Sam Talbot, runner-up and fan favorite from season two of Bravo's "Top Chef," is former executive chef of Imperial No. Nine in New York's Mondrian SoHo hotel and the Surf Lodge in Montauk, N.Y. Talbot, 34, also lives with type 1 diabetes. In his cookbook The Sweet Life, published last year, he shares his personal health and wellness philosophy, as well as some of his favorite diabetes-friendly recipes. Here he dishes even more about how he stays healthy.
What's your approach to cooking and food?
I'm a big fan of taking food that we know and love and making it a little more modern and a lot healthier. It's simple, farm-fresh, ocean-fresh food that's seasonal and heart-healthy.
How did diabetes shape your philosophy as a chef?
I was diagnosed at such a young age, when I was 12. I was already messing around in the kitchen, and it really taught me the connection between food and how you feel. I would eat a bowl of cereal or make mashed potatoes and then measure my blood sugar three hours later. It would go through the roof sometimes, but that's part of learning what certain foods do to your body.
What's your go-to weeknight dinner?
I go to the farmers market or walk through the grocery store and see what's the freshest and looks the greenest and most vibrant. I do a lot of quick vegetable sautés with shirataki noodles and broth. That's kind of my go-to dish.
What are your other pantry staples?
Almond milk and chili paste. I don't eat dairy for the most part because of the fat and calories, and almond milk is a really great swap-out. You get all these heart-healthy antioxidants and nutrients that your body needs to feel nourished. Chili paste really elevates a dish, wakes it up. I'll throw it into vinaigrettes, or I'll use it to flavor broths.
What are your go-to healthy snacks?
I eat the coconut acai granola that's in my cookbook all the time. And I eat kale chips all the time. I'm in the car a lot, and I don't like stopping for fast food or gas station food, so I bring those things.
What's your best health habit? Your worst?
I think a shot of wheatgrass every day is my best health habit. It's a little funky at first. It tastes like grass. But once you join that bandwagon, you start to feel great. You get so many nutrients from just that 1-ounce shot. My worst health habit? I'm a sucker for french fries.
In restaurant kitchens, you must face all sorts of foods that aren't diabetes-friendly.How do you deal?
Moderation. My pastry chef at the Mondrian liked sugar. And his pastries and desserts were really wonderful. I had to try them as the executive chef, and I would take a bite. But the temptation of walking by a bowl of french fries? I have to fight tooth and nail not to eat them. At the Surf Lodge, there were fries flying out of the kitchen all day long. You just have to talk yourself through it.
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