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Discussing the D word with Sam Talbot and his Sweet Life

Posted Feb 23 2012 5:00am

Who hasn’t drooled over the Top Chef season 2 finalist, or at least his food? When you reach stardom, as Sam has been fortunate and gifted enough to achieve, I feel as though he probably made a list that looks similar to this…

Funnily enough, what differs Sam’s objective from that of most other Top Chef finalists is that whole “good rather than evil” thing [and that is not to say that making delicious food that makes people happy is evil, it’s more of a using-your-popularity-for-a-good-cause thing]. As you are probably aware, Sam has Type I Diabetes; the type of Diabetes that is an autoimmune problem where your antibodies actually act against the beta cells in your pancreas resulting in absolute insulin deficiency, opposed to the more popular Type II Diabetes that results in insulin resistance primarily caused by obesity. So, through a cousin’s friend I scored an incredible opportunity to meet the Chef and talk about everything from Diabetes and nutrition, his amazingly delicious cookbook The Sweet Life (find out how you can get a free copy below!), healthy cooking, future plans and much more. Our conversation continues here…


[Me]: I will never forget my first lecture on diabetes at Columbia , the guest lecturer walks in and says “I have a zero tolerance policy for the D word.” The entire group of intellectual master’s students racked their brains for every bad word in their vocabulary and, frustatedly felt stumped, she continued… “If someone has Cancer, do you say that person is Canceric? No; if someone is suffering from diabetes, they are not solely defined by that characteristic making them a Diabetic, they have diabetes. So no D word.” How do you feel about the stigma associated with being someone who suffers from diabetes? And what were your biggest hurdles?

[ST]: That’s great. No D word! I found out that I had diabetes as a young kid growing up in Charlotte, NC and I remember having to tell my friends and their parents when I went over to their homes about my dietary limitations. I was in my kitchen from an early age and I think that helped me get a better grasp on diabetes- healthful eating and cooking at a  young age is crucial not only for individuals with nutrition related diseases but also for longevity and general good health, I mean we are what we eat [Yes I got excited when he threw the crunchy carrot’s tagline]. Education and availability are at the root of it all.


[Me]: Absolutely, I know that you work with Chef Bill Telepan and the amazing initiative WITS , Wellness in the Schools. What’s that like?

[ST]: It’s amazing. Teaching kids about the power of good food is great and there is nothing like seeing children of all ages get excited about food and then having them implement what they learn into their every day lives. And you know what, it not only affects them but it affects their parents, siblings, friends, aunts, uncles, grandparents- everyone. 


[Me]: And really it doesn’t stop there. I think the hardest demographic to reach is the single individual between the ages of 22-32 in NYC. Right now there are more singles in that age group than couples, and they don’t know how to cook for themselves so they order in or go out every night. Then once they do couple off- they have no idea how to cook not only for themselves but then for their spouses and children as well; they’re intimidated and it’s a vicious cycle. How do you think we can stop this?

[ST]: I have this discussion with my friends all the time. In New York people can spend $200 on food in 4 days without blinking. I tell my friends: take that $200, choose 6 recipes from The Sweet Life and you will eat like a king for a week and it’ll be delicious, good for you and you’ll realize how easy it is to use your kitchen for something other than the place you store recyclable take out containers and sriracha. And I hate when people say they are bored. You can never be bored in New York City- go to a market, take a cooking class, cook with your girlfriend or roommate, just get in the kitchen.  


[Me]: So which six recipes in The Sweet Life would you recommend? And pick ones that even the self-proclaimed kitchen-illiterate can handle.

[ST]: (1) Egg Whites for One with Blueberry and Cinnamon, (2) Chicken Noodle Soup with Collards and Soul, (3) Provencal Salad, (4) Spaghetti Squash with Marinara Parmesan and Basil, (5) Steamed little Neck Clams with Mustard Sauce and (6) Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Cookies.


[Me]: That was easy. Let’s back up for a second though, cookies? Isn’t the most important ingredient in cookies… sugar?

[ST]: Yes! I use alternative sweeteners, like Truvia, which is stevia extract made from the leaves of the stevia plant. People are skeptical of stevia extract because it has a bitter taste, but that’s actually because it is 200 – 300 times sweeter than sugar and they generally use too much. Also, a big part of my eating mantra is being not only aware of the glycemic index* of a food, but more importantly, glycemic load**. This is important for every single person because refined sugar and simple carbohydrates have negative impacts on our health and eating habits.


[Me]: Exactly. What’s it like in your kitchen when you cook and where do you draw inspiration? Do you usually prepare delicious 3-course feasts every night?

[ST]: No way. I love quick-easy dishes for myself like the eggs and kale dish, shirataki noodles and I usually start my morning with a probiotic yogurt. When I’m cooking for family and friends, or in the restaurant, I go all out. And I’m usually rocking out with Van Morrison, Billie Holiday, and even recently, house and techno. Most of my dishes are inspired by my travels all over the world.


[Me]: Who is the one person you wish you could cook for tonight?

[ST]: My grandfather.


[Me]: So, what’s on the menu for dinner tonight?

[ST]: Shirataki noodles and I make that for dinner more often than you think. I actually have some straining in my apartment right now…


Want a free copy of The Sweet Life ? Email with a delicious recipe using stevia extract instead of sugar for a chance to win!

To purchase a copy of the sweet life click here !

*Glycemic Index: The blood glucose response of a given food compared to the standard (typically a piece of white bread).

**Glycemic Load: Takes into account the total amount of carbohydrates in the food as well, which is a better assessment of a foods impact on blood glucose.  (glycemic load = (# g of carbohydrates * GI )/ 100

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