Cooking has evolved into a modern adventure and past time, rather than a domestic chore. With Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook we can follow great recipes and draw from various sources of inspiration. When things seem to get a little sticky, there are people we can turn to, to help us maintain or improve our lifestyle, diet in particular. Claire Chew, of Urban Chef LA is one of these people. What started off as a meal delivery service, where she spent her days packing up organic, bright, farm-to-table, nutritious mason jars for her clients, grew into something bigger and better. Her business evolved into actually going into people’s homes as a personal chef, or providing training for a nanny or domestic worker in the home. A background in spiritual psychology allows Chew to incorporate healing into her cooking, using food as a vehicle to connect with people in an authentic way. She challenges her clients to live a more sustainable and enriching life. They say you are what you eat, so let’s take a closer look at Claire’s approach to using food as medicine for the body, and soul.
HerDaily: How do you describe your relationship with food and how has it helped you become an educator and health food advocate?
Claire Chew: It is a mindful relationship. It is important to be present when you are eating, making, or growing food. There is a giving and receiving energy exchange. It helps people connect, it helps people when they are grieving, and gives them comfort. Food can be used as a way of being of service to someone, which promotes healing.
HerDaily: How did your business evolve and what do you enjoy the most about working with food?
Claire: It evolved organically, and through word of mouth. I created the website after I got a few clients. Food speaks for itself, especially in a foodie town like LA, but how I differentiate myself is not just the way I cook, but the fact that I look for a solution for what is not working. Sometimes I work with busy moms, dialing into modifying the behavior of their child. I focus on modeling and how their relationship with food is going to effect the trajectory of their life, not just focusing on the meal itself. I can provide a unique service to someone healing from an illness or someone who is fighting cancer, and as a cancer survivor I can share a personal story. I look at food differently and I transmit a healing aspect to my clients. The love that goes into my cooking is like a grandmother that’s cooking for you. You can find food delivery services everywhere, but I go beyond the service, and believe there is a connection that you can build when you are in a home cooking for someone else.
HerDaily: Can you comment on the evolution from TV dinners to mason jar prep meals, and what women define as convenient now, versus then?
Claire: Convenience is speed, back then women were happy that they didn’t have to cook and could just open a can or unwrap a TV dinner. Now it’s a new level of quick, where you are eating a bar with superfoods. I am busy too, but I can make a great nutritious meal in 5 minutes.
HerDaily: Are you familiar with Alice Water, the pioneer of the farm-to-table movement originating in the 70’s in Berkeley? If so, how has she influenced you?
Claire: Yes, because I’m from the Bay area. She brought farm-to-table and sustainability into programs at schools, before it became trendy. She walks the talk, and does it in such a way where she believes it, it’s not a trend, but more of a lifestyle.
HerDaily: You help families, train domestic workers, and young professionals with private chef training and education; what has been their feedback and insight about how modifying their diets has impacted their life?
Claire: I’ll read you an email I just got from a woman that has four kids, they are vegan and vegetarian, they had a family dinner last night, her husband has been out of the country so she has been alone with four kids and was happy to eat together, “we sat down around 6:30 the 3 girls were enthusiastic, and my son needed to be convinced to eat eggplants, he finished it and had a lot of questions about the ingredients and how the food was made, the girls had seconds and were full of lively conversations, and they want to meet you. The table was cleared and they returned the unused containers and started rearranging them in the fridge. The kids said it was the best salad they ever had.” They really are changing their attitude about greens, and this is my intention.
HerDaily: What are your future plans for Urban Chef LA, and what are your plans for integrating further into the community?
Claire: I want to continue doing Sunday Suppers, when people are sitting around the table and having dialogue, getting people together that have experienced grief and talk about a topic like death, and dine. Create community and include people that don’t have family dinners, because they don’t have family here. Where do people go when they are going through a divorce and their set of friends change? Food brings people together. If someone is sick, someone could deliver food, and make a new friend. I am interested in building community through food, like the way churches operate in small towns. Gathering, so people feel connected in a deeper, more meaningful way, and as a bi-product people eat healthier, a kid gets introduced to a new food, etc. I remember reading a post on The NY Times about “open door Sunday dinners,” which happened once a month. They talked about how they built a community, and saw each other’s kids grow up.
HerDaily: We don’t connect as much with the rise of technology and this would be a great way to bring it back. I like the idea of creating a support group or a safe place, where you can integrate the healing aspect of communication with food, where you can feel nourished physically and emotionally. Please keep me posted I would love to attend the next Sunday Supper Club.
Try Claire’s “5 minute” Recipe:
Farmers’ Market Stir Fry
1/2 cup sugar snap peas, ends trimmed
2 bunches baby bokchoy chopped
1 organic red bell pepper chopped
1 organic carrot julienned
1/2 yello onion sliced
3 cloves garlic minced
1/4 t. salt
Dash of pepper
1 TBS grapeseed oil
Heat oil in skillet over medium high heat for a few minutes
Saute onions until translucent, about 3 minutes
Add garlic, stir for 1 minute
Add veggies, stir fray for 2 minutes
Add salt and pepper to taste.