Food As Fuel

The tricky thing about attending events in the culinary and wellness space is deciding whether or not to eat beforehand. Food is almost a guarantee, but will it be filling? Will it be satisfying? Will it be acceptable to lick your plate clean and go back for seconds?

Much to the delight of attendees at yesterday morning’s “Food As Fuel” event, SecondHouse Founder Janera Soerel, RestoreFood Founder and Chef Galen Foulois and FRESH Med NYC co-Founder Dr. Robert Graham arranged for all three of those questions to be answered with the affirmative.  As the clock struck nine and the Vinyl Room at Soho House filled, guests crowded around long wooden tables and marveled at the beautiful breakfast spread, put together by Chef Foulois, graduate of the Natural Gourmet Institute

 Citrus quinoa surrounded by berries, peaches, bananas, nuts and almond milk; by Chef Foulois.

Citrus quinoa surrounded by berries, peaches, bananas, nuts and almond milk; by Chef Foulois.

Armed with deep ceramic bowls and shiny chrome spoons, each attendee chose from a base of steel cut oats, soaked overnight in almond milk and crusted with coconut oil, or refreshing quinoa with citrus fruits and tiny, delicate greens. Chopped nuts, blackberries, blueberries, diced peaches and bananas made terrific toppings for either base; maple syrup, honey and almond milk lent a little extra sweetness. 

“Throughout the day, you want something like this to have been your first meal,” Robert Graham, MD, MPH, ABOIM, FACP explained. “Berries contain tons of antioxidants, as well as fiber. Nuts are packed with protein and good fats. So this is really a way to start your morning on the right foot.”

 Start your day with a balanced breakfast bowl for long-lasting, FRESH fuel!

Start your day with a balanced breakfast bowl for long-lasting, FRESH fuel!

While everyone gladly started their morning on that particular foot, Chef Foulois and Dr. Rob shared how a diet rich in nutritious foods such as these could have long-term health benefits. “Simple sugars and refined carbs offer a quick spike in your blood sugar and a burst of energy, but it immediately crashes,” Dr. Rob explained. That’s why Chef Foulois combined the carbohydrates in fruit with the protein and healthy fats in nuts and ancient grains. 

Next, Chef Foulois demonstrated the making of popped amaranth and a nutritionist in the audience shared her personal knowledge of macronutrient balance. Since carb-heavy foods have high glycemic indexes and cause that glucose spike, she wouldn’t recommend overloading on them. But what happens when they’re combined with healthy fats and proteins is this: the digestive system slows down to better process everything, avoiding a glucose spike and crash. Voila, Food As (long-lasting) Fuel.

 (From left) SecondHouse Founder Janera Soerel, RestoreFood Founder and Chef Galen Foulois, and FRESH Med NYC co-Founder Dr. Robert Graham. 

(From left) SecondHouse Founder Janera Soerel, RestoreFood Founder and Chef Galen Foulois, and FRESH Med NYC co-Founder Dr. Robert Graham. 

In Dr. Graham’s practice, food is the cornerstone of wellness. And while he loved what was on the menu, the doctor maintains an emphasis on the uniqueness of each patient and knows one size can never fit all. “You are your best doctor. I’ll know you for an hour at a time, but you’ve lived with yourself,” he told attendees. Dr. Graham has a point; no matter how young or old, you have spent more time getting to know the intricacies of your body than anyone else. 

That being said, the latest medical testing can often provide a little more than a “gut feeling” on what your gut’s actually feeling. Chef Foulois and Dr. Graham agreed that microbiome testing lends incredible insight, but they also caution people to be wary of expensive independent testing with uninterpretable results. It’s best to go through a provider, like FRESH Med NYC, where you can trust the data and the doctor, and then determine an informed plan of action.

But what if someone can’t access or afford microbiome testing? Keep a food journal, Chef Foulois suggested. “Yes, it’s time consuming, but it’s not that time consuming!” And it may seem elementary, but it’s free and it’s effective. Once you develop the ability to distinguish between the foods which fuel and drain you, you suddenly wield major power over your lifestyle.

Like with anything, Janera Soerel said, ensuring the food your body burns is good fuel, rather than fumes, takes conscious effort. “If you know a behavior is really bad for you, but you really like it, how do you change it?” she asked. In response, Chef Foulois said he believes you can train yourself to like almost anything, especially once you convince yourself it’s good for you.

 The expression of a Doctor in a healthy kitchen.

The expression of a Doctor in a healthy kitchen.

So while Soerel crafts a global network of getaway homes for members of SecondHouse to escape the city and break bread, Chef Foulois strives to “restore the principle of eating for our health” through private health chef services, made-to-measure eating plans, small-scale catering, and new food-tech. Their business models and lifestyles serve as sustainable inspirations for a society in need of change, and they’ll surely continue to grow. 

Dr. Graham’s philosophy revolves around the development of ideas like theirs. Ask him about FRESH Med, however, and he’ll say, “We actually want to put ourselves out of business.” Is he a very good salesman? The jury is still out! But does he have his patients’ best interests in mind?  Without a doubt. 

When only crumbs remained of the decadent feast and the Q&A came to a close, the crowd finally dispersed. If, for most, that will have been the only breakfast of the month worthy of a title like Food As Fuel, then so be it. However, it won’t be so surprising if attendees often find themselves revisiting this experience… When a doctor and a chef collaborate, it’s not easy to forget.