America has a love affair with food, and unfortunately, we also have a love affair with fat. Celebrity chef Jeff Henderson is on a mission to change that. On his new daily cooking show, Flip My Food, Chef Jeff is traveling across America helping people from firefighters to grandmothers, to newlyweds find ways to prepare their favorite family recipes with less fat and more flavor.
While Chef Jeff and his convoy (which includes a custom food truck!) traveled between cities, we had a little Q &A.
Where did you get the idea for Flip My Food?
I looked at a lot of cooking shows and at chefs who travel around the country and showcase restaurants, and I said, “No one’s cooking anything healthier.” I thought, “hmm, what if I went around and flipped food and took food that is heavy in fat, and not necessarily good for you, and flipped it and made it healthier?” This isn’t a health-food show, I use the word “healthier” — it’s not super-healthier — but it’s healthier than to way you normally cook it.
I came up with this concept and here we are, traveling across America! We’re shooting 150 shows, so come September 8, in many markets around the country, we’ll be on 5 days a week, daytime Monday-Friday.
How much fat are you cutting?
In some foods, some dishes, I can flip and it cut all of the fat by 100%. Other times, I can cut it 5% up to 50%. It depends on the dish, so for instance a pasta dish, a Bolognese, I go with a whole-wheat pasta, and I won’t use ground beef, I’ll go with ground turkey or ground turkey. Instead of adding butter to caramelize the vegetables, I can either use a Land O’Lakes butter and olive oil blend, or I use one of my infused olive oils with Jalapeno and garlic to find a different way to bring flavor.
Will you talk about specific products? People (like me) get scared that foods that are lower in fat, like cheeses, might not taste good.
Oh most definitely! I use low-fat or less fat cheeses all of the time, and where you lose a little flavor because the fat is out, you boost the flavor by adding various peppers or hot sauces or fresh herbs — there’s many ways to add flavor to a dish. And I’m all about flavor! That’s one of my mottoes: “At the end of the day, it’s all about flavor, love and the kitchen.” And I say that at the end of every show.
Where are you meeting people for your show?
We cast people on this show with real stories, real food stories, who just love to eat. The base of the show is really about cutting fat anywhere we can to make food a little bit healthier. And food that tastes good also. We have people from all walks of life on our show: law enforcement, firemen, grandmothers, there are newlyweds. You name it, we run the gamut.
Are the recipes that you’re flipping, are these family recipes?
A lot of times, I’ll have guests on my custom food truck and I’ll teach them to cook healthier with my recipes, but the fun part is when I visit restaurants and folks’ homes and they’ll bring a life-long family recipe, and I’ll flip that recipe and I’ll make it healthier. And I cut fat anywhere I can. I cut butter when I can, I cut fatty meats when I can, and I boost the flavor by using lots of fresh herbs and infused oils and I teach proper cooking techniques to bring out the best flavor possible in those local ingredients and really impact the food.
Tell me about your custom food truck
My custom food truck is really, really cool. We drive it everywhere we go! It’s outfitted with stoves, ovens; I have all of my utensils and equipment. It’s really like a small apartment on wheels.
I bring people on, right through the back door, we open up the side of the truck and we barbecue, we grill, we smoke. We make salads. We slow cook, I have slow cookers. I have Dutch Ovens. I always travel with a whole set of cast iron skillets. I very seldomly use any other skillet but a cast iron skillet.
Cast iron can be tricky, don’t you have to use some kind of oil or fat?
If I’m making an omelet or frittata or pancake or something that I have to flip, I’ll break out my non-stick. But most of the foods that I cook, and vegetables that I sauté, I’ll use cast iron.
Cast Iron can be found anywhere, even hardware stores…
Absolutely, at local convenience stores, hardware stores, they’re everywhere today. They’re actually on a comeback.
When this custom foodtruck pulls up, what’s the reaction from the public?
People do come up and think that we’re selling food, but we don’t sell food out of here. I always make a little something on the side, to take care of people who approach the food truck, but we park the food truck at various locations, a grocery store parking lot, outside of a police station or firehouse, or even in a neighborhood. We can cook anywhere! We have a whole team of folks and trailers hooked up and we bring all of our equipment and we set up our lights and our cameras, and people go crazy!
Where have your travels on Flip My Food taken you?
We’ve been everywhere. From Tyler, Texas; Louisiana — New Orleans, Shreveport; Tucson, Arizona; North Carolina; Memphis. We’re going to be all over America.
Will these recipes be something that every home chef can make?
I don’t cook like a high-end pro chef in an upscale restaurant. I cook simple, there’s a lot of simplicity in what I cook. I don’t use fancy terminology. I don’t use ingredients that folks in middle America don’t use at home. I don’t use truffles or truffle oil, and fancy cooking techniques. It’s ingredients that we all grew up on and dishes like meatloaf. I made a Top Ramen noodle dish: I took out the seasoning packet and used the noodles and infused it with my own broth and I use the boxed chicken stock that you can find in the grocery store that is low sodium. Every ingredient that I use is something that most people in America can relate to and have used.
I don’t prepare dished on Flip My Food that has 20 steps to it. It’s usually no more than 7-8 steps to a particular dish; nothing is difficult. This is cooking for dummies. Anybody can take these dishes that I cook on Flip My Food and recreate them at home. If you go on YouTube, you can see little vignettes, 40-second vignettes of me cooking all kinds of dishes. Within 40 seconds so people can go home, watch those segments and recreate these dishes as well.
Is your hope that people will watch the show today, and cook the food tonight?
No doubt about it! I also talk about preparation. If you prepare the night before, when busy mom and dad come home, all you have to do is put the food together. I’ve also done multiple crock pot shows, where you just put everything in a crock pot, you turn that baby on, you go to work or school and when you come home, you have a great meal together.
I also talk about buy ready-to-go foods. You go to the market, you buy a rotisserie chicken. You pull all of the meat off with a fork and you can make a nice pasta dish you can make a chicken salad without having to roast a whole chicken. There are so many ways that I teach people and share my skills with them. This is a great-home cooking show. Even though I wear a chef coat, and I’ve reached a high level of success in the culinary world, I’m cooking for everyday folks who may not cook much, and also home cooks who do cook a lot. Anybody can make these dishes. They’re super-simple.
The nice thing about a 30 minute show, people can get inspired, get a new technique and get cooking quickly.
I want ‘em running out of the living room, right to the market, and get those ingredients.
Where will viewers find your recipes?
All of our recipes will be on our website or they can follow us on Twitter and Instagram @FlipMyFood as well.
Flip My Food > Syndicated > Daily, beginning Sept. 8
Antonio Sabato Jr. also has a new syndicated series, Fix It & Finish It that will join Flip My Food to make an exiting programming block! Read more about Antonio’s new show here!
images courtesy of Bellum Entertainment