Before they discovered how to make fire, cavemen (or cave people to be politically correct) may have had trouble fending off sabertooth tigers or keeping the clan warm at night. But, could their uncooked foods have been healthier than those comprising the modern diet?
Certainly there are benefits to eating a cooked meal. Nonetheless, it is worth our time to get right down to the roots of the earthy advantages of eating raw foods. To bring the full flavor of the raw food experience to your palate, I decided to consult an expert in the field.
Executive Chef Jeffrey Bailey is a personal chef and full-service caterer. He owns and operates Lee Bailey Reed, Premier Private and Corporate Catering, L.L.C. with his partner and CEO, Jimmie Sylvester. My office had the good fortune of using their catering service for our last holiday luncheon. In addition to cooked dishes, I asked Chef Bailey to include several raw dishes. Having studied nutrition personally and being a bit geeky myself when it comes to health foods, my HIGH expectations were exceeded. My staff’s tastes are more traditional and less adventurous when it comes to food choices, but after sampling the presentation, they were all amazed. The food was absolutely delicious, and it was hard to believe that the raw dishes were really raw! Best of all, each dish was bursting with rich health benefits.
Dr. R: Tell me about your beginnings with the culinary arts.
JB: I have always had an interest in culinary arts. I was hooked at the age of 12 when I first stepped up to the stove to work beside my grandmother, cooking southern food. It sparked my passion for cooking. I learned of my ability to marry different foods and spices to create my own unique version of our family’s southern style favorites.
I am a native of Delaware, and I stayed true to my roots when beginning my career at the age of sixteen. I started with my first ‘kitchen’ job, by being a dishwasher at Bon Appétit Restaurant. Within a few weeks or so, I was promoted to Sous Chef, and under the guidance of one of the Eastern Shore’s premium culinary instructors, I surpassed everyone’s expectations. Then the Head Chef left, and I was awarded the Head Chef position. I had only been there three months.
Dr. R: What sparked your interest in raw foods?
JB: I am always looking to expand my knowledge base when it comes to food and wine, so I decided to do some research on raw foods. I was fascinated by the information that was available on the subject, not to mention the numerous health benefits to eating food “raw.” One of them is the consumption of live enzymes that are beneficial to your overall health. So the journey began. I started teaching myself to prepare foods in their raw state.
I was so excited by the information I discovered that I started to seek more and more knowledge on the matter. I would visit local health food stores looking for the ingredients that I needed to create these dishes. Of course, you meet others who are living their lives eating raw foods, and suddenly, through those conversations, I found myself creating raw food dishes for personal chef clients.
Dr. R: What are some of the health advantages of uncooked foods?
JB: When you choose to cook food, you are depleting vitamins. Heating also damages proteins and fats, and destroys enzymes which benefit digestion. Food in its most raw form has the best balance of water, nutrients, and fiber to meet your body’s needs.
Eating raw food provides more flavors, so there is no reason to add additional salt, spices, or sugars which can often irritate your digestive system as well as contribute to conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
Studies show raw foods can help reverse many chronic diseases, including heart disease. When you cook you create free radicals, which are a major cause of many chronic diseases, including cancer.
Dr. R: Is the typical client who requests raw foods…typical?
JB: Most of my clients who have chosen to eat raw foods have usually done so for one of two reasons. They have decided by researching the available information that this way of living is most beneficial to their overall health and well being, or their bodies are in crisis mode because of some type of illness. They have experienced great results by switching to raw foods.
With that said, there are many clients (and friends) who have chosen raw food just for the pleasure of eating raw food. If you have never tried raw foods, you should. You will be amazed at the vibrant and robust flavors.
Dr. R: Can your raw menus satisfy the average meat-and-potatoes guy?
JB: Often I am asked the question, “Is this type of food satisfying?” My answer is always a resounding, “YES!” The big concern is always taste, and let me just state for the record, raw food is never lacking taste. It is always full of bright flavors.
One of my raw food clients has other members of the household who do not eat raw. She wanted to see if they could tell the difference between a cooked meat loaf and its raw counterpart. So, I had the task of preparing the vegetarian raw version, which includes raw organic nuts, vegetables, miso, etc. Let’s just say that the raw meat loaf is the item that they request most and is a “must have” each and every week.
Dr. R: Can you leave us with a simple recipe that shows off the wonderful flavor of a raw food dish?
JB: Absolutely! Here is a favorite fruitarian-style dish that showcases the flavors of summer. While this may seem like an odd mixture to some of your readers, trust me! The mixture of sweet, spicy, and creamy ingredients combine to make a wonderful dish.
I believe that the answers and insights that Chef Bailey provided in this article will help ideas sprout up in your minds and nourish a tasty and new dimension to your daily sustenance. Chef Bailey and his co-owner, Jimmie, are both very enthusiastic about food and happy to answer any questions about their mouth-watering creations. I look forward to sitting down again at this chef’s table. With a bit of luck, that Fruit Stew will appear at my office when this article hits the press!