It was 7:50am at the San Diego Convention center and the world class chef and innovator David Bouley was about to speak to a packed room of psychiatrists at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association.
Recently, Chef Bouley launched a “Chef and Doctors” series in his New York kitchen and garden space, Bouley Botanical. Bouley’s brain is a burst of color and science steeped in food tradition, the nouvelle cuisine that combines Japanese and French foods. Known for his flavors and creativity, it’s the power of his food to impact mental health that had psychiatrists intrigued.
Bouley looked at me (Paul Newman level blues) and ordered nicely. “Coffee with a little milk.”
Sprint walking past my colleagues, (“Hi Kelly!”) I see Starbucks is like the front of a beehive in the summer, a swarm of shrinks in search of dopamine. I consider cutting the line as I head for the 7-story tall escalators. I see coffee and I explain the situation.
“One of best chefs in the world is going to drink this, please help me, Maria.” She uncorked a fresh pump thermos of house blend. On the escalator back up, the psychiatrist in front of me swapped her running shoes for pumps as I imagined being a waiter in BouleyNYC delivering something other than the sad cardboard cup with plastic lid.
During his presentation, the chef shared stories from his family traditions and restaurants. As a film of him preparing dishes played, he wove in a rich history of traditional uses of foods along with a deep understanding of the science. The screen danced with the best foods to nourish the brain.
Leafy greens and a rainbow of vegetables. Small plates of fish and vegetables. Fermented vegetables to stimulate the gut. He implored his crew to make citrus powders and fresh vanilla bean oils, as he spun dozens of dishes into what he calls a “a living pantry”, an investment of a little time to best nourish the human frame.
As I spent the day with him, he spoke of his patrons much as physicians speak of our patients, a mix of concern and responsibility. Yet he regularly would note, he was “not a doctor, not a scientist.”
I don’t know, Chef. It’s a brave new world of health care. If everyone ate your food, we’d be a healthier, happier group. Doctors of the future will be well-versed in the microbiome (the chef headed out for two weeks with traditional fermenters in rural Japan) and lead their patients to health, not simply meet them in illness, by motivating people to eat and live with joy and appreciation, much as you do in your restaurants.
As we sat down for lunch, Chef pulled a small teapot from his backpack and made us a pot of organic Gyukuru green tea. It was surprisingly viscous, and smelled of the sea and healing. It seemed the chicken soup of green teas, and I was thankful for the elixir.
Charged up by his potion, I asked Chef Bouley to share more of his thoughts in the healing power of food and it’s importance in brain health and mental health for my BrainFood vlog on Medscape.
I’m also thrilled to let you know that I’ll be a guest at Chef Bouley’s The Chef and the Doctor Series on November 1st. I hope you can join us.