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Inside Out: Chef’s Perspective Part V

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Each person has a different perspective on Food Allergies and Food Sensitivities. This global issue is highly debated, even among doctors, medical professionals, food allergics, parents, the FDA and of course those in the food industry.

I have been conducting interviews with these various professionals to see what their perspectives are on what I now understand is a highly controversial subject that we could all stand to have more education on.

Chef Howard Cantor, like many others in his industry started working in the food industry at the young age of 15. He went to Johnson and Wales in Miami and did an apprenticeship with the American Culinary Federation.

Chef Cantor has an Associates Degree in Culinary Arts. He has been an executive chef at resorts, worked in R&D for Popeye’s, opened a few of his own restaurants. He now has a pop up restaurant in New York and without a doubt this chef still loves to cook, even after 30 years in the business.

Chef Cantor speaks out:

What is your favorite cuisine to prepare?

Asian Influence- eclectic simple but complex –I like to blend this style into my menus

Was being a chef one of your lifelong career dreams?

It’s the only thing ever wanted to do.

Do you think culinary school helped you or taught you something you didn’t know?

Culinary School didn’t help me, but my apprenticeship really helped me the most because it was hands on. The only reason I went was so I could get a real job in the industry, so it was kind of forced and not what I think was most beneficial. Food education is really working in a kitchen not in lab.

What do you think the most important thing to know about food is?

The emotional attachment to food and how it affects people is most important. The experience of eating, creates good memories.

What do you think about the rise in special dietary requirements?

Don’t get me started. I maybe should not comment on this. First of all, you cannot be allergic to gluten. You can be intolerant but not allergic to it. (He is actually correct in this statement, there are not any cases shown that gluten is an allergy, it is an intolerance and fewer people actually have been diagnosed to it than those who claim to have it. Read more on this topic, click here. It doesn't mean it won't make people seriously sick for weeks and weeks who have an intolerance nor does it mean that we should take intolerance any less serious than we do food allergies.)

I don’t like raw tomatoes but I am not allergic to them, the acid makes me sick, so I avoid them. People should educate themselves and do research before claiming they have something. Some food allergens are real. I willed myself thru most of my allergens from a child to adult.

I think some people can’t get over certain allergens like peanuts, soy and tree nuts. I know that can kill. Milk and Eggs are more of an intolerance for most people. (Over 168 million people worldwide are diagnosed with a dairy intolerance, but people are also diagnosed with a real food allergen to eggs and milk and the results can be very harmful to the body and should be taken seriously as well.)

Do you think understanding food allergens is important in the food industry?

It’s more important for people to understand the food industry and their restrictions better rather than the food industry understanding their dietary restrictions, because we do understand them (food allergies). The problem is in the disconnect.

Key example: GMO’s. People won’t be willing to go back to eating 100% seasonal- we won’t live a European lifestyle. 90% Americans don’t understand the seasonality of fruits and veggies. They want them all the time, when they want it, right now. Demand requires we have it. People don’t understand what GMO’s do.

Can you name the top 8 food allergens in the U.S?

Peanuts, Tree nuts, milk, eggs, soy, wheat, shellfish, fin fish (yep he nailed it)

Have you ever received training on food allergies? How much of your career was spent on training for this topic?

On the job training. I had to learn it when I came to R&D- I didn’t have to know it in the restaurants other than peanuts. Pending on how allergic you are- would get sick with trace proteins- No room for error on R&D Side.

Chef Cantor sums up his thoughts on food, We need to learn how to sustain farming on a large and small scale. There is still a need for regional and local as well as National farms. We as a country need to learn how to support and sustain them. Get better control of seafood and meat supply- take government out of it and let farmer’s handle it.

Food is life, without it we cannot survive. We need food to live. Remember that when you eat, it creates livelihood for people."

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