A Recipe for Modern Health
How “Top Chef” All-Star Gregory Gourdet is making room for everyone at the table.
Gregory Gourdet is a “Top Chef” all-star and guest judge, who recently opened up his first pop-up restaurant Kann Winter Village, in Portland, Oregon, and debuted his freshman cookbook, Everyone’s Table: Global Recipes for Modern Health. As a New York-raised son of Haitian parents, Gourdet’s recipes are inspired by the flavors of his youth, his years running Jean Georges’ modern Chinese restaurant 66, extensive travel to culinary destinations like Tokyo and Tuscany, and ultimately his decision to turn his health around by giving up his addictions to go Paleo.
Similar to rē•spin, Gourdet recognizes that everyone has to walk their own path to wellness. His personal journey to better health took off as more of a crash landing than a leisurely stroll. After years of battling drug and alcohol addiction (a lifestyle he says is deeply ingrained in the dark side of the restaurant industry), a car crash served as the wake-up call he needed to turn his lifestyle into one that nourished him and gave him the vitality he needed to give back to others- through globally-inspired recipes, he rē•spins with a healthier twist and by dedicating his time and talent to feeding the homeless and supporting his peers in the restaurant industry, particularly during 2020’s lockdown.
A personal journey to modern health
When Gourdet got sober, he decided to stop beating up his body and nourish it instead. He dabbled in yoga, 50-mile marathons, and CrossFit, before eventually embracing a paleo diet at the suggestion of his trainer. “I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist, so I’ll leave to the professionals any discussion of the anti-nutrient properties of the phytic acid in legumes and the impact of gluten on the immune system,” Gourdet says. “But I can say that going Paleo made me question a notion that had long guided my eating: If something came from nature, it must be good for you. I realized this wasn’t always true. And this made me change the way I ate.”
Gourdet began eating the way hunter-gatherers did during the Paleolithic area- focusing on lean meats, wild fish, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds. Processed foods, grains, legumes, and dairy were eliminated and he began to feel rē•newed. Instead of maintaining strict restrictions on his health journey though, he allowed himself to experiment with different ways of eating, always coming back to the basics of crowding out empty-calorie foods by zeroing in on ones that pack a nutritional punch instead.
You’ll find a heavy focus on whole, natural foods, good fats, nutrient-rich carbs, and meat and seafood raised and harvested sustainably throughout his new cookbook. Gourdet thinks of these dietary guidelines as the framework for modern health. “It’s not a crash diet but a sustainable lifestyle, not a calorie counting scheme that equates skinny with healthy but a way of eating that has the health of your body in mind. It’s about curtailing the bad stuff and going all-in on the good.”
On cooking food from other cultures and embracing the truth of culinary history
Although Gourdet says he gets physical reactions like bloating and stomach pain when he indulges in gluten, he also believes a little pain is worth it from time to time, particularly while traveling. He can’t say no to a bite of ramen in Tokyo or Tortelli in Tuscany and neither can we. Gourdet considers these sporadic breaks from his paleo lifestyle as culinary learning and a deepening of his connection to other cultures he’s inspired by.
“To turn down homemade tortillas offered by friends in Mexico City or the rice porridge served by a host in Vietnam would bring another sort of pain,” he explains. “When I return from those trips, exhilarated and inspired, I make my own accommodations, recreating the flavors I love with the ingredients I choose. I want it all—to feel good, to eat well. And I want the same for everyone.”
The recipes featured in Everyone’s Table reflect what food really means to Gourdet: connection- to his family, friends, and the many cultures that inspire his food. Getting sober allowed him to see clearly the connection history has had on many of the dishes he indulges in while traveling. History isn’t always kind and globally it is deeply rooted in violent colonialism that shows up in many traditional meals. “When I cook food from cultures other than my own, I hope to deepen my connection to other people, but this only works if we embrace the good and confront the bad.” Goudet recognizes the importance of acknowledging the real history of cultures that inspire, even while cooking.
Nourishing recipes for everyone’s table
Get ready to seriously up your vegetable game. Vegetarian dishes, prepared in unexpected ways abound in his debut cookbook. Hot, cold, room temp, dressed, raw, as a main, as a side. Gourdet proves that vegetables reign supreme- in both flavor and presentation. All the recipes in Everyone’s Table are not only divinely delicious but aesthetically pleasing. If you’re in need of a recipe to wow a crowd this book is for you. It’s likely to quickly become your go-to reference for modern, healthy cooking.
“Unless I told you, you probably wouldn’t notice that all two hundred recipes are free of gluten, dairy, soy, refined sugar, and legumes,” Gourdet surprisingly reveals. “You wouldn’t notice that I made them Paleo-friendly, and even more important, that I designed them to focus on superfoods—ingredients with the highest nutrient density; the best fats; and the most minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. You wouldn’t notice, and that’s the point. All you’d see is the food you want to make. That’s one reason I call this book Everyone’s Table. I want everyone to be able to eat great food.”
Watermelon-Berry Salad with Chile Dressing and Lots of Herbs
By Chef Gregory Gourdet taken from his cookbook Everyone’s Table: Global Recipes for Modern Health
A thrilling way to treat high-summer fruit, this gorgeous jumble of flavors and textures is explosively good. The Thai-inspired, blend-and-go dressing—tart and spicy and salty—plays up the sweetness of watermelon and berries, such as blueberries, raspberries, and hulled and halved strawberries, while keeping the fruit salad firmly in savory territory. A flurry of herbs adds even more freshness and dimension.
For the Dressing:
- 1/3 cup lime juice (from about 3 juicy limes)
- 1/3 cup fish sauce
- 3 tablespoons thinly sliced cilantro stems
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped palm sugar or coconut sugar
- 1⁄2-inch knob fresh galangal, peeled and roughly sliced against the grain
- 1 large garlic clove, peeled
- 1 small moderately hot fresh red chile, such as Fresno or ripe red jalapeño, stemmed and roughly chopped
- 1 fresh red Thai chile, stemmed
For the Salad:
- 2 pounds peeled watermelon
- 1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt
- 2 large lemongrass stalks, trimmed (see page 15), bruised, then very thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 big handfuls of very lightly packed mixed herbs, such as mint leaves, Thai or Italian basil leaves, and small cilantro sprigs
Make the dressing:
Combine all the dressing ingredients in a blender and blend on high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. It keeps in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Shake well before using.
Make the salad:
Cut the watermelon into 3 x 1 x 1-inch sticks, flicking out seeds as you go. You will have about 6 cups. Chill the watermelon in the fridge for at least an hour.
Combine the chilled watermelon and onion in a large mixing bowl and season all over with the flaky salt. Add the berries, lemongrass, and dressing, then toss gently but well. Drizzle on the olive oil, add the herbs and gently toss once more. Transfer to a platter to serve.