Looking to stick to your New Year’s Resolution without skimping on flavor? Look no further than the advice and services of Chef Cordell McGary of Eating Well with Chef Cordell! Passionate about heath, Chef Cordell looks to fight obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other diseases that come from an unhealthy lifestyle.
Growing up in Chicago, Chef Cordell began with a special passion for helping urban areas diversify their options and better serve their residents; he now brings this passion all over the country to people of all locations!
Understanding that this involves numerous dimensions, Chef Cordell offers a plethora of services; whether through private dining engagements, healthy cooking classes, or grocery store tours, Chef Cordell can help overhaul your kitchen and your life! I had a chance to speak to Chef Cordell about his company, Eating Well with Chef Cordell, and about all he’s doing to spread the word on living healthfully!
RD: What experiences and training helped shape your culinary technique?
CC: Cooking is something I’ve always been into. My parents taught my sister and me at about the age of 13 or so, and it just kind of stuck with me from that point. At about the age of 15, I was selling cookies at my church and at my high school at that point, and that really kind of got me into the mode of cooking on a regular basis, and even got me into the mode of entrepreneurship, and from that point I just kind of rolled out with it. I attended the Washburne Culinary Institute here in Chicago, worked at a couple of restaurants, and started up my own company about five years ago and haven’t looked back since!
RD: What inspired your passion for health?
CC: I think it was growing up on the South Side of Chicago. I lived in a neighborhood that was not considered necessarily a “food desert,” but some of the options relatively close to where I lived weren’t the best. I looked around and saw a lot of the people in the neighborhood that were very obese – diabetes was a huge issue then and still is, and high blood pressure was as well – and when I looked at my family situation, I saw it abundant there, a lot of my friends had family members where it was abundant there. It became an important issue to me, because whereas drugs and the pharmaceutical world do play a part in helping get your body to where it needs to be, food I think plays a bigger part. I think a lot of it just came about because there weren’t a lot of healthy food options close to where I grew up, so I think my passions burst out of that.
RD: What’s your general philosophy when it comes to a healthy lifestyle?
CC: I think we have to recognize a) that there is a problem. There is a problem, and it’s not just a black or a brown thing; it’s a universal thing. Food right now, when you look at the way it’s being tampered with, and the choices that a lot of people have, they are really not up to par with what the human body needs to be able to function at its highest peak.
So, to me, we need to as a people understand that a) there is a problem and b) how we can address our diets to be able to not only live longer, but to keep ourselves out of the hospital in years to come. When you look at diabetes, for instance, specifically when you’re looking at type II, type II is something that can be defeated and overcome with a change in your diet.
So, my philosophy I guess overall is we have to do better. Period. Across the board, no matter what neighborhood you live in, with the availability of fast food, and with the other bad options that are out there, you have to be more vigilant and more steadfast in understanding a) what we need to put into our bodies and b) how we’re going to do it and c) where we are going to.
RD: Tell us a little bit about the services you offer! Is one your favorite?
CC: Well, cooking is my favorite overall! When we first started the business, we were doing self-contracting work out of Whole Foods on Roosevelt, and we were teaching a lot of healthy-eating cooking classes, so my company was burst out of that. On the for-profit side, what we focus on now is private dining where we come into your home and do on-site cooking for private parties, whether it’s intimate dinners or whether it’s particular groups that are just looking to get together to have a party for any particular reason.
We do consulting on the personal end where we teach people how to eat healthy as much as possible, and we do that via a couple of different tools. We do kitchen make-overs, we do personal grocery store tours where we take people around the grocery store for about 90 minutes and we show them how particular foods can help them in preventing certain ailments and diseases later on in life; but showing them how to pick food at its highest point, educating people on how to shop for meats and different things like that.
We also do private cooking classes, too. We do free-lance writing on the for-profit end, and we do lots of chef demos and public speaking as well. We’re also in the prospect of opening up a non-profit end on the business end as well where we’ll focus on educating lower-income residents on food that would help them eat healthy and the benefits on doing so. We’re starting that up now, and with that we’re going to focus on two initiatives in the beginning: one being community cooking and nutrition classes where we teach people how to go about eating healthy in these particular areas where they are severely underserved.
We’re also going to focus on building urban gardens and green-houses in these same areas to at least help people get their education up and then in the end give them a leg to stand on as far as having access to healthy foods.
RD: What are some of your favorite dishes that you make?
CC: I’m not a huge meat-eater; I’m slowly gravitating away from it. But, I do love lamb – I love lamb meat. I particularly like the gaminess of it. I have various different things that I like to eat. One of my favorite dishes that I like to cook and people like from me is lamb risotto and let’s say any type of vegetables from broccoli, spinach, asparagus . . . I’m a big vegetable eater, I love fruits. Kiwi and pineapple are probably my favorite two fruits, period! I eat those pretty much year-round, but of course they’re best when they’re in season during the summer-time and you can get them locally. But with the global economy, we can kind of get things from all over the place.
RD: Do you have any regular partners that make your work possible?
CC: I’m associated with a couple of volunteer groups, one being Operation Frontline. I do work with smaller, local groups as well as far as facilitating different cooking classes and symposiums on health as well.
RD: What’s it like to travel all over the country?
CC: I think it’s great, personally! I’ve been very fortunate in this business to be able to do work in Chicago, which is where I currently am, to do work in Charlotte, North Carolina as well, where we do have an end of the business, and I’m very fortunate to be able to travel the country and do different things for private clients, to do public speaking engagements as well. With us, as much as we can get the word out about healthy eating: that’s what it is with us, period. So, we’re very happy to be able to do it wherever we’re fortunate to be!