A new series on the HH – interviews with interesting people.
A doctor and a natural chef – sounds like a great combination to me!
Dr. Michael Fenster; interventional cardiologist, martial artist and professional Chef. By combining his medical expertise and culinary talents with an Asian philosophy of well being; Dr. Mike is leading a revolution for eating well and living better.
When did you get really interested in cooking? And also, when did you realize cooking healthy foods were great medicine?
Like most folks who find themselves in some aspect of the food service industry, it was something I enjoyed ever since I can remember. I can recall watching Julia Child and The Galloping Gourmet with my mom and then attempting to recreate the recipes we watched, or trying recipes from cookbooks. I took things a step further in college. I started as a dishwasher and worked my way up to running the kitchen. Despite the practical knowledge I gained running a kitchen in a really great restaurant, I still felt I had knowledge gaps. Therefore, I later on went back to school and earned a culinary degree in gourmet cooking and catering. Very early on the connection between fresh, wholesome unadulterated food and good health was clear. From personal experience alone I could tell the different effects diet had on my overall well-being. As my knowledge in medicine and my understanding of cardiovascular disease and health grew, so did my appreciation of the complex relationship we have between how what we consume affects what we become.
What are your favorite meals to prepare your family?
I wouldn’t say there is necessarily a favorite dish. What I love is to see what I can get fresh and create meals around those items. It keeps the cuisine everchanging and keeps me in rhythm with the seasons.
What is your go-to meal for a busy night?
If things get hectic I know a perfect risotto is only 20 minutes away-that’s why there is always some home-made stock in the freezer!
As a doctor you are already busy and then you have your cooking on top of that, what are your tips on finding a good work-life balance?
Find what you love to do, what is your passion, and pursue it. As a physician, an interventional cardiologist, I have had the incredible opportunity to participate in people’s lives in a very intimate life and death manner. Nothing brings forth our humanity like facing our own mortality, or that of a loved one. In the knowledge I have gained from these encounters, I have yet to meet anyone who longs for an extra business meeting or a faster car at the end of days. We are the sum of our experiences and relationships. Through my decades of martial arts training, I have gradually been able to distill my passion for martial arts, cooking and medicine into a simple appreciation of Art. And the pursuit of Art is what distinguishes the human animal. And as I mentioned, the human animal is the sum of his or her experiences and relationships. These are the important things; follow your passion and enjoy your days and your company.
What is your favorite form of exercise?
Martial arts, but I also do aerobic and strength training exercises at the gym several times a week as well.
Can you name 5 ingredients you couldn’t live without?
1. Foie gras; although I only have it once or twice a year I absolutely love it with ingredient number 2.
2. Champagne, Napoleon said it best- Champagne is the perfect drink, for in victory you have earned it and in defeat you need it.
3. Seafood, any type. Sushi and sake after martial arts training in Japan-’nuff said.
4. Grass fed and free range meats and poultry. As a history buff, I love to re-enact what put us at the top of the food chain, eating great proteins!
5 Potatoes-without these there are no Parma-truffle fries and the world becomes a much sadder place.
What is one (or 2) ingredient that you think more people should work into their diet, for health and taste?!
I would say that instead of a specific ingredient, look towards what is local, fresh and minimally processed. Try new ingredients and new tastes as well. There are many ingredients and preparations from cultures all around the globe that offer varying sensations and varying health benefits. Our Western diet is too often built on layering sugar, salt and fat that plays to physiologic predilection at the expense of taste and health.
How have you personally seen healthy food positively affecting your patients and others?
Great food makes people feel great. Eating things that are delicious, a wonderful experience with those we cherish makes us happy. And attitude counts for a lot. We know that how we feel affects our cravings. What we eat affects how we feel. When you have something delicious that replenishes your body with powerful raw materials and high octane fuel that is a win-win. The tangible results of following our Grassroots Gourmet philosophy is better physical health and improved mental well-being. That is the first step towards wellness.
Would you like to share a holiday recipe with us?
Absolutely! Here are three easy and healthful holiday appetizers. The recipes are easy to do and can be done ahead of time. This just leaves some simple assembly when the time to entertain arrives. These recipes also reflect our Grassroots Gourmet “Path of the Three Be’s”.
- Avoid the call of the junk food/fast food siren: We avoid prepackaged junk food snacks. Buying a bag of snacks and a pre-done dip is an easy but unsatisfying (in so many ways) solution.
- Be Fresh-but no adultery! We utilize fresh unadulterated ingredients in creating our mermaid purses, Santa sacks and mini-BLTs.
- Be on time and in proportion: We also utilize the strategy of timing and proportion to enjoy something like mini-BLTs in a delicious but responsible way. Spacing out our consumption allows our stomach time to signal our satiety to our brain. Controlled portion sizes allow us to experience the entire gamut of flavors without gluttony.