31.01.2020 – How to be a healthy pastry chef

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Seeing as I seem to be pouring my heart out a little bit in this blog, today I want to write about a contradiction I’ve had in my head ever since my passion for baking began. How do I become a pastry chef and be healthy at the same time?

I have always been an active person, taking part in as many sports/ activities my parents let me and rarely taking a breather to rest. As mentioned in my post about exhaustion a few days ago, I really struggle with the concept of doing nothing; and even when I do let myself do nothing, i’m thinking about what I could and should be doing. Anyone else as annoying as me?

Part and parcel of my active self is my interest in being the best version of me, and part of that is having a healthy diet. I have, for a few years now, had an increasing interest in optimal health and how to continually better myself, as well as using health as a preventative approach to disease and illnesses. Therefore over the last five or so years, with a few blips/ extreme episodes on the way, I have really cared about what I put in my body.

On top of this, my gut naturally isn’t the friendliest, and is directly even more angry when I put bad food inside my body and don’t look after myself. Although not properly diagnosed, I would definitely say I have mild IBS, and there are so many food types that make it worse, especially sugar and most dairy.

SO WHY I ask myself, do I have a passion for baking? By this, I mean full on french style , chuck a tonne of butter, 2 tonnes of sugar and a pool of chocolate kind of baking. Nothing healthy about it. I believe this contradiction was the main hurdle in me following my passion and why it’s taken me so long to get to where I am now, because I have never understood why my brain has interest in two very opposing paths. I unfortunately still don’t have the answer, and whilst I’ve finally let go and followed my dream of being a pastry chef, it has become horrendously harder to have the self control I desire, when I’m constantly around yummy cakes.

I told myself when I started that I’d allow myself a few weeks off, to make sure I’ve tasted everything, because you have to know what you’re baking tastes like right? But 4 months on and now my sugar addiction is bigger than ever and I can’t seem to control my snacking. I have really suffered with my gut this week, and have woken with excruciating tummy pains in the night so I’ve decided now that enough is enough.

Just because I’m a pastry chef, doesn’t mean I should eat cake all day every day. The famous saying ‘everything in moderation’ is still very just and if I apply it to my eating habits, on the days that I do allow myself to consciously have a cake, I will enjoy it so much more. I have also come to realise in my short time at Ottolenghi, that being a chef is so much more than cooking. It’s about a passion for sharing and bringing joy to others through the gift of food. Therefore for me, it needs to become less about taking and more about giving.

As for the rest of my diet, I am stripping it right back down to basics and although Ottolenghi are very good at providing staff food, I will be bringing in my own meals because only I know what feels good for my body. When I do listen to my body, I find that after a day in the kitchen, constantly being surrounded by food, my body just craves plain simple food. It’s funny because I heard Yotam talk about this on Jessie Ware’s podcast Table Manners, as he spoke about often just craving green beans or something for dinner. I didn’t quite believe this could be possible for such a foodie, but have proved myself wrong.

I suppose where I’m getting at is, it’s perfectly fine to eat sweet treats, in moderation. Its perfectly fine to be a pastry chef and have a passion for baking, but not scoff everything in sight. It’s hard when you’re in a kitchen surrounded by ridiculously delicious food, not to just eat it all day long, but this is good for no one. I am now on a mission to reset my gut back to its old anti inflamed ways and reduce my intake of the cakes i’m surrounded by all day every day. Not for reasons in vain, but because I know this is what will make me feel like the best version of myself, equalise my energy levels, stop mood swings, make my tummy a happy place and make me ENJOY that coffee and walnut financier, on the occasion that I eat it.

P.S. Today’s photo is a gorgeous butterbean dip that our very own Sami made at Ottolenghi Belgravia the other day. A little more savoury and a little less sweet for me.

Grace x

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