Bakersfield Food Champ: The Reason I CookFri 13 Dec 2013
Story by Kurt F. Kline
The reason I became a Food Champion is a very short story, however the reason I became a chef is much more convoluted. I did not have a Mother who wanted me by her side in the kitchen as a child. Frankly the kitchen was very small and there were ten kids in my family. And in those days, my mother considered it her role to make the meals. She fed us and took care of us but we stayed out of the kitchen… until I was twelve and my mother asked me to cook the Thanksgiving meal.
She was pregnant and near term and physically she just couldn’t do the heavy lifting required by the turkey, etc. So it fell on me to make the dinner for eight children, and my mother and father. My father never cooked. So that was the start of my cooking career. Thanksgiving dinner is a voluminous meal but it usually does not require sophisticated recipes and techniques.
Because there were so many kids, my mother cooked high carbohydrate meals, with small amounts of protein. Although we almost always had an iceberg lettuce salad, as a result of those early food habits almost all of my siblings were significantly over-weight by the time they were adults. They had heart disease, high blood pressure and most had diabetes and that included me. My father died of heart disease when he was 64, my mother when she was 82. So I had to look seriously at myself and how and what I was eating.
In 1981 my wife had an early version of weight loss surgery and when I spoke to her doctor he told me she could only eat eight bites per meal. I looked at her and told her that if she could only eat eight bites I wanted them to be great eight bites. Each bite had to provide nutritional value as well as great taste. I had to become a better cook. So for the next 25 years I cooked great small bites food dishes for her. But I wasn’t paying attention to me. In 2006 I had a heart attack and a double bypass, however I still weighed 300 pounds. So in 2008 I had a gastrectomy in order to lose the excess weight. I lost 135 pounds in a year. At the same time I was cooking as a chef in Italy and making lots of interesting Italian specialty dishes from Tuscany and Umbria. I realized that most of the dishes were primarily vegetarian and were quite nutritional as well as attractive and tasty. I began a blog, Eight Bites, about my weight loss experiences and tried to incorporate recipes and experiences to demonstrate that just because you had weight loss surgery, you did not have to be relegated to a life eating boring food. I also have a cooking website which discusses my cooking philosophy and ideas.
I wanted to take this philosophy of portion controlled eating back to the U.S. and teach kids to cook. That was my goal and for the last three years I have been focused on developing a cooking program for kids that incorporated skills development, food tasting and quantity control. Most of all I wanted the kids to enjoy the cooking experience and have fun while learning. When I saw the Big Rig at the Kern County Fair I spoke with the folks there and decided to send in my contact information and subsequently go through the training to become a local Food Champion. I really wanted to teach kids and I feel that this approach will make that possible.
About the author: Kurt F. Kline Ph.D had a 35 year career in ecological sciences and studies, including owning and running a toxicology laboratory for 18 years. Kurt has spent a significant amount of time studying nutritional physiology and brings a strong scientific capability to his cooking. Kurt has been cooking as a personal chef for over thirty years and is currently working on a cookbook focusing on the creation of great tasting foods for people who have had weight loss surgery.
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