chaga, a current trend

Cynical Perspective

After re-reading some of my earliest blogs from 2005 – where I’ve entirely related on the “story-telling” part of sharing – I decided today to follow up with a parody on how some of the food/health hypes of 2020 reflect on me. Please, none of you, clients, friends or strangers should feel insulted. If this blog hits a nerve, it might be time to re-evaluate your life-style or simply laugh along with me… Often times, the way we perceive our best intentions to be; they appear to others as a very strange attempt to show the world around us, that we care. Most of us are so consumed with this journey of “trying to do the right thing” that we indeed do more harm to ourselves, our immediate family members and certainly to the grounds on which we thrive. Living healthy is not that complicated…

It’s a parody, inspired by many of you as a group.

Yesterday, I stood in an (unnamed) health-food store, to help a friend purchase injectable Vitamin B12. This is where I overheard a sales professional hyping up Chaga Powder. Beautifully packaged, grandly priced! Benny works there for years and gives me “stink-eye” every-time I correct his confusing attempts to impress with limited TCM knowledge. And yet, he seems to target me when I walk in, magnetically drawn into my space. He was occupied with a client, explaining that “…this powder of a Birch tree fungus promotes longevity and is cancer fighting…” I threw some of my “shit-eye” back towards him and he realized I was eavesdropping. His victim was a pretty woman her back towards me, in her late twenties, provocatively covered in colorful sports-lycra, perfectly clean white sneakers, flawless make-up and clinching on to an expensive alkaline promoting plastic bottle. She perfectly expressed sexiness, rich, wellness and life-security in a “simplistic” expensive way. While super-tasking, on her Swarovski crystals speaker-phone in one hand she eyed for the free coffee-replacement; a promotional shot of ‘Buddah-knows what’s in it’, in a tiny taste-cup by the busy juice bar. Ewww!

If only I could explain the multi-layer observations in my little head throughout the next five seconds; Here a few observations:

The “menu” behind the Juice Bar, attended by “healthy looking”, bearded mixologists in semi-medical shrubs, listed a long array of creative titled drink mixes. From a TCM perspective they make absolutely no sense. To mix Banana, Lemon Grass and low-fat yoghurt in a “Lung Booster” is dangerously wrong. These three ingredients produce phlegm and being this the flue- (CoVid-19) season, it appeared like a crude joke to me. I’m regularly irked by Gym-Bars alike, these upselling outlets, preparing herb infused juices to promote “healthy” choices with absolutely no understanding for combining ingredients that harmonize from a medical view-point. 90% of all these concoctions are “designed” by people with zero comprehension of what these foods “regulate” in our system. In all fairness they are consumed by 90% of people that have no sincere intention to actually consume a healthy blend. For most it’s sufficient if they “taste good” and foremost intend to promote one’s self-interest of how we message others; “I’m caring about my health…”

Anyone clothed in designer-spandex with a plastic water-bottle in hand, taking a bed-bug infested ride-share to an airconditioned super-shop that sells triple-plastic-wrapped overpriced pseudo-nutrition, is not worthy a “correction”. Healthy super-shops with that annoying lingering scent of chemically perfumed candles and vegan farts, advertise their in-house plant-based packaged products. Shelves filled with anti clumping lazed dusts of plants and quizzical potions, claiming magical benefits: To attract likeminded people to shop with keywords like gluten-free, naturally sourced, even organic… I mean, everyone in here shops at that Yoga store next door and orders from the same Amazon shoe store.

Risking every chance of future product endorsements; I’m irked that “gluten-free” is now stamped onto items that never even contain gluten in the first place, like honey. Can I please convert stocks from my financial portfolio and invest into Manuka Honey? Most gluten-free trends are an unhealthy choice. Indeed, <1% suffer from celiac; for the rest of people claiming gluten makes them sick, is just not valuable a lifestyle. But then again, we live in a world where we must have brail at the local drive-through bank… Keep in mind that many of the “glutenistas” consume beef, chicken and eggs foremost fed on corn.

Organic, in any of the chain-markets is an advertisement ploy; it makes NO difference to consume either-labeled apples, avocados or bananas. (That’s another blog…) I’m way more concerned about the lack of respect for consuming bio-engineered, fast-growing celery and salad leaves that absorb liquids and nutrition from grounds that contain high amounts of pesticides, regardless that they are sold as organic. To juice pounds of celery stalk is a silly health trend – sorry ladies, but certainly will in the long run – affecting your kidneys! There is a reason why these vital essences are attached to high fibrous plants!

All of this in five seconds…

Usually such fashionistas escape my pity or further attention… But the aforementioned visitor swings around, points at me with her bejeweled cellphone and loudly screams in excitement: “Chef… Come here!”

This sporadic cooking client of mine is a true pain in the butt. Although I love her family a ton, I’ve never been respected by her nor her friends for my health-knowledge. Amongst my private friends group, I keep my TCM wisdom constraint; nothing is as annoying as having to share close space with a chef that could give you the scary break-down on pretty much everything you have in your fridge and pantry. My best friends poke fun when I crave French fries or visit the ice-cream parlor around the corner.  Live a little! This lady however is manipulated by weekly fashion magazine covers claiming current health movements and constantly inundated by friends swearing their life-changing junk-diets are AMAZING. She consults monthly expensive characters that sell curious Feng-Shui sessions and atop leave traces of China made crystals and artificially sentenced trinkets. That’s besides her social club trends, consuming heeps of cauliflower pizzas with baby arugula and chemically manipulated Mozzarella that even melts under heat… Her phone apps are a carbon footprint receipt of a lifestyle that is crazy and but they remind her of an endless variety of low-caloric artificial snacks promoted by tweaked out influencers…

Her husband and kids are equally affected by her confusing ideas what could benefit their wellbeing. Imagine, you had an endless source of money available and being exposed to the Yoga teacher acting as a life-coach, your hairdresser-beautician with her personalized side-line of anti-aging products and her sincere aim to be a perfect mother…

“Yes, well, good morning – what a surprise to…”

“What do you think about adding a teaspoon of daily Chaga powder to my morning smoothy?”

Now the sales clerk responds with stink eye. 

I realized that in this instant I held the power in my hands to burn two bridges at once. What temptation, ‘contemplating my dilemma!

Instead, I explained that Chaga indeed is known to contain anti-cancer properties like botulin and betulinic acid and current studies support that it might break down blood-cholesterol. Wild harvested Birch Chaga (especially from the coldest regions of Russia) contain high levels of melanin a powerful antioxidant. It is assumed that this fungus help boost immune response and hence it often invite to promote anti-aging. Although the package claimed its a 3000 year old Chinese remedy, it is rarely mentioned in the classical TCM books of the past. However it is mentioned in various medicinal scriptures throughout Europe and was respected by Canadian Indian tribes for its curative benefits. In Europe it was consumed by soldiers to starve hunger and applied as a skin remedy. Only more recent Chinese scripts adapted the benefits for ingestion. Know your source! 

The product sold to my client was a cheap imitation, but the price she paid for it made it look like a valuable shopping experience.  

I still feel guilty for my half-truth promotion; something I find myself doing quite often nowadays: I do need to work to generate income and in the end, I must find comfort that encouraging a placebo effect is better than an unfiltered truth.

“Thank you, chef!” I heard her exhaling while she already “selfied” a picture to all her friends and disappeared in her SUV.

I guess Chaga is her trend-smoothy ingredients of this month.

On my way out, I did give that clerk the shittiest eyes I could manage to express! I’m convinced he has no clue why… I forgot to purchase my Vitamin B12.

Myths about CBD from the Perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine

From the perspective of science, all of the beneficial claims made about Hemp-derived CBD are myth, although one exception has been documented, which I’ll discuss later.

Many studies are being conducted, and fascinating reports promote the benefits of CBD derived from various sources. A big difference between the studies is the dosage used to treat complex illnesses. These sophisticated results give many companies and gurus a platform from which to promote the use of CBD for a variety of bizarre and unsubstantiated health benefits.

Even Dr. Sanjay Gupta gave a qualified endorsement of CBD on The Dr. Oz Show: “I think there is a legitimate medicine here,” he said. “We’re talking about something that could really help people.” That comment triggered an onslaught of CBD promotions, leading boutique hotels throughout the US to offer CBD-laced gummies or CBD-enhanced bath salts that promised to cure every ailment. However, no reputable scientific studies support these claims. 

Nonetheless, some people have reported having positive experiences from using CBD oil, tinctures, or additives. I will summarize the facts: the professional medical community has no concrete scientifically valid study that supports the general use of CBD, even though many people subjectively attribute positive benefits from using CBD, including pain relief, improved mobility, and greater mental alertness. CBD, in combination with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), as sold in semi-legalized pot stores, seems to help many people with various conditions, including chronic arthritis, muscle pain, sleep disorders, and anxiety. However, some scientific studies have refuted such claims. I like to base my recommendations on facts that can be tested empirically and validated, not on feelings or subjective perceptions that might be erroneous.

To drip 5% CBD oil (based on what evidence of effectiveness?) into your daily smoothie is silly. Your digestive enzymes would eradicate any such beneficial substance before it reached your bloodstream. Leaving it under your tongue for three minutes would help your body to absorb it—if you really held it there for that long. No valid empirical research proves this as either medically sound or as harmful. A scientific effective amount, however, would constitute an illegal dosage under current regulations.

Different research studies have supported opposite conclusions. One U.K. study showed that the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis might have an anticancer effect. A 2009 study in Spain found that pure THC, the main intoxicating component of pot, can lead human brain-cancer cells to self-destruct—although the study involved introducing the cells into mice and treating them with THC, which is quite different from treating cancer in a human brain.

Under current U.S. law, CBD derived from hemp is permitted in food or dietary supplements only if the FDA issues a regulation that authorizes its use. The review and approval process takes many years, requiring a substantial amount of scientific data that the FDA must evaluate.

In 2018, President Trump passed the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (also known as the 2018 Farm Bill), which removed hemp as a Schedule I substance and reclassified it as an “agricultural commodity.” A common misconception about the 2018 Farm Bill is that it legalized CBD regardless of whether it was derived from hemp or marijuana. This is not true.

Based on the guidance of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (the DEA), CBD is a Schedule I substance and is illegal. However, if the CBD is derived from hemp and adheres to the following regulations set forth in the 2018 Farm Bill, it is no longer a Schedule I substance and is legal:

  • The hemp must contain less than 0.3% THC.
  • The hemp must adhere to the shared state-federal regulations.
  • The hemp must be grown by a properly licensed grower.

In addition, the 2018 Farm Bill also removed restrictions on the sale, transportation, and possession of hemp-derived CBD products and allowed for the transportation of hemp-derived CBD products across state lines, as long as the products follow the regulations defined above.

Both hemp and marijuana plants contain CBD, but the concentration of this cannabinoid in each plant varies greatly between hemp plants and marijuana plants. A hemp plant consists of approximately 3% to 5% CBD, but a cannabis plant has 18% to 20% CBD. Therefore, to extract the same amount of CBD from hemp plants as from cannabis plants requires many more plants.

In some cases, the growing of hemp is not federally regulated. This means that if there were contaminants in the soil, they would make their way into each plant. Using five times the number of hemp plants to extract a given amount of CBD would entail exposure to five times the quantity of contaminants. It takes a lot of toxic fertilizers to grow the amount of hemp needed to squeeze “medicinal oils” from it. Products that are not ingested but laced with CBD are not required to disclose the source of their ingredients. Such products—creams and tinctures—can be hyped with outrageous claims, promising healing or even a cure, with no obligation to warn consumers about dangerous side-effects!

Those potentially dangerous CBD-oil products are derived from hemp, not from marijuana. As far as law enforcement is concerned, hemp CBD never was and never could be a drug, so there’s no need to regulate it. This opens a back door for sellers of such products to make outlandish claims about their products that contain CBD. 

Hemp oil can contain trace amounts of THC. Cannabinoid-containing oils are made by using a strain of the hemp plant that has a high CBD content and a low THC content. THC has been shown to counteract the medicinal benefits of CBD in instances of very high THC count versus low CBD. 

Manufacturers use a process called CO2 super-critical extraction, which is currently viewed as the safest method for human use. The oil is then filtered. The result is pure medicinal oil. Hemp oil can contain trace amounts of THC (less than 0.3%). That is not enough to trigger a psychoactive response; however, it could show up in a drug test!

CBD-enhanced products include cosmetics and products claimed to reduce skin blemishes. They include sleeping masks, shampoos, hair conditioners, eye serums, anti-acne lotions, mascaras, massage oils, soaps, lip balms, bath balms, anti-wrinkle serums, muscle rubs, and a Sephora aisle’s worth of moisturizers, face lotions, and body creams. CBD supposedly can help with erectile dysfunction (ED), enhance pleasure, and improve sexual lubricants. You will find TV doctors and porn stars proclaiming their personal experience and trying to sell you CBD miracle products.

National retail chains have picked up on the trend by selling cannabinol-enhanced food items. Ben & Jerry’s estimated in 2018 that producing a CBD/THC-fused ice cream could be a $5 billion idea. Hemp-derived CBDcan be found in common foods, supplements, drugs, oils, creams, and pet foods. Sellers purport that these compounds treat everything from cancer to depression. Analysts say the market could surpass $20 billion by 2024.

Much of the CBD sold in such products is derived from hemp, the commodity that was legalized in the 2018 Farm Bill. However, federal law still prohibits putting the chemical in food or pet food, and the FDA has issued repeated warnings to and has taken actions against the blooming CBD industry. There is only one legally available purified form of CBD: the drug Epidiolex, which was approved by the FDA in 2018 to treat seizure disorders.

One overlooked fact undercuts claims about the medicinal benefits of consumer products with CBD: For CBD to be effective, it has to be consumed in amounts hundreds of times higher than what is added into gummies, creams, waters and lotions sold on shelves. Nonetheless, mothers provide their children with CBD cookies in lunch boxes and drip CBD enhancers into their own water-bottles “just to make sure that I don’t miss out” in case the hype turns out to be true. Most disclaimers assure consumers that there are absolutely no negative side effects from using CBD (the amount legally listed is medicinally proven to be absolutely insignificant), so many hop on the CBD bandwagon and encourage their friends to do so. The Internet is saturated with thousands of promotional articles and testimonials, few of which contain any backing by current science. The trace amounts in such products are insignificant and have virtually no effect on health, so any perceived benefit is a placebo effect and a business scam. 

“CBD is the most promising drug that has come out for neuropsychiatric diseases in the last 50 years,” said Dr. Esther Blessing, an assistant professor at the New York University School of Medicine. She is coordinating a study of CBD as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcohol-use disorder. “The reason it is so promising is that it has a unique combination of safety and effectiveness across a very broad range of conditions.”

The CBD substance is being studied as a potential treatment for maladies as diverse as schizophrenia, insomnia, and cancer. However, the medicinal potency of these effects starts at levels that are never found in over-the-counter products. “The future of this industry,” Mr. DeLand added, “is going to be based on fact, not fiction.” Any path to allow CBD to be added to food products needs to preserve the incentive to study the compound in rigorous clinical trials to prove its therapeutic potential as a medicine. It’s not appropriate or legal to make such claims otherwise.

Nonetheless, quasi-religious hype is common among CBD’s disciples. Chris Burggraeve, a former Coca-Cola and Ab InBev executive, called CBD the “new avocado toast” in an interview with Business Insider

If you believe vaping CBD or THC is a smart way to follow a health trend, you should read the next blog. 

I welcome critical and constructive feedback. 

Chef Raphael


This blog requires to lay out a few basic structures to help understanding the difference between a scientific research of a specific product and the implications of such product (while disregarding the science knowledge) into an actual circumstance. 

In TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) we comb trough the history registered by many people that have documented their findings, ideas and results and within defined an early understanding of herbal powers. Rosemary, as example, had been documented as far back as 2000BC for its advantage in reducing leg- (muscle) pain amongst many other benefits. 

Druids agreed in all corners of the world throughout history, with doctors and monks that Rosemary oil-extract from this plant in bloom – harvested ideally in late Summer – comforts foremost lower-leg pain. Water-steam oil extractions were first documented in 1000BC… Roman soldiers praised Rosemary oils and today you can find it advertised in a yoga store claiming similar advantages.

Millions of people have used Rosemary remedies and scholars have past their refined wisdom down to pupils through modern generations. It is today applied for migraines, menstrual cramps and as concentration-remedy. Books are re-written about its benefit for hair restoration. Neurological research claims that it cures Alzheimer; although that is still questionable…(be wary of anyone using the word “cure”). Mediterranean chefs for centuries spiced their pasta dishes with this herb, following ancient tradition. Candle makers love Rosemary’s strong scent… its usage seems unlimited.

Today we can DNA fingerprint Rosemarinus Officinalis and compare current research on many levels with past scriptures. We confirm today that the human muscular cell structure and blood vessels react positively towards the anti-thrombotic effect towards these oils in preventing blood clots. Rosemary does seem to activate brain memory as claimed by Shakespeare.

Our nervous system and brain sensors react positively towards beta-amyloid plaques and hence, Rosemary suppresses acetyl-cholinesterase (AChE), which are primary causes of Alzheimer’s, ataxia and dementia.

We can pinpoint why we feel relieve when rubbing “healing-oil” on our skin – how it is absorbed, what human profiles tend to positively react to its smell, flavor and essence. We can even demonstrate why in the human body plant extract create reactions; like burns, numbness, hives or what causes blistering, discomfort. 

We now study Rosemary variations for potency with science unavailable before, including the understanding of where it is grown originally, how it is grown preferably, when it is cultivated best and how it could be genetically manipulated to produce vast amounts of concentrations as demanded. 

That’s all about one herb. However, as soon as we combine one with another plants essence we start a whole new chain of discovery… Triple or quadruple a TCM-mix and the potentiality become nearly endless. True herbology rarely uses a “single application” in successful prescription… Traditional Medicine furthermore respect that each body/person – at various states of age and health – reacts different. What might feel soothing to one could be life threatening to another. 

Throughout the history of “4000 years of Rosemary-emollient-investigation” and trial tested on billions of people, no significant study has ever suggested that smoking its oil would result in an adavantage. None of all the respected TCM scriptures suggest inhaling fumes into our bronchi treats ailments or is beneficial to human health.

And now, lets talk about vaping: basically an electronically heated substance we inhale for pleasure… that is fused with chemically designed oils or artificial flavors to trick our minds to believe it smells like rosemary, vanilla or citrus.

Vaping, or vaporizing, is the process of heating up raw plant matter or extracts, without combustion. Instead of burning weed, tobacco or hash, vaporizing quickly heats up various substances (mixes) to limit the release of harmful chemicals and to maximize the plant’s intended effects. Cannabis is typically  heated  between >285°F and  <450°F, and tobacco vapes between >250°F and <300°F. 

Vapor has more in common with a cloud of steam than with a puff of smoke. And even though vaping reduces the effects of secondhand smoke, it doesn’t mean you’re not experiencing a drug’s effects as bystander. Most plant oils “burn” and become unhealthy at different degrees of heat (below vapor level). 

The properties we absorb while vaporing differ depending on what you actually inhale. You can inhale tobacco, hash and endless combinations of substances including oils, plant-matter and synthetic additives. Sometimes these substances turn into gaseous form, and sometimes vaping means inhaling liquid particles suspended in air as they cool after evaporation. Either way, the method at first is the same: Drug molecules, after being inhaled, land on the interior lungs, which have an enormous surface area to catch them. The molecules then pass directly into the blood and bypass the digestive system. From there, the effects hit your brain in about five seconds, which is almost as quick as injecting the substance.

Lets skip how the lungs cope with getting rid of the “garbage” left inside; just read up on COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

So, Juuling (a brandname adapted verb) has been shown to be the foremost “goto” tool for teenagers in 2018. They annoyingly blow nicotine-steam lazed with oils and chemicals that “taste” like Vanilla,  Rosemary or fantastic flavors. Even Marijuana infused e-cigarettes come with chemical created additives. Although vaping is promoted foremost to a younger generation as a healthy alternative to smoking; statistically only 2% of cigarette smokers have actually quit through vaping. Actually, 9% admit smoking “real” cigarettes after starting with e-cigarettes. This five billion vapor-industry in the US fails to honestly communicate a science-based message about the known side effects that lack a long-term study and to accurately warn about the consequences of this modern diversion. We just promote until we know better…

In TCM we promote certain essences to be inhaled through steam; i.e. clearing your sinus – bent over the sink under a towel – inhaling Tiger-Balm (fumes) smeared onto the porcelain below while the hot water faucet is fully opened… This does not compare to circumvent what the nose is designed to filter out while inhaling medicinal substance before it coats the surface of our bronchi. Drawing in overheated artificial substances through your mouth without any true purpose seems questionable. I’m also not convinced that the vanilla-cloud puffing teen in a restaurant next to me looks particularly “cool” or hip…

Nicotine is addictive. >50% of all e-cigarette contain tobacco. The leaf-drying process had shown to prevent Tuberculosis in factory workers during the early 19thcentury. TCM respects the healing properties of Tobacco. Throughout South and North America, tobacco was consumed in a diversity of ways: it was chewed, sniffed, smoked, eaten, juiced, smeared over bodies, and used in eye drops and enemas. It still carries a mystic “smoke” of purification spirits after blessing fields and praising Gods.

Today, the same tobacco companies denying for decades that smoking caused cancer, now aim to hook teens on vaping. We adapted against their efforts that smoking was the foremost cause of lung-, bone-, gum-cancer and birth deformities but now allow to hold truth that inhaling steam derived essence is less dangerous. We have to willfully ignore modern studies that the use of smokeless tobacco include: Mouth, tongue, cheek, and gum cancer.

Surely, bi-products inhaled by burning wrapping papers and fillers is more unhealthy in comparison with flavored vapor steam. The new expensive studies claim that juuling is harmless are sponsored by the very companies that denied cigarette smoking caused cancer.   We are today smarter than we were yesterday, right? Nicotine addiction prevented smokers in the 80’s to give up their habit while dying of cancer in their hospital beds. The addiction to tobacco is the culprit here, not the method in which we ingest the essence! Got hooked?

Chef Raphael

Switzerland’s General Consulate Residence sold…

Today, December 8th 2018 the Residence representing the Consulate General’s Home of Switzerland in Los Angeles closed its doors for good. With the flag at half-mast and a very shabby “Estate Sale” a three-decade long history for us Angelino-Schweizer ended. This last rummaging in useless items was about as sad and odd as the political decision to transfer the Consular affairs of California’s Confederate representation to San Francisco.

A decision that’s disliked by every Swiss living in the LA basin. Who cares? It’s not like anyone in the history of the Mission actually listened and implemented what most of us expats expected from our Consulate.  Even getting a passport renewed was an unnecessary ordeal that now is extremely complicated for us: We are expected to fly to San Francisco to consult with you. We ponder how this could have happened?

The Swiss Embassy made many feeble attempts generating cultural outreach, well – mostly laughable, rather embarrassing ideas about how to bridge Swiss values with a very lax California culture. Our Consulate has utterly missed the point of generating an understanding of how to boost qualities that would enhance tourism to flock to our country of cheese, mountains, chocolate & watches. With the generous opportunities provided, the honorable people selected to take a job in California have a duty to show-off Switzerland’s best values. (it’s a privilege to be named Ambassador to LA – or you “know” someone in politics that owes you big time). Well, most of these characters failed to advertise to Americans that the Swiss precision mechanical and electrical engineering is amongst world leading businesses; That the Swiss produce most turbines used in Aviation. We are leading Europe in hydroelectricity, and about half of all quartz-crystal watches are fashioned in this tiny Nation of 7 million, yet unknown by most everyone. Uh, yes – most Americans still think we speak Swedish and are confused about the Life-Guards uniform or the American Red Cross connection… In California none of my friends seems to understand there is no snow in Locarno, although it looks just like LA.

The Estate Sale just showed one last time – that besides tons of cheap glassware and antique Roschti shredders (yup, you call it a hash-brown grater…) – the beautiful Spanish style home lacked modernity and a sense for contemporary flair. Instead I remember attending lame weekend movie gatherings, invited for screenings of stories with German subtitles; because the selection was in a dialect most Swiss can’t even understand themselves. My American guests were left clueless for two hours and resorted to sipping the cheapest white wine served; the simple glassware seemed more valuable.

I offered to cook for special events – never heard back from the Embassy; Clearly, a qualified chef with Hollywood connections was to far stretched for the imagination of any Bünzli… (That’s a Swiss prescriptive word for a hick limited to simple thoughts, incapable of comprehending a world beyond what he chooses to hold truth…) Instead, some foods prepared for Gala events really left me infuriated about the quality we served to foreign guests, representing the Nation with the worlds leading culinary and Hoteliers schools!

These “efforts” perfectly represented the overall narrow mindedness of people in charge of Swiss international affairs that come here and dislike the “difference” and surely promoted relocating the Embassy based on reasons that are absurd. The notion that Los Angeles with over 106 world respected Consulate Residences is lesser central in comparison with the demographics of San Francisco/Sacramento with merely 30 National Embassies’, is not sufficient an explanation why to abandon Hollywood. The truth is that people with zero understanding of how to adapt to the California mentality were in charge – or felt important to pretend to be in charge – and decided to purchase an overpriced new location on the edge of California. It would have been totally within the budget to hold on to the perfectly located Residency in Hollywood. I’ll gladly point out where Swiss money is squandered elsewhere in the world… Just ask!

To understand why we Swiss folks in greater Los Angeles are numb about this “transfer”, one needs a little education in how different the mentalities are of people raised and heeded in a nation where etiquette, decorum and title are a basic doctrine. Growing up in this little nation tugged away between Germany, Austria, French and Italy we pride ourselves for punctuality, cleanliness and regulation (yes, there is a tiny speck called Lichtenstein, sorry – I nearly forgotten…). For anyone brought up with “narrow Swiss views” arriving in America for the first time, they immediately feel a sense of insult; having to adapt to the personal form of “You”, the lack of acknowledging inherited or the absence of married-into title: As a wife of a doctor, you would be bespoken to as Frau Doctor (Mrs. doctor) at home… People here in the US don’t care much about your education. Americans are commonly unpunctual, unapologetically underdressed for any event and seemingly to blunt about money, inappropriate gestures or violate unknowingly your expected modesty.

It’s Hollywood. It’s about who you know (and why), what car you drive, how much money you make and how much you’re going to invest to make me feel equal. “What can I do for you…”

To be Swiss in America already sets the standard high. We have a reputation for being clean, born rich and special; no Ami really knows why – they just like everything Swiss! We are alpine exotic and liked by most, assumed to have inherited neutrality, blessed with wisdom and protected with free health insurance. Even our trains run on time! What a perfect preface to build relations from! Sending us a team of Consular mops that can’t relate with these expectations is about as useless as serving Maggie Sauce with Chamomile Tea. It’s frustrating trying to make a Swiss Embassy employee smile! This hereditatry world-view is not the result of Swiss efforts to advance our appearance; it is the direct result of expats balancing pride andour  need to escape narrow-mindedness.

In reverse; after living for over thirty years in Los Angeles I find Swiss people prejudiced about everything different, stiff and opinionated. (Yes, I realize the hypocritical perspective while writing this blog…) From the Consulate General to the secretaries that are send here through Bern, they all seem disconnected from the culture and lifestyle needed to invite, impress and promote some of the best Switzerland has to offer. Their apparent modesty is actually counter-productive. Who is responsible for sending us these clueless characters? They are not needed in Los Angeles nor helping in Sacramento!

Whomever signed off on closing the Swiss Residency in Hancock Park a year after moving the Embassy to Northern California made a big mistake. Stop trying to convince us that cultural outreach is better in San Francisco or Sacramento. Hollywood is the place to be! The Swiss could have at least kept the Home here. With the upcoming Olympics it is painfully clear to us that you in Bern really lost your marbles. It’s a shameful attest to the naiveté of people in administrative power to lack vision and comprehending what is needed in representing 150’000 Swiss-American souls trying for decades to be heard. Gosh, some of these boring Consular peeps are now relocating to San Francisco like the lackluster pieces of furniture that were not sold… You have failed here; wherever you go, there you are!

Being a dual citizen puts me in a complex reality; I should not speak up as an educated and “norm oriented” Swiss, but my “American-mind” can’t just sit in silence either… I’m fully aware of this dilemma. I feel as if a part of my Heimat-pride is ripped away in Los Angeles; what little there was of an assembly – although never fully utilizing a perfect representation – now left us abandoned. A classical Swiss maneuver; when administration fails, pack up and disappear. Unqualified to even amend the Wikipedia pages, or updating the meta-tag search engine info on the Swiss Embassy pages: The first twenty internet searches about “Switzerland in California” pull up outdated information claiming the Consulate General’s home is in Los Angeles and the “Swiss events in the US”-page never had an activity… Yup, most of the people I’ve met throughout the last thirty years representing my interests here, demonstrated no understanding in how to utilize today’s internet (or their cellphones). I’m sure their resumes are excellent…

Good Bye. My Swiss friends whisper secretly how terrible this decision is. Our Swiss Consulate has missed many opportunities in the past; unable to entertain on the level of Hollywood, incapable of reaching across nations. Failed to align traditions with US holidays. So we plead: Switzerland please, send people to the US that helm our foreign relations with fascinating personalities who actually understand and care about living abroad. Include us Angelinos; we know a thing or two about living in California. Don’t have bureaucrats deciding on our behalf – they don’t have a clue what’s needed here. Give us your best; we deserve it!

We all have/need a driver license; ’cause LA is big! …the minimum we expect from our Consulate General (hint…). Send us enthusiasts that embrace differences and enjoy ethnic fusion. People that are gregarious, truly curious, that speak English & Spanish, that love to entertain, respecting good Swiss/Spanish/American foods, happy folks who embrace a world beyond “Swiss-Boarders” and foremost – souls that relate to the issues that are important to our Nation, todays world in general & can promote modern Swiss culture. Our Embassy must compete with ideas that make us Helvetics proud. Send us motivated leaders that will further build upon thirty years of established relationships…

Shoot – (I lost my thread on reality for a minute…) – it’s far too late for that last hope, I guess – now that you sold our last piece of Swiss-land! What a waste!

I need a Kirsch!

chef Raphael

Keto Update

As some of you know I dived into the Keto Diet this year to learn “hands-on” what the hype is all about:
Let me sum it up before boring you with some opinions:
If you’re not 100% serious about doing it scientifically correct – that must include your personal medical/physical data – and just “sorta” follow some of the trends you like on the internet (or a cool your gym buddy tells ya) – you will do damage to your system and NOT gain any benefits from your experience. Keto done wrong is actually super dangerous!

In my research (I’m still working on it) I have come across internet chefs claiming to be Keto-Gurus while promoting recipes where they  include apple cider & Thai spiced Almonds… claiming they have no calories or they promote fat burning;  really? You are either trying to loose weight or convert fat into energy: make up your mind!
Apple Cider is made from 🍎 ( that’s NOT a Keto fruit to consume) Vinegars that are sugar based and yeast enhanced for fermentation are not ideal. One table spoon of most over the counter cheap combo can throw you out of your ketonic state…
Any (ALL) preserves or fermented foods contain preservatives; hence their title!  None of such food-items are Keto friendly… except honey. And now we are starting a scientifically fascinating banter about sugar in honey vs  the highly beneficial antibiotic of which you deprive your digest track on Keto.

So, all your short cuts and most of the food combos promoting healthy choices (yup, does beefy chefs in tank tops using canned foods) forget one essential fact: the combination of products you intake have a huge affect on your system. Keto in the long run – even when done correctly – is unhealthy! You “play” borderline with your PH balance, kidney stress and digestive enzymes to an extend they can stop functioning as designed… in the long run!

It takes careful planing and you have to have a goal in mind why you’re going this extreme route! No, strips and urine tests are not accurate. No, more than 21g total sugar intake or 41g total carb intake is NEVER possible for most human beings staying in Keto… Just not! Uh, yes – the liquids you consume, your tooth paste (loaded with sugar that is absorbed through your gums) and some of your skin products have an effect on your Keto state.

No, there is no such a thing as a “healthy” Keto snack bar with an expiration date two years in the future… it’s especially absurd when you start consuming products laced with artificial byproducts that are the underlying cause why you even decided you should be on Keto… for the few out there adapting a Keto lifestyle because Kardashian x is on it or Madonna blabbered about it: having cooked for both of them: they do NOT eat/live a healthy lifestyle… they manage darn well, they promote products, they too try to sustain fitness and longevity – but no, they don’t “run on Keto” – any healthy adaptation requires you to embrace ways of thinking, living, listening and speaking in a manner that supports health and happiness…
Can you imagine yourself to try?

Keto so far is a non-scientific fashion food trend, boosting product sales in all health food stores… promoted often by people that borderline wobble between burning energy from fat or protein. But it sounds soooo much better to claim “how incredible this diet feels” rather than admitting how difficult ones digestive system has become and that actually the short lived benefits of skin and sleep improvement do not convincingly support a costly and meticulous regiment to stay ketonic!

Consult with me,


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: 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 – 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 for 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, non-heated coconut fat, cold pressed oils 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. No, juicing and fasting during depression is NOT healthy!

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! I have a doctor friend that drinks diet coke daily and claims he is totally healthy…

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. Health food stores hype their products that have unlimited shelve storage dates and are far revoked from “natural” (even so its printed BOLD on their packages).

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 have.

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