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Now We're Cooking

Now We’re Cooking: Chef Judson

Healthy eating is all about discipline, desire and education and Chef Judson has managed to turn the lifestyle into a full-fledged business! The Chicago native is a nationally recognized food expert,TV personality,mentor and entrepreneur who successfully incorporates Creole influence into his mission  “to design powerhouse flavors that change the way people think and feel about healthier foods.”

Since 2007, this self-taught and Le Cordon Bleu-educated chef has accomplished  a wealth of accolades: created a top-notch premium cuisine company Healthy Infused Cuisine, LLC; became a finalist on Season 8 of “The Next Food Network Star;” and, in 2013, introduced his All Purpose and All Natural CHEF BLEND Hot Sauce to the masses.

Gearing up for his first annual CHEF BLEND Weekend 2015 – Chicago, the ‘Architect of Flavor®’ took time to chat with JET about losing more than 100 pounds, conquering reality television, cooking for Steve Harvey and his picks for healthy soulful food meals to start the year off right!

Advocate for eating healthy and soulfully:

Judson Todd Allen: What began as a yearning to give myself a second chance at life turned into a personal weight loss journey!  Keeping it real, I was addicted to food ever since I was a kid.  I’m not talking about the fruits and veggies but unhealthy foods.    My struggle with obesity resulted in me weighing over 350 lbs by the end of college.   It was at that moment where I finally saw myself for what I really was and knew change had to happen.  So I embarked on a healthy lifestyle journey and over an eleven year period, I have maintained a 160+ lbs weight loss.  How did I do it?  I literally transformed the way I thought and felt about healthier foods using flavor! As the “Architect of Flavor”® , food scientist and chef, I advocate for healthy eating and committed to dispelling the myth that “good for you foods” are lifeless and bland.  I enlighten people on how simple, yet bold flavors, such as citrus zest, roasted poblano peppers, garlic, fresh herbs and white wine pair perfectly with salmon or Chilean sea bass, all adding elements of flavor that take a dish from ordinary to extraordinary!

Conquering weight issues and reality television:

JTA: I was that guy that struggled with weight over 70% of my life, so I was definitely overly conscious about how I looked, more specifically, how I was viewed on camera.  In reality TV,  your personal space is invaded and most people that get involved know that, so ultimately it’s difficult to worry so much.  Looking at this question from a different vantage point, I entered into the Food Network Star Season 8 competition not really knowing what was ahead; however, what I always kept in mind was “there is nothing these people can throw at me that I can’t do.”  I overcame some difficult situations in my life, one being my weight struggles, so I was pretty confident; not arrogant by any stretch of the imagination, but solid on what I had to offer.

Cooking for The Steve Harvey Show:

JTA: Cooking for Steve Harvey and members of his staff was different and quite rewarding. I was working with Steve more intimately as his personal chef and helped change how he perceived healthy dishes. I introduced a cutting edge element to healthy dishes, which ultimately helped him achieve a weight loss of over 30 lbs.   Steve is very disciplined when it comes to healthy eating and is open to trying new culinary creations which was always exciting! I did also work with some members of his executive team.  Everyone’s palate was completely different which challenged me to be creative with more of the traditional,  staple dishes; however the commonality among everyone was they all enjoyed great tasty dishes! Currently I provide more healthy eating and meal preparation consulting for Steve Harvey, on an as-needed basis.

Meals that reign supreme in 2015:

JTA: A colossal pot of seafood, sauce and chicken gumbo is the ultimate New Years Day feast!! From decadent seafood like prawns and crab to seasoned pulled chicken and, of course the “super star” andouille sausage, this dish is literally the best of all worlds. Give me a bowl of this celebrated New Orleans fare, in tandem with white rice and a toasted baguette with creamed roasted garlic smeared on top, and I am in a state of euphoria! 

Credit: Chef Judson

Credit: Chef Judson

Must-have pantry staples:

 JTA: The pantry must-haves : my signature Chef Blend Hot Sauce that is low sodium, all natural and less hot more flavor, fresh garlic and herbs like thyme, chives and parsley.  Because these are fresh items, they don’t last forever so definitely use them as much as possible. Also, I believe that citrus is that quintessential ingredient that truly brightens a dish and adds another level of flavor complexity; think lemons, limes and oranges.  Other ingredients to have on hand are a great bottle of white or red wine, quality olive oil, sea salt, fresh cracked black pepper, cajun spice, balsamic vinegar, dried fruits and nuts and a robust piece of parmigiano reggiano cheese. And remember with cheese- a little bit can go a long way!

Special Projects for 2015:

JTA: My Chef Blend Hot Sauce has been so well received that I established an annual national event as a nod to the product.  CHEF BLEND Weekend 2015 – Chicago, which is our first market, is designed to celebrate the inspiration of flavor, highlighting local, sustainable, healthy and organic, food and beverage experience and those chefs, restaurants and purveyors that deliver this culinary point of view. Proceeds from CBW 2015 – Chicago will directly go toward those organizations and programs committed to eradicating childhood obesity and prevention, encouraging healthy lifestyle. Financial and hands-on support will be targeted toward families in low-income communities and food deserts. We believe that if we can change the mindset and buying habits of communities and families then we can successfully eliminate childhood obesity.

For more information to purchase passes to the chef’s event, visit  www.ChefBlendWeekend2015.com and don’t forget to follow Chef Judson on Instagram, FB and Twitter @ JudsonToddAllen

About Tyrus Townsend

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Cultural expositor Tyrus Rochell Townsend has written for Essence, Uptown, Vibe, BET.com, The Atlanta Post, Bleu Magazine,  Details Style Network and numerous other publications. Read about his style musings at The Gentleman’s Daily and follow him on Twitter @gentlemansdaily and on Instagram at @tyrusrochelltownsend and @thegentlemansdaily.