I am a foodie and passionate about 'Healthy Eating'
I am a foodie and I have written about why and what I love about food >> Food is Love
I am also passionate about educating, encouraging the customers who come to The Bento People where I am the owner chef, to embrace a healthy eating lifestyle.
Actually All these years, I have never really been overly conscious about or diligent about 'healthy eating' but something happened in the last few months that led me to embrace and champion 'Healthy Eating'.
Let me share.
The Myth - All doctors eat healthy.
Many people think I am passionate about 'Eating Healthy' because I am a medical doctor.
It is a myth that all doctors eat healthy.
Many of my doctor friends, including myself in the past, do not consciously try very hard to 'eat healthy'. We would avoid the obviously unhealthy stuff where possible but may not necessarily be the most diligent in 'Eating Healthy'
So the reason why I now see it as my mission to educate and encourage my customers to embrace a 'healthy eating' lifestyle is not because I am a doctor.
I didn't want to only cook or champion healthy food.
When I first took on this challenge, albeit accidentally, of being the cook at The Snack Culture Company / The Bento People, I didn't want to and in fact resisted being known or 'stereotyped' as 'doctor turned chef' who churns out healthy but tasty food. I shared about this dilemma in my previous blog post 'The day Leslie (ieatishootipost) came to visit'
Friends, customers and many other people kept sticking a 'healthy' label onto my food. It was stressful. The labels I had wanted people to stick onto the food I created and cook was 'Wah!' 'Yummy!' 'Delicious!' 'Tok Kong!', and not just 'Healthy.'
But somehow, the 'healthy label' and expectations kept being slapped on me, it was frustrating, it was exasperating.
Don't get me wrong. It does not mean the that the food I cooked was 'unhealthy' , it was just that I didn't like that stereoptype or narrow perspective of my food that I create, cook and serve in my restaurant.
I kept grumbling to God, "What am I doing here as a cook? What is the purpose of my being a cook?"
Cooking and running an F&B business is not easy. The hours are long and the challenges (rental, manpower, competition) are many.
In my career, I've had many challenging 'assignments' or 'roles' and even though I wouldn't have minded an 'easier', less eventful work life, I have also never had problems dealing with hard work or challenges.
However in all my working life, I have always found it extremely difficult to work just for the purpose of work regardless of how interesting or rewarding the job may be, but I had to find and be passionate about the purpose of the work.
This I had great difficulty with during my first months of as a cook, I could not really find or be passionate about the purpose in my work as a cook. I enjoy food, I do enjoy cooking but being a cook and running an F&B business is a totally different matter altogether. I kept asking myself and asking God whether I am supposed to be a cook and running this F&B for this season of my life and and for what purpose was I doing this for.
On one hand, I felt like a child. It was like I was a child assigned to mop the floor by my father. And as I mop the floor, I grumbled to my father asking why I was being asked to do something like that. But my father kept silent, so I just continued moping the floor even as I kept mumbling and grumbling.
And on the other hand, I also felt like a father. That having birthed this child, this restaurant, however accidentally, I would do all I can to look after the child. As a father, I would do everything and anything for this child, however difficult, however painful that might be. That's just what parents do. Parents will never leave or forsake their children, no matter what. So I just ploughed on working full-time at this F&B biz I birthed, including playing the role as a cook, even as I struggled to understand the purpose of what I was doing there.
And for months, I couldn't find an answer
I had no answer and so I just ploughed on.
People kept expecting me to cook healthy food.
And during these months, friends and customers kept expecting and asking me to create new 'healthy' recipes. And during these same months, my 2 kids, especially my younger 15 year old daughter, on her own accord, began to want to embrace a 'healthy eating lifestyle' and began requesting for only unpolished grains and healthy proteins and lots of vegetables and fruits in her meals. So I had to begin to look at changing what we eat at home and creating new dishes using healthier ingredients.
I began to wonder why all these 'demands' from different people on me to create and cook 'healthy' dishes were all suddenly happening to me at the same time.
I always remembered what Leslie Tay (ieatishootipost) said to me when he first visited our outlet in January 2015,
"Tat Hon, your food is interesting and tasty, but it is not at the 'Tok Kong' level yet. The most interesting thing about this is that you are a doctor turned chef and that your food is tasty and also healthy."
I must confess that when I first heard Leslie say that, I did tell myself that I wanted to prove him wrong and show him and the rest of the world who so stereotype me that I can create and cook 'Tok Kong' (as he puts it) dishes, that I can succeed as a cook not because I am a doctor turned chef, not because my food was tasty and healthy.
I was still resisting being stereotyped as a cook who cooks healthy just because I am also a doctor. I didn't like that and I didn't want that.
I was extremely frustrated.
The day a friend's post on Facebook changed my mind
One day in April 2015, I was just browsing through my Facebook news feed when I saw a short status update from a friend now living in India. This was what she wrote:
'I prayed to God to heal my fatty liver and He said, 'Change your diet' '
What she wrote spoke to me. God does care about what we eat, what we put into our bodies that He has given us. I began to see how unique and privileged a position I am in. I am now a cook, I am also a trained medical doctor, I am now in a very unique position to be able to educate people to be aware of how diet affects the physical body that God has given us, and be able to encourage them to try a healthier diet through creating healthy and yet also tasty food for them.
And from that day onwards I began to see 'healthy eating' in a different light.
I saw purpose. I saw mission.
It didn't happen overnight, it didn't happen in a 'Eureka' moment kind of way. It was a gradual process over months, nudged along by events and conversations, that by end April I began to embrace my unique position as a doctor and also a chef to turn it for good, to turn it to be a opportunity and a platform to be a blessing to other people. I began to feel passionate about making a difference in the lives of our customers through introducing and encouraging them towards embracing a 'healthy eating' lifestyle by what I put on the menu.
I began to read up on nutrition and spoke to many people. I realised that many were confused by the many dietary info and advice (sometimes conflicting) and dietary fads that are in the vogue at any point in time. I felt strongly that I should keep it simple and aim to encourage my customers to be more conscious of the basics of healthy eating as a start - reducing sugar intake (esp. sweet beverages) , have more vegetables and fruits on their plate and changing from polished grains to whole grains.
I spent a couple of weeks creating new dishes and developing a brand new menu and concept for lunch to encourage customers to try more vegetables and whole grains dishes. And by the end of April in 2015, we launched a Make Your Own Healthy Bento lunch concept ( see >> Eat Happy. Choose Healthy) in which I would encourage customers to practise making choices on what they would put on their plate, and from that I would engage them in a conversation on how to choose healthy wherever possible .
This is just the start of the journey. There is still so much for me to learn about nutrition and diet. I am still learning and growing in this. It will be a journey of learning and discovery.
Wish me luck !
I first started serving a 'Make Your Own Bento - Eat Happy. Choose Healthy'
at The Snack Culture Company in April 2015.
I subsequent renamed the restaurant as 'The Bento People'
( >>> The Bento People )
for it in May 2015.
- Waking people up to
The Power of Lifestyle to Heal & Destroy, helping them to maintain wellness & regain lost health through informed lifestyle & food choices
>> My Lifesytyle Medicine Medical Practice
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Why & What I Blog about
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Doctor turned Accidental Chef - How it all began
The birth of The Bento People
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