A few years ago I had quadruple bypass surgery. I was forty at the time and I was scared. A couple of weeks prior to my surgery, during the diagnosis phase, I found myself at the University of Miami, interviewing my surgeon. I clearly recall the conversation and specifically the part were everything was going to be better than it was before. We set the date for the procedure. My wife and I were driving back to Palm Beach, an hour drive, and decided to stop and have lunch at one of our favorite restaurants in Boca Raton; Houston’s. My favorite sandwich was the “Au Jus Roast Beef”, with fries and a horseradish cream (mayonnaise) sauce. Alicia and I were still trying to grasp the enormity of the morning happenings. And when the menus arrived, I lost it. I had no idea what to order.
I could not make sense of my diagnosis, much less how I was going to proceed with my regular diet, without making a big change in my life. The menu represented all the foods I enjoyed and at that moment I had no options. It was overwhelming. I left Alicia at the table to go sort out my frustrations in the parking lot. I was pissed. I had no earthly idea how to give up my personal relationship with the foods that were killing me. At the time, we did not know how to move forward. I knew nothing about nutrition and it would be a few weeks before we found Dr. Esselstyn’s book on reversing heart disease. We drove in semi-silence north on I-95. We were both very hungry and I was yelling inside at the fact I didn’t know what I could eat anymore.
Alicia suggested we try a new restaurant near our house; Christopher’s Kitchen. She explained it was raw, vegan; I had absolutely no idea what that meant but I was pretty sure it did not involve an Au Jus Roast Beef sandwich with mayo and fries. I was in a foul mood. But I also realized I was going to need me to make a gesture towards changing my ways.
We sat outside and Christopher, the owner, arrived at our table. Alicia had been a few times before, with work-out friends and she suggested I order a Green Juice and a Dragon Bowl.
The salad was exceptional; the zucchini noodles were genius. We ended up ordering a number of different items and Chris guided us through the menu. I remember opening up a bit and sharing my diagnosis with Chris.
On the short drive home I felt better. An option had presented itself to me. In a matter of an hour I was introduced to an abundant new menu of ingredients. It was a whole new way of thinking about food.
The ingredients he used had previously been on the perimeter of my plate.
Needless to say, in the weeks and months ahead I would lean on Christopher’s Kitchen heavily during my recovery.
Life works like that sometimes. I drove past Christopher’s Kitchen a hundred times, prior to that day in March 2011, but I never noticed it. It was not until a drastic health event occurred did CK reveal itself to me. And it appeared to me on the exact day I was at my lowest moment. Chris, in one fell swoop, presented an array of ingredients that was unlike any flavor profile I had experienced prior.
I had always celebrated life events at a steak house. Whenever there was a momentous occasion, the best food in town was a steak house. In retrospect a steak house chef offers almost zero creativity to his or her diners. How cooked do you want your meat, what toppings on your potato and do you want cocktail sauce with your shrimp?
The true chef, the talented chef, presents their patrons with food that fires up unused taste buds.
How easy it is to make vegetables taste delicious; drench them in butter…duh. I believe it is called French Cuisine. In fact, think of the hundreds of different condiments we use to cover up the taste of meat; ketchup, mustard, A1 sauce, béarnaise, hollandaise, barbecue, Cajun, etc… We blanket our vegetables in salad dressing and condiments and completely bury the natural flavors underneath. Granted, most of the vegetables I used to buy didn’t have much flavor anyway; non-organic, pesticide laden garbage.
Where Christopher shines, is his creativity. He has the natural ability to take simple products and manipulate them into a symphony of taste.
Time for an example. His CK Tacos.
Vegetable tortillas, sweet and spicy walnut taco mix, guacamole, pico de gallo, lettuce, cabbage, cashew cheese and hot sauce. I have attempted to make this at home, it takes hours. The vegetable tortillas are handmade. The sweet and spicy walnut taco mix is not one ingredient; it’s a bunch and it makes the taco for me. I think it is garlic, honey, walnuts and cilantro? But who would have ever put that together on a taco?! Guacamole and pico de gallo are another spectrum of ingredients. My pico de gallo takes forever to make; diced tomatoes, onions, lime juice, jalapeno, peppers, smoked paprika, honey, cayenne. I don’t even know what cashew cheese is but I bet you it takes awhile to produce. Cheese from cashews on my taco, hmmm, delicious. Side note: I recently made this meal for a big group of friends and family. It is a winner, no leftovers.
I literally could go on and on. Every item on CK’s menu relates to the ability that Chris has of putting normal sounding ingredients into unlikely places. Macadamia ricotta, walnut pesto, zucchini bacon, hemp seed tabbouleh, quinoa pasta, brazil nut parmesan, chipolte bbq sauce, cashew caesar dressing and ginger almond sauce; to name a few. His sauces are light and enhance the veggies not run over them.
Enough with the food. It’s eleven am and I am getting very hungry. I need to tie up this blog and make my lunch.
I am fortunate to have Christopher’s Kitchen within a mile of my house. It takes people like Chris to expand our parameters. Creative people open minds. A testament to his abilities is the success his restaurant is currently enjoying. It is packed; and it was packed all through the Florida summer. Honestly, a raw vegan restaurant likely should have failed in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida and a number of them have. I visited a few of his competitors and they essentially served up faux items; lots of soy products attempting to resemble hot dogs and hamburgers. I am convinced his model works in any Anytown, USA. We want to try new tastes and we want our food to be 100% nutritious.
We want accountability throughout the food chain; non-GMO, organic, fresh ingredients and CK always delivers.
* Disclaimer: Chris Slawson has not paid me to endorse his restaurant. However, I recently found an Instagram of my son endorsing his green juice. Chris knows where to find me to discuss… Ian