Mad Max

Graham Kerr the Galloping Gardener?

Some 20 years ago, having learned that his high fat, high calorie cooking style was killing his wife Graham Kerr changed his approach.  Known to the world as the Galloping Gourmet, Kerr was famous for making classic French cuisine layered in butter, cream and fatty cuts of red meat.  Weight Watchers actually declared him public enemy #1, an amazing display of hypocrisy when you consider the toxicity of their diet food.

A Year in the Life of My First Kitchen GardenIn 1993, he published Graham Kerr’s Minimax Cookbook and in the blink of an eye invented something brand new – healthy food that also tasted good.  Prior to that people were faced with either enjoying their food or enduring it.  Kerr refused to believe that low fat, low calorie food had to be low flavor as well.  “Minimax” quite simply means minimize the fat and calories and maximize the flavor.

Two decades and two dozen books later, Chef Kerr has created a craze.  He is almost single-handedly responsible for the popularity of extra virgin olive oil in this country.  And a legion of talented chefs have followed in his footsteps like Nathan Lyon, Jamie Oliver and Susan Irby to further explore the world of healthy, tasty food.

However, Chef Kerr has not ceased his own explorations.  With the ever deteriorating food system in this country thanks to factory farming and genetically modified foods the next logical step would being growing his own food.  These days the fictional world of Mad Max doesn’t seem as far fetched as it once did.  It only makes sense to safeguard oneself against the tribulations of hyper-inflation or the fall of western civilization.

More and more people are starting their own gardens.  Count Graham Kerr among the lot.  “Why?” you may ask.  In Kerr’s own words:

In my long career as a gourmet/nutrition teacher I have cooked just about everything that grows, but I’ve never grown a thing I’ve cooked.  So I got to thinking about the earth-to-table process.  I decided to go back to the starting line and run the whole race from the beginning.

Kerr’s newest work Growing at the Speed of Life: A Year in the Life of My First Kitchen Garden is an instruction manual to taking what you eat back from a corrupt government and the agribusiness giants that control it.  Though it contains a hundred recipes it is not a cookbook.

Growing at the Speed of Life shows you with great detail and illustration exactly what Kerr did to construct a garden that is brilliant in its design.  The garden is a model of sustainable, organic efficiency.  Kerr describes what he did and eloquently explains why he did it.

Additionally Kerr has compiled an extensive catalog of virtually every edible botanical on the planet.  He not only describes its flavor and nutritional value but he also suggests pairings and preparation techniques.  This is also where the recipes come in; they demonstrate the variety of flavors available to someone with a proper garden.  I’ve never scene such a comprehensive guide to fruits and vegetables.

I have been highly impressed by the attention to detail in this book.  Each process is described so that you can understand not only how to do something a certain way but why that way works.  It has inspired me to try and start my own garden this spring.  If I can grown my own produce between that, the fish in the creek and the squirrels in the trees I should be okay should the Mayan prophecies prove true.

If you haven’t already be sure to check put my exclusive interview with Chef Kerr from last fall HERE.

Kale to the Chief

February is not a month where one thinks of the bounty of the garden.  That’s because in many parts of the country that garden is covered with 18” of snow while in others it just sits there all brown and putrid like the post-apocalyptic landscape from a Mad Max movie.  However there is one deeply green plant so rugged that it doesn’t care about the temperature and lack of sunlight; kale.

KaleUnfortunately most Americans only recognize kale as a garnish for a catering platter or artfully covering the ice on salad bars.  But kale is a mainstay of Scottish cuisine as it is one of the few plants sturdy enough to handle highland winters.  It is harvested from September through March and is a terrific source of Vitamin A (206% RDA), Vitamin C (134% RDA almost as much as an orange) and Vitamin K (684% RDA).  Kale also contains a good deal of cancer-fighting components like the two powerful antioxidants – carotenoids and flavonoids.  It also contains organosulfur a mysterious cancer-fighting compound; scientists don’t understand exactly how organosulfur fights cancer they just know that it does.

Though a serving only contains 2 grams of protein it does contain 18 amino acids – the building blocks of protein.  The paltry 34 calories in a serving drop significantly once in the body because of kale’s high fiber content.  Raw kale is on the list of negative calorie foods meaning that digesting it actually burns more calories than it contains.  That’s right, the more you eat the more calories you burn.  If bakers could figure out how to incorporate kale into donuts the Krispy Kreme Diet could be a reality.

Burns SupperSo now that you know why you should eat kale it’s time to learn how to eat kale.  It is very versatile as you can enjoy it raw in salads or cooked in soups.  In fact because of kale’s sturdy nature you can actually toss it with salad dressing hours before serving it without fear of it breaking down like lettuce does.  In soups kale is often paired with other rugged plants like potatoes and leeks.  Potato Leek Soup is a traditional menu item for Burns Night, an international celebration of all things Scottish held on or around January 25th, poet Robert Burns’ birthday.

Scottish Potato Leek Soup

  • 3 TBL olive oil
  • 1 bunch leeks thoroughly cleaned and cut lengthwise and julienned
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 cups Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 6 c kale, torn into small pieces
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

1) Heat 2 TBL olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add leeks, salt and garlic. Sauté until leeks are tender, roughly ten minutes.

2) Add potatoes and broth then simmer for 20 minutes.

3) In a large sauté pan, cook the kale over medium heat in the remaining olive oil with salt to taste, until wilted but still a little firm.

4) With an immersion blender, puree the soup for a few seconds.  If you do not have an immersion blender skip this step as it is optional.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  NOTE: this soup begs for a good deal of pepper.

5) To serve place equal portions of the sautéed kale into each serving bowl and ladle the soup on top of it.

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up


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