As packaged, salt and sugar-laden foods continue to saturate the shelves in our markets and dominate American food culture, one chef in Chicago is saying enough is enough. Homaro Cantu, chef and owner of the Michelin Star-rated Moto Restaurant in the Windy City, told The Packer in a recent interview that the time for small measures to reform the way American food is produced, sold, and consumed is over.
“We need a moon shot,” Cantu told reporters. “Forget about making incremental changes within the system.” Cantu, like many other respected chefs across the world, believes that governmental and other systemic barriers to making the changes necessary to protect human health and improve food culture make it impossible to implement these changes in any controlled, steady way. The chef says that now is the time for chefs, effectively the fighters on the ground, to start working with local, eco-friendly producers of food to produce healthy, delicious food that doesn’t impact our waistlines or the environment.
Despite Staggering Obesity Levels, Americans Are Malnourished
The biggest problem with American food culture is, of course, that it has led to an obesity epidemic. At last blush, nearly two-thirds of American adults were overweight or obese. The interesting part about that statistic? We are overweight, but we’re also malnourished.
Vitamin D deficiency, for instance, is exceptionally common, with a full 75% of Americans suffering from a lack of this essential vitamin. Vitamin D can be consumed through eggs and fatty fishes, but it can also be synthesized by the body through absorption of sunlight. While Homaro Cantu and other chefs can do nothing to push Americans to get outdoors, they can help to get more of the right kind of food in front of their customers.
Smarter, Healthier Food is the Solution
And that’s really the crux of what Cantu is saying, and it’s what he’s been offering through the respected Moto Restaurant. Microgreens are one of those foods that was before seen as a healthy eating trend for those with extra pocket change; Cantu makes them a focus of many of his dishes.
Usually no more than an inch and a half tall, microgreens are harvested after a shortened growing period. Nutritionists and food scientists have touted microgreens as more nutritionally valuable versions of their fully matured counterparts. Microgreen cilantro, for instance, has 300% more beta-carotene than matured leaves of the plant.
From microgreens to ethically raised chicken, these are the foods Cantu wants to get people excited about. While he and other chefs on the same mission understand that the increased price of organic, ethically produced food may make this a hard sell, Cantu knows that the flavors — and the health benefits — will ultimately speak for themselves.
Do you agree with Chef Cantu’s idea that American food culture needs a revolution? Tell us why or why not in the comments below.