Why did you choose to become a chef?
Cooking is my only real creative outlet. I can’t sing, dance, draw, paint or do anything I consider to be cool. So for me, food is the one outlet where I can execute an artistic vision. I can look at a table full of raw ingredients and actually visualize what the finished product will look and taste and smell like.
Cooking has helped me to have a much better understanding of other cultures as well. Not just what other people eat, but how they speak, and how they live. I’ve been blessed to work in some of the largest cities in the US, and I have really explored the “melting pot.” Working in a kitchen with 40 people, speaking 4-5 different languages, and observing different cultural norms and customs will really help a person develop their empathy gene in a hurry.
I also love the sense of community that comes from cooking. Much like the fitness world, there is a real sense of camaraderie and togetherness that comes with being a chef/food professional. Right now, I can call 20-30 different chefs if I had a question or wanted to organize a charity event. Food professionals are some of the most giving people around!
Did you go to culinary school? If so, where and did you earn any credentials through your culinary studies?
I went to the French Culinary Institute in New York City. It is now known as the International Culinary Center. A little know fact about the school, Bobby Flay was part of the first graduating class from FCI. In 2018, it was actually rated the #1 culinary school in the country. In my previous job as a Corporate Chef and Marketing Consultant, I debated going for my Certified Executive Chef (CEC) credentials through the American Culinary Federation, but decided against it. The credentials are great, and those that earn them are definitely deserving, but it just wasn’t something that was necessary for my career path.
What is one of your most memorable moments cooking in New York City?
There are so many! One of the best experiences was cooking for the cast of Saturday Night Live. I had a chance to cook for a couple of their after-parties after they would go off-air Saturday night. Shortly after, a couple of well-known cast members at the time (and their spouses) became regulars at the restaurant I was working at.
It’s hard to beat the energy of New York City. It really is the city that never sleeps! There is always something exciting happening. I might be a bit biased now, but Broadway in NYC has nothing on our Broadway here in Nashville! Give me the honky-tonks every day of the week!
Why did you choose Nashville to start your meal prep company Macro Chef Meals?
I wasn’t born in the South (I was born and raised in Michigan, before traveling throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic), but I got down here as quick as I could.
Nashville to me is the perfect blend of traditional Southern culture and new innovation. I love the excitement and vibe of Downtown, but I also love the pace of life throughout all of Metro Nashville and Middle Tennessee. It’s a great spot to raise a family.
I was also inspired by the fitness community that is thriving in Nashville. We are home to some amazing trainers, gyms and dietitians. I love how we are also starting to become a bit of a CrossFit mecca in our own right and we have several BIG TIME professional bodybuilders that call Nashville home too. In addition, I see a very fit and active lifestyle all around me, even in my own neighborhood. That’s what I love to see: whatever your fitness passion, there is a place in Nashville for you to call home.
How is Macro Chef Meals different from other meal prep companies?
I think there are a few things that really differentiate us. The first thing is the quality of our ingredients. For instance, we are using the “Cadillac” of chicken for all of our chicken dishes. It costs 3-4 times more than a standard chicken breast, but it’s worth it. It is completely clean, minimally processed and just tastes the way chicken should taste. We also use all Halperns’ Angus Beef products for our beef dishes. The only way to have a quality meal is to start with quality raw ingredients.
I also think that the flavors found on our menu are a big advantage. While we have a large amount of bulk items and are also getting ready to launch our Competitors Line, which focuses on slightly more basic meals for athletes gearing up for a show or competition, we really shine when it comes to our composed meals.
I truly believe that eating healthy doesn’t have to suck. We can pack a lot of flavors and variety into our meals, while keeping them clean and nutritious. We also focus on featuring emerging flavor trends from all over the world and spend a lot time researching what’s new, so that our customers can get trendy, restaurant-quality meals that will keep them properly fueled.
While we have pro athletes that love our meals, I think the great thing is that they are really approachable for anyone who just wants to eat healthier without sacrificing flavor.
What inspires you to cook good tasting food with quality ingredients?
Full disclosure, I’m actually a test case for our meals haha! I’m recovering from years of a poor diet and putting everything else in life ahead of my health and fitness regime. Being a chef, I joked for years that I was going to just eat my way to 300 pounds and then be done with it. One day, I got on the scale and I was 311 pounds! I had eaten my way to a very unhealthy life. The biggest problem was, I knew better. So, I decided to quit making excuses and just do it. Cook clean, eat clean, train dirty! I’ve dropped about 75 pounds (while putting on muscle) and continue to train to improve myself. I feel better in all aspects of life and am able to enjoy my family and work life a lot more now.
What I’ve realized is that not everyone has the knowledge or time to cook like this. I draw my inspiration from people who want to eat better and live a fuller life, but aren’t quite sure where to start, or who know exactly what they need to do, but just don’t have the time. I’m blessed to count several of my neighbors as loyal customers. It is incredibly rewarding to hear how much they (or anyone else) is enjoying my meals and how much better they feel.
It’s also an incredible feeling to know that I have professional bodybuilders and High-Level CrossFitters that trust me to feed them as they are training for some of the biggest competitions in the industry. There are few things that have made me as proud professionally, as when 212 IFBB Pro Bo Lewis stepped on stage and won the NY Pro and qualified for Mr. Olympia and I knew that my food was the last thing he ate before stepping on that stage!
In the restaurant industry, they say you can’t trust a skinny chef? Would you agree or disagree?
Haha, these days: Disagree! A skinny chef has discipline. Look, we all have different body types and different needs, but there is something to be said for a chef that can taste his or her food all day and still maintain general physical health. It means that the Chef is not only disciplined, but also, the food is nutritionally balanced!
What’s your favorite dish to cook and why?
From my current menu: the Turkey Burrito Power Bowl. I love the blend of flavors and colors. I think the whole dish really pops visually and the flavor combinations are great.
All-time favorite: A basic pasta, like an Alfredo or Carbonara. The key is the simplicity. A legit Alfredo sauce shouldn’t be a thick, gloppy, creamy mess. It should be butter, parmesan and some salt and pepper. You need to be able to cook with love and care to properly make that sauce and not have it break. Trust me, if someone makes you a legit Alfredo sauce like that, you know they care about you, haha!
What’s your go to “cheat meal” and why?
Pizza. All. The. Pizza. Gourmet pizza. Cheap pizza. Independent pizzerias. Huge chains. I don’t care. Just give me the pizza!
Is there a chef you admire the most? If so, who and why?
Although they are all amazing, I don’t admire any of the celebrity chefs per se. The Chef I admire most is a Chef I was lucky enough to work for.
For our bodybuilding afficionados out there, the name Steve Kuclo may ring a bell. Steve Kuclo the bodybuilder is an inspiration for many, but to me, the real inspiration is his father, also named Steve Kuclo.
Chef Steve was my Chef when I was young in the industry. Of course, I was an obnoxious know-it-all, but Chef Steve was incredibly patient with me and also a great mentor and guide. Not only did he teach me how to cook some great Italian food, but he also taught me what kind of boss I wanted to be some day. His patience and guidance set me on the path I’m on today. Throughout the years, when faced with a difficult staffing decision, I’ve often thought about how Chef Steve would handle the situation and let that be my guide. He’s retired now, but Chef Steve Kuclo from Metro Detroit, was a great Chef, and he is an even better person.