I’m sorry, no blacks or Asians, just a preference… It’s a hateful  remark! It’s equally ignorant to say: “…only disease free…” Clearly indicating a lack of basic HIV education. Anyone with an undetectable virus is in good care and quite impossible to transmit “disease” – besides that HIV is by far the most commonly transmitted of all STD’s … This is not the ideal prophylactic way of preventing an infection when designing your racist personal profile while thinking it is racy…(Study your words…) It starts as a single step to change the world. As long as politicians and omnious leaders of kingdoms and nations refuse to be educated – because they would discover what awful samples they are – there is little chance for all nations to balance old wisdom withresearch; it’s merely one “powerful” dude branding his simple minded ideas onto others… often driven by junk science!

While a bearded transgender performer just won the Eurovision contest before a 120 million TV audience in Europe, here in the USofA the news media is sadly broadcasting every detail of a billionaire league owner that  lacks business sense when laundering his hateful persona to the public. He does not even understand that Michael Jordan is HIV positive and does not have AIDS… His ego is about as inflated as that of Putin, promotes self-confidence as comical as Palin or Bachmann and displays a poor sense for what is poverty as do the Kardashians. Sure, they all give generously to charities; not because this is a heart driven gesture – because their accountants calculate this is best to secure their wealth. Revoked from the reality of “normal” being; completely ignorant to the sad realism of their immediate surrounding which is constructed to never allow anyone working for them to speak the truth and reflect the despicable human they are… Being rich requires to be isolated from the norm.

The TZABACO catalogue in it’s fourth edition showcased me, Alex piggy-horse riding my laughing nephew on my back during a family Christmas party. In the early days of internet and social media we received handwritten letters from mostly religious corners expressing their frustration and disgust about a fag carrying an innocent child of God on my gay shoulders. I was not hurt, but confused that here in the US – this advanced country that invates with weaponries and soldiers other countries when they express intolerance – citizens would take time to write hate letters while self-convinced that their action was honorable.

That is equally as confusing as any NFL player of color opinionates about the congratulary kiss of a man with his male partner – It was in my lifetime when in 1968 their status of a 2/3 human was finally corrected. Yes, racism, intolerance and hate of any kind are all twined when expressing your one-sided deep emotions. Just, today with the internet, it’s irrevocable out there. It would be much simpler and all inclusive if most of you would restrict your expressions to what you like instead of shouting out the many things we dislike.

Just portrait yourself with the things that you like instead. For most of you that would still draft you as the freak you are! …because I listen and often withhold my reaction… In the end it is easier to let you live in your isolated bubble since I have learned that wealthy people tend to retaliate against a truthful opinion.

chef raphael

Bunny week thoughts…

I’m not big on promoting my political views when having to participate in speculations based on under-educated information, but the story about Malaysian flight 370 is rather a simple truth, whenever we are able to get the recordings:

First off, the few details we are not being told by any media might help understanding a little about the lack of communication by plane, by phone and from controllers on the ground. When a nation purchases a 70 million dollar air craft the transaction is similar to you buying a car. You can buy a vehicle with the bare essentials i.e. radio and cigarette lighter…. Or the full shebang with leather seats and WiFi flat screen TV behind the seats and NFC activated locks and ignition starter…

Malaysia most likely got the less expensive version, with little modern outfitting electronics. Unlike in the US most people in South East Asia (except major cities) are not as well equipped with the most modern cell phones; most Malaysian citizen opt for a “pay-to-go” phone service plan and most have a simple handy… There is NOT a cell phone atenna on each corner boosting signals, some areas in the jungle are remote and there is no “bar” to text amass!

If there is a catastrophic decompression issue and the oxy-masks drop in front of you – everyone in the cabin will look around and ponder what they should do next… Next time you watch the flight attendants doing their silly demo; pay attention. What they are not telling you – the ominous facts – you have about five seconds to put that oxygen mask over your mouth before you will pass out – and there might be only a few minutes of pure oxygen available for all passengers (scuba divers love this part…). The pilots have a longer supply. Hence, in a dramatic decompression situation (a door blows out or a window explodes…) all passengers and crew will pass out within seconds… There is honestly no chance to pull a mask over your own head – and next over a child-  if the cabin pressure violently changes. It’s like telling the school kids in 1950 to hoover under the table when the Atom bomb hits the roof – whilst cement evaporates, its a funny exercise, but hopless an attempt!

The airplane however is programmed (equipped with onlly bare essentials) to dive on auto-pilot down to about 4000 feet to equalize and cruise in a speed and altitude that is livable… for the few that might survive, this is the time to spring in action and check on the pilots. These professionals too could have passed out? Keep in mind, you might have been tossed around, popped your ear drums and blown a lung (or two) but heck, we are able to do survive beyond logic!

The odd flight pattern, as we know it today, is a sign that someone “steered” the aircraft, however we will not know all details until we find the black box. Could be a pilot slumped over the equipment, or something far more nefarious.

They are going to find this plane. In time we will know the details of this tragic flight. The ocean is much larger than most can comprehend and most unexplained stories invite for conspiracy, yes it is annoying. Add to it religious speculators and we just have another human version; revoked science blabber. Even CNN makes up days of stories; adding Titanic, digital camera, Submarines and a side-story of Ebola outbrake in Africa.

In the mean while we all need to come a bit closer and try educating the next generations about the fact we are made from the same DNA as most other living forms. I respect a strong opinion – but, please spare me your speculations that lack science.

Side note:  The ears of the chocolate bunny are usually the body parts containing the most chocolate, the mold is poured upside down  – just in case someone asks if you want a piece… Go for them!

Back to the stove:

chef raphael

Did I – did I not?

In the past my blogs promoted food products, TCM remedies and travel experiences, all mixed with a touch of personal views and political ranting. As Private Chefs and Estate Managers we are super cautious to advertise personal services; We rely on hands-on experience and facts!  During January’s 2014 meeting of the EMC (Estate Manager Coalition), I was introduced to Clinical Director Lovely and her husband Jake Laban from Skin by Lovely in Santa Monica.

Raphael Gamon 2013
owned by TCM chef Raphael Gamon

What a small world: I met a beauty professional in Beverly Hills! Ah, yes – I too look into the mirror with wondrous eyes: What the heck…?

I express no fear of appearing original. As my close friends will quickly confirm; “there is hardly anyone as simple about their hair, fashion and exterior …” Self-appearance to me is embracing seasons, waving off the notion of visual beauty by appreciating my aging and foremost focused on how I reflect in the heart of others.

Working as TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) chef in Hollywood certainly confronts me with every aspect of adjusting to life, the aim to stay healthy, fit and sharp. That includes the sometimes odd struggles we witness of public figures trying to defy vanishing good looks – by replicating an advertised “beauty-standard” of modern media.

My grandmother had such lovely “happy lines” (some know them as ‘wolf lines’) around the edges of her eyes –her beautiful face exhibited comfort, wisdom and happiness.

I also remember the moments she carried me out of the bathtub, wrapped in a lush towel, kneeling to my level and gently applying cream onto my face while encouraging me to take care of my skin. Bathing was a spa moment. She too, with all her simplicity understood the need to take care of our body.

Now, having celebrated 50+ years rushing through life, I’m confident that those moments – when I engaged in caring for my exterior reflection – have preserved me from too much damage. Today I look into the mirror with the mind-set of a twenty-one year old and ponder about the wrinkles. Hey, I’m not quite ready!

Why not boasting my ego a bit? Modern science provides us with simple and effective opportunities to improve our moral. From a TCM perspective we encourage you to engage in soul-boosting activities. We live in a toxic world and professional, gentile treatment by qualified healthcare professional is a perfect solution.

This is not about “altering”  – the magic is in enhancing, preserving and health.

SKIN by LOVELY came highly recommended to me, I agreed to an appointment. Lovely and her Team invited me to their medical office in Santa Monica for a consultation. Walking from Wilshire Blvd into the tranquility of her office, I was instantly reassured that I was in professional hands. Aided by the chocolate truffles and coffee machine, I quickly found comfort in talking about the possibilities available. This is a perfect fit for VIP principals to consult any of their beauty questions.

The team is a stellar cast! Lovely herself is a leading trainer in her professional trade, I learned that Skin by Lovely is actually the busiest Botox clinic on the Westside and one of the busiest in the country, so I knew I was in the hands of a true expert.  Her second VIP office space is perfectly suited for celebrity treatments, with a discreet elevator entrance from a secure parking structure directly beneath.  Or, you can hire her specialized care for a ‘house-call’. There were no uncertain moments, no pain and I actually walked away as if I simply had a coffee break with a good friend. My comfort level completely intact I went back to work having never to use the word “vanity”…

Thank you Lovely and Team!

chef raphael

cook book out!

Dear Friends,

It slowly dawns on me that a six-year journey of writing and designing the “cooking with traditional Chinese medicine” (TCM) cookbook is finally in print. It is now available for anyone curious about everything we consume and how it affects us.

TCM cookbook cover Raphael Gamon
cover image of cook book by chefraphael

The TCM cookbook with over 170 pages is chuck full of helpful information and designed as a mini-self-study to introduce all of you to the complex world of Eastern medicine from my perspective as a TCM chef.  I’m fusing two great traditions: Chinese medicinal food and French cuisine!

“As a trained chef, my curiosity early on focused on learning how food has an affect on us, not just on our physical wellbeing, but how we psychologically react to what we intake. My work informs beyond eating, drinking and the product choices we consume to sustain life; we are affected by what we see, breathes and listen too – we respond to everything we touch, we apply and the circumstances we choose to live in.  We all agree to know this, but turned away from confronting to understanding it – it seems too complex to comprehend. This full colored work is designed for young and old to quickly understand the basics of Traditional Chinese methods. My recipes are easy, tasty and original!”

Cooking with TCM is a visually stunning and clever book; a simplified presentation with well established wisdom and modern references to scientifically support facts. Learn about the remedies that have been studied on millions of people without side-effects. You quickly realize how to make perfect choices to support and sustain health.  With this book you can wisely filter through today’s luring promotions of products that are natural, safe and share with others these powerful alternatives.

There are 40 recipes with vegetarian and vegan variations and hundreds of healthy remedies to include into your daily routine. The TCM cookbook is chuck full of fun information for people pondering how to sustain health, cope with illness and curious about non-invasive options to enhance our bodies ability to heal, boost immune response and guarantee longevity.

Please, support me in sharing this blog. Cooking with TCM is a perfect gift for friends, family and a collectable for all chefs!

Thank you,

Chef Raphael

Nestle attempting to patent old wisdom

This is the article that triggers my latest blog:

In a paper published last year, Nestlé scientists claimed to “discover” what much of the world has known for millennia: that nigella sativa extract could be used for “nutritional interventions in humans with food allergy”.

But instead of creating an artificial substitute, or fighting to make sure the remedy was widely available, Nestlé is attempting to create a nigella sativa monopoly and gain the ability to sue anyone using it without Nestlé’s permission. Nestlé has filed patent applications — which are currently pending — around the world.

I am perplexed about this last public outreach: My response is, let Nestle Corp. patent any idea they want… What difference does it make? Anyone interested still has the same access to fennel flowers when trying to find benefits, regardless. It does not limit anyone from brewing a fresh fennel tea at home. I actually think these silly attempts to claim “title” to ancient knowledge is great exposure of public knowledge in today’s uninformed, pill-pushing culture. Look at this example: Although chicken soup has been demystified as a scientifically correct cold remedy, this data ignores the placebo affect of any caring mom, sister or friend preparing it for you, when you are sick –i.e. health benefits nobody doubts and science can’t really pin it down into data either…

Nestle, after getting in contact with EYS (Eu Yan Sang) a Hong Kong based Chinese traditional pharmaceutical corporation – produced in collaboration a TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) -fused bouillon that did not successfully breach the market – but within this relationship Nestle must have discovered that there is more to consuming food than “feeding”… Now, a few of Nestle’s modern scientists seemingly hashed out this idea they could patent 3000 years of herbal research, as if to dominate the market with a singular “ownership-certificate” of common natural wisdom. Next, they might attempt to patent that fresh ginger root corrects equilibrium and goji berries significantly slow the progress of cataract. Let ‘em claim!

Any good TCM practitioner will merely smirk about this naïve attempt to secure greedy power. It is a misguided marketing scheme that one isolated entity is the “cure-all” for trusting consumers in search of alternative help. You should never trust a laboratory geek selling you enticed packaged “wellbeing” especially if they produce junk-food brands like Coffee Mate and Lean Cuisine (run)!  Sugar and food color loaded products like Cheerios and Shreddies cause tooth decay and child obesity/diabetes and skin disorders… Now Nestle intends to create a natural skin cure based on ancient herbal knowledge and they push to patent this idea. Well, it’s like trusting Coca Cola or Pepsi Cola who target consumers with “healthy fruit juices”. They are loaded with corn syrup, preservatives and a multitude of ingredients you should never poison your child with… Heck, all their “fresh” ingredients have a shelve life beyond naturally possible… Contains 100% fresh fruit juice! …“how much”, you should be asking – “how much is artificial and how much is fruit juice?” We just “read” the words that comfort us, not the text, intrinsically trusting.

From the perspective of TCM it takes a multitude of herbs and minerals to successfully support a patient. Not one singular remedy. As we all know, the same good herb that is intended to aid one person could harm another with the same symptoms. Modern pharmaceutical corporations like Nestle, blind-sided by generating revenue, are now laughably attaining a patent for an ancient claim that fennel flowers have skin healing properties… rather reflecting silliness in the face of simple herbalists: Yes, tea of fennel flowers reduces skin ailment in people – only if they have no internal inflammations. You cannot just isolate one powerful substance and give it to “all”. Most of the “natural medicines” you will find in today’s health-food stores are packed to lure consumers to find “help” but are branded falsely or even promise “cure”.  Some go as far to claim “healing power”.  These are all mass produced “remedies” by factories producing little valuable substance for anyone. As if all human kind with the same symptoms – an ongoing catch 22 – could be cured with one singular ingredient, regardless of our height, our originality, condition, sex or age… Nothing TCM supports nor recommends.

Contrary. Fennel flower tea might indeed aid one woman during her dysmenorrheal (painful menstruation) but at the same time can cause severe photodermatitis (skin rash) to another. While Nestle files patent requesting world-wide to create a skin remedy “cure for all” – no modern practitioner would prescribe singular fennel flower tea as a successful skin remedy. Not in the last 3000 years of well-researched herbology was such simplicity effective enough to millions of well-educated people with a scientific sense for using medicinal logic when aiding others. It would certainly be a multitude of herbs, minerals and even breathing exercise, based upon a personally drafted prescription.

Nestle can claim they “own” part of this wisdom… even so it is documented in over 3000 years of medicinal history. It is knowledge that any well-rounded druid will pass on to you (to no cost). Like mom teaches her kids to brew a chicken soup for an ill sibling and encourages them to go and get him to take it… She will give them the best advice yet: “Watch, he might be a bit grumpy, just ignore it and join him in eating the soup…” There, healing is initiated!

Hint; fennel is health boosting and can stop vomiting and reduces fever… If you want to learn more about it, visit TCMchef.com and learn how to prepare a healthy shrimp and fennel salad – it is an aphrodisiac… That free recipe for all was drafted by myself in 1998… Just in case Nestle gets any ideas!

chef raphael

Bucket list # 17

I have to reach back to 1986 to explain this blog. I had just finished my job assignment as chef to Jack Lang in Paris. Slightly frustrated with the responsibility of running a very tight and conservative professional government kitchen – I wrote onto my bucket list:

“March 17th 86 – to be for two weeks merely a chef with no responsibilities, simply following the guidance of others and responding with ‘yes chef’ to any and all requests – as ridiculous and banal as they seem…”

My bucket list since has grown to 81 items I felt are important to achieve in my life. Four of them where time-lines. As 14 year old, when I first started this collection of  valuated goals to achieve, I pinned down that I should live to my 24th birthday. That was extended to live another nine years – within reaching the age of Constantine the Great, W. A. Mozart, Richard II, Eva Peron and so stated Jesus… I wanted to outlive their 33 years of age. On my 33rd birthday I wrote bucket list #50: fittingly setting my new “deadline” to live to celebrate 50 years. Last July I reached that objective – an incredible journey so far and I will not extend the silly notion of yet another time to “survive” – I’m living. I have embraced this miracle as an extension of my experiences and my focus is on helping others to enjoy their journey on earth.

Last July on my 50th birthday I decided that bucket list #17 was to be tackled. Inspired by the economic comical turmoil and my “in-between-job-time” that I could take two weeks out of my schedule and with a limited allowance of $100 I would dive into a two week adventure of being a “simple chef”. I signed up with a temp agency that instructed me in how to be on time, how to use their online schedule system, how to show up shaven and smitten whilst representing their image and good standing with kitchens that required help. Most of the attendees in this orientation where students from various culinary schools or simply peeps dabbling into getting any job. The pay is between $10 for “cook students” to $13 for cooks. During that initial meeting I was twice corrected that I was a cook, not a chef… First off had to attain a “California Food Handler’s Certificate”. A document I never had, although teaching a many chefs the lessons needed to obtain this mandatory license when working in the food industry. $10 and a very boring two hours of internet schooling later I went to Bargain fair and purchased an uncomfortable cynthetic white chef-jacket. $19.50 before taxes. Next off to the second hand store shopping for shoes and black pants and an apron; $23.50.

With $47 I was to pay for gas and food… I would try.

My first job assignment brought me to a five star hotel in the center of Beverly Hills. I arrived fifteen minutes early at the kitchen and received a chef jacket and a hat. My duty was to help in the staff kitchen, prepping salads and within two hours the “cook in charge” excused herself and explained that she had to leave early – everything should be easy… The next shift starts in two hours: If you need help just ask in the kitchen downstairs. On the menu was Pasta, baked chicken, various vegetables and maintaining the salad bar and curricular food choices that cater to a +200 hotel staff eating at any time. She left. Faced with the dilemma of abandoning my bucket list efforts or professionally just “taking over” I marched into the kitchen downstairs and ask the first chef that came in sight if they could help; I played abandoned. It doomed on me that this scenario would make for a perfect hidden camera story. Take a highly qualified chef and put him into the shoes of a cook with no responsibilities and enjoy the experience. Although everyone in that hotel kitchen was nice, correct and attentive; it is odd being patronized by chefs half my age. The kitchen was run tight, most product was in the control of the executive and the menu selection was to standard. I got hired a second day by the same kitchen, this time to work in the main kitchen – I quickly was recognized for having some technical talent, although I could “feel” the questions that lingered thick in the air: What is this older guy doing here – where did his life go wrong… The sous-chef struggled to stack crabmeat onto wasabi lazed pannecotta topped with Avocado while I pondered that this combination of color, flavors and ingredients made little sense. I was not as impressed about the creativity as the sous chef seemed to be: “Is this not genius of the chef..” he would say – and I thought nah, that’s rather simple and lacks depth and taste – but I responded with an enthusiastic: “yes chef…”! My understanding of creativity is not just acting upon ideas and trying them out – it is the result of something rehearsed, noval, useful and delicious that expresses a wide range of study, experience and respect for palat, season; in includes a rebel’s attitude for disrespecting common sense…

These grey-green stacks of poorly flavored ingredients on a white base could not impress me.

When at the end of that shift the executive chef said he liked my work I was flattered – until he asked: “ Have you learned something today”?

“Yes chef” – I responded and went home dog tired…

Next day I ended up in downtown Los Angeles; Staple Center. I will not mention any names and localities, but if you plan on having a party in that area you should read my blog and take a few points to heart. The food prepared and catered in some of these venues do not equal the money they cost, are not prepared in a manner I would consider sanitary and lack fair quanitity, quality and are merely a faint substitution of an image of “name recognized chef” – These meals serve as “feeding” not as pleasing any consumer…

Here I certainly was a cook help amongst other cooks with an attitude that befits that poor image of irate kitchen attitude. The basic product is cheap (as in quality) and the chefs in charge are quick to brag about the logo they carry on their shirt. I find that modernity has suppressed creativity and talent amongst the compeditive culinary world. For whom you work is of foremost importance even if there hardly is any interaction with the “grand name” that hired you. You become an extended marionette of someone else’s creativity with absolutely little insentive to self-development and growth.

I’ll skip the details. Basically we prepared some of the food in the bathroom, which seemed completely acceptable to everyone working there regularly. I had to send frustrated guests away, explaining that this was a food prepping area for today, there would be other bathrooms – I just did not know where. The chef in charge had prepared too little sauce, too little side dishes and we cooks struggled to “stretch” as requested. What originally on the first plates swirled as a salad sauce was on the last plates a smirch of my finger of a faint taste of cheap oil and miserly spices… It would devaporate completely by the time the waiters sat with plates in hand in the hallway, waiting for their call to serve the salad… I withheld my opinions, although they screamed in my head. A very proud German accented pastry chef with logo on his jacket asked me to pick up some cake that dropped onto the floor. He too expressed himself to me with this curious question: “Did you learn something today”? It did take me a second, but I responded: “Yes chef”…

Well, with all the ego and that fancy logo on your chef coat, I cannot fancy why you would have such a high self-esteem being that you are a chef that prepares food in a bathroom!

During the first week I agreed to cook for a food festival held off Sunset close to Malibu. I would be one of six cook stations with a BBQ grill. The lady in charge communicated with me on the phone several times and each discussion would be a lesson in how I was to prepare food. She expressed herself fittingly with a “current Republican notion” of using “all inclusive” ideas when explaining her personal dislikes: “Bell peppers? No, people don’t like bell-peppers. Don’t use them!”

It would be a job after the two week bucket period – let me write about it later. In the second week I was assigned to a beautiful resort hotel in Laguna Beach. By now I had long outspend the $47 budget. Although I was hired as a cook with a $13 salary, by the time I gased my SUV (shame on me…) and arrived back in Hollywood, I barely would generate a salary over $25… Working in this kitchen was really nice. The Sous chef took me aside within the first ten minutes and expressed he was sorry but; “…you have to take that ear ring out, our executive does not allow any visuable tattoos nor jewelery…”

“Yes chef” I responded. In a way I wanted to comfort him with an “…it’s okay, there is a territory for all of us within we try to be the one in charge. It has no larger meaning to the better good of the world…” – but heck, I was a cook; so I took out my stud.

They soon would discover I had some experience. Unlike the Hotel kitchen in Beverly Hills, creativity here was encouraged, practiced and shared. The chef responsible for house made sausages is a truly talented soul with an artistic sense for spicing and method. Lovely! Like most kitchens that hire me to train chefs in menu development I cannot shut out my sense for realizing where mistakes could be tweaked to better outcome. Staorage, re-usage and fusion are still foreign to many chefs – especially when bothered with inflexible rules and narrow ideas about national Cuisine. Here too it lacked tidiness and direction, but I can recommend that food prepared here is delicious, of great quality and quite tasty. I would love to add a touch of Asian Fusion, just to expand their already rich selection and enable tools of methods that trigger even more creativity…

The experiences as a cook help were humbling to say the least. I will never give in to this urge again, cured from the idea that “a chef with no responsibility” would be simple. I love being in charge and foremost being the compassionate and encouraging chef most of these kitchens lack. I brag not with the logo on my jacket but the fact that after more then 30 years as a “responsible” chef in the kitchen I have never yelled at another chef. I have gotten some close to tears, digged into their sensitive minds and challenged them beyond what they thought was already brilliant – just to show that there is no limit – there is no such thing as a perfect chef. The abilities to expand and adapt within the realm of preparing food for others is an unlimited journey. Any chef acting within limited frame work is merely a handicap to the talent of others. Don’t aim for “name and rang” as I have worked with fascinating chefs that had no professional background but a natural sense for beauty, food and taste.

The questions about my being in that kitchen became too much to hide on my fourth day. When the chef told me they would love to have me full time on the team I was flattered and amused at once. I did tell him I had a “reason” for being there. Still felt awkward, standing there in my dirty polyester chef jacket trying to explain my bucket list #17…  Especially when I heard myself saying: “You have a very nice kitchen, good people and delicious menu, chef…” Too much words, I agreed immediately…

That eve I went home and send my resume and picture over to that slightly neurotic lady requesting my info for the food festival. I figured that now that I had done my two weeks I could reveal my true persona. But heck, the name (my own) on my jacket made no difference to her: To her I was just another cook under her supervision. I bought the best Angus Tri Tip and paid out of my pocket beyond the miserly budget she had available. I would have to uphold my quality.  The day of the event I received a call from her why I was not there setting up yet: “I’m all ready to go, on my way – no worries, I have done this professionally for thirty years…”

“Not cool” she responded – “…not cool, get over here immediately, I really don’t like this…”

During the festivity a client expressed something about Kobe and meat. Turned towards the BBQ I corrected over my shoulders: “No, it’s Angus – Tri Tip, not Kobe…”

And then it dawned on me that on the poster outside the booth is mentioned I had cooked for Kobe Bryant.

“Oh you cooked for fancy people… the lady continued, you must be a very good cook..’!

One last time, holding back any expressions of emotions I looked at her with a big smiles on my face and said: “Yes, ma’am chef actually…”

“Oh yes, I forgot, a cook is not a chef, sorry…” She walked off.

Gosch, that felt so good! – I will never wish to be anything less; not even for a day!

a "cocktail-minute" response about your spleen

TIPS FOR THE SPLEEN

Amongst the five elements it is the Spleen (earth element) that seems the most mystifying of all organs and the least understood. It also is the one element that in Western medicine (with today’s research and understanding) does not completely line up when comparing the respected understanding and teachings of TCM.

When people with digestive problems approach me with their “simple” inquiries about how to adjust their food intake, I cringe a little: It takes more than a “cocktail-minute” to respond to such complex questions – how to support or strengthen our digestive systems.

Today, in modern medicine, the spleen is understood as part of the immune system and responsible for the production of white blood cells (lymphocytes) and the removal of old red blood cells. This was not the same priority in TCM. The spleen in Chinese medicine is paired with the stomach, and both are the main organs of digestion for the body. The fundamental difference to Western understanding was the wisdom that the spleen not only digest food, but also stimulus and information – respecting the effects of all that comes into the body through our sense organs as well.

From the TCM perspective we live in a spleen0-deficient culture. (In TCM we treat the origin of a dilemma, in this scenario the spleen function is not sufficient enough to process the volume of physiological and psychological inputs). We are constantly over-loaded with information, which needs to be processed through the stomach channel. With urban competition we have become multitasking – media and food consumers; cell phones on the dining table  – devils, eating on the go, nervous multitasking… Never doing just one thing at a time.

We do not chew our food well. Chewing helps the breakdown of the foods before they enter the stomach, making digestion allot easier and we could sustain on less!

When the earth element is imbalanced there will be symptoms of digestive upset reflecting in loose stools, poor appetite, low energy, edema (water retention), nausea, vomiting, weakness in the four limbs, pale lips, organ prolapsed, bruising, a feeling of cold, tired and a lack of motivation. A spleen imbalance causes a weak Qi (lassitude and lethargy), appetite is poor, digestion is sluggish and the stools are loose and watery. You will be lethargic, show pale lips, dragging around unmotivated and food will taste dull.

Foods that are not ideal in these conditions: dairy, wheat, cold drinks, fruit juice, processed foods, refined flour, pastry, pasta, breads, uncooked raw foods, refined sugar and sugar substitutes, coffee, alcohol, deep fried foods, peanut products, bananas, avocado.

Back to the cocktail-minute advice: Stop trying to fix this with a “healthy” juice-blend!

When the earth element is balanced a person will feel energetic, their digestion will be smooth, their bowel movements will be regular and firm. Your thoughts are clear and you can concentrate at will. If transformation and transportation is adequate, the Qi is strong, digestion is smooth and the body is kept moist. The spleen is responsible for the intake, processing and distribution of nutrients; extracted from food and drink and converting these nutrients into uplifting Qi and blood tonic – both vital substances for all the body’s functions. A spleen-healthy person will have red, moist lips and a “go-get-her” attitude.

Spleen balancing foods (depending on condition to achieve):

Organic lightly steamed vegetables, corn, celery, watercress, turnip, pumpkin, alfalfa sprouts, button mushrooms, radish, caper, brown rice, barley, amaranth, rye, oats, legumes, kidney beans, adzuki beans, lentils, small amount of lean organic meat, poultry and fish, tuna, small amount of whole fruits, lemon, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, seaweed, kelp, green tea, jasmine tea, raspberry leaf tea, Chai tea, raspberry, peach, strawberry, cherry, walnut, chestnuts, pine nuts, pistachios, lamb, venison, lobster, mussels, prawns, shrimp, trout, black pepper, cinnamon bark, clove, dill, fennel, garlic, ginger, peppermint, rosemary, sage, turmeric. (However: combinations and time consumed will effect the spleen as well).

The Spleen is responsible for the body’s “holding” function. This is called the upright Qi, the force that counteracts gravity when it comes to holding things. Without boosting Qi, all of our organs would be at the bottom of our abdomen! When the spleen is weak, we see prolapsed of organs (uterus, bladder, stomach), prolapsed of the vagina as well as bleeding hemorrhoids i.e. prolapsed of the anus.

I will leave you with this last mental image: Watch your total intake, adapt, and change as needed!

chef raphael