One conversation with Chef Kenny Minor, who once shed 80 pounds, and you might find yourself thinking on a more positive track about yourself and food.
Chef Kenny caters in New York City and travels the city giving cooking demos and teaching adults and children about healthy eating. His motto is “eat for life,” meaning “taking food as a way to connect to your true self. It’s about eating for life, eating for a better life.”
His book, “Shake Lunch Up, Eat for Now, Eat for Life” will be published this fall. In it he offers power smoothie recipes packed with protein and nutrients, as well as tips on how to experiment with smoothie flavors. Of course, you can expect your lunch to get a “shake” up.
Chef Kenny describes himself as a Southern gentleman. He traces his passion for food back to his grandmother’s kitchen that burst with soul cooking. “I saw her give her heart and her soul into cooking,” he recalled. Holidays were spent with family, friends, and his first love, music, which brought him to New York City.
Growing up Southern, Chef Kenny learned how to season food from his grandmother. He found that he could use those seasonings on healthy food and still get create great-tasting food.
Eating on the Go
But he discovered else in his grandmother’s kitchen: hospitality. Hospitality was more than just soul cooking with the foods that he knew, but also an opportunity for people to sit down at the table to share with family and connect, he said.
But we don’t always get to do that. “You know, it’s fast food and fast-paced,” he said. And the need for fast food can pose unhealthy choices in what we eat.
Chef Kenny said that we often gain empty calories during lunchtime—the typical time we often want or need our food fast. “It tends to be heavily salted,” he said.
Chef Kenny recommends fixing your own lunch at home and taking it with you.
Greek yogurt or a banana can be grabbed quickly and a simple edamame salad and a little stir-fry can be cooked in abundance. Fixing and packing your own lunch saves you money as well, he said. Evenings are a great time to pack next day’s lunch.
Protein smoothies take two minutes to make and can travel with you in a thermo. “Healthy food needs to be convenient,” he said.
He recommends creating your own flavor profile, adding cinnamon or other flavors to spice smoothies up. “You never have to take a plain strawberry smoothie or a chocolate shake the same way,” according to Chef Kenny.
Today I Choose to…
Chef Kenny’s website, ChefKenny.com, features a blog where in one of his entries titled “Today I Choose Me—Affirmations for Life!” he wrote a list of affirmations that he choose for himself.
He said that he once heard a guy talk about what we think to ourselves when we say, “I am.”
“Today I choose to…” he wrote, “Give time, attention, and energy to my life goals” and “Practice and participate in positive thinking.” It’s on the same wavelength with his motto of eating for life.
Food was a direct correlation between himself and his goals. “When I was heavier I kind of stayed in the same job even believing that I wasn’t even worthy on some levels of fulfilling my dreams,” Chef Kenny said.
But as the weight came off he started to shed the idea of what his future could look like, he recalled. If you went back in time and told him that today he would be a chef being interviewed, he said he would have laughed at you.
At the time he was in a nine to five. “I figured that was what I was going to do,” he said.
He came to New York City in 2005 to pursue a career in music after he studied classical voice and piano on a vocal scholarship at the University of the District of Columbia.
Chef Kenny still loves singing; it’s his first love that apparently won’t let him go. “The funny thing is each opportunity I’ve had [as a chef],” people always have him sing.
As a professional singer he sang as background for Patti LaBelle. Michael Bolton was his first gig and he’s sang backup for numerous other singers, but New York laid out a different path for him.
“Somehow moving to New York City and being here with all these great restaurants and food I think…it’s my passion. It really is my passion,” he said.
Being positive, he said, takes work. “You really have to practice at it everyday and make a commitment to it and surround yourself with positive things,” according to Chef Kenny.
Intention Lists to Help Others
To date, he’s studied under chefs at the Art Institute of New York and Chef Daniel “Chino” Parilla of Five9th restaurant in NYC. He’s appeared on the Food Network series “Chopped” and morning news shows. In addition to his catering, personal chef services, restaurant consulting, and food styling, Chef Kenny also has an underlying passion to help others. It’s on his weekly intention list.
“I kind of do a checklist throughout the week about how I reach those goals. I give my time and energy to that list, time and energy to my community, and give my time and energy to being a better person,” Chef Kenny said.
Frequently giving demos to children at YMCA’s and elsewhere throughout NYC, he also started the Eat for Now, Eat for Life Project that helps teach people from low-income communities the importance of eating healthy.
“Working with children, if we can get them young, we have an opportunity to really kind of teach them the way,” he said. “Especially in low-income families or what they call here in New York, food deserts,” he said.
Food deserts are areas where resident’s access to affordable, healthy food options like fruits and vegetables is limited.
While Chef Kenny teaches adults as well. “If adults don’t know how to cook healthy they can’t teach their kids too,” he said, adding that one’s income level is not the indicator of why we choose unhealthy foods.
“Some people just don’t have the time. We tend to cook exactly what we have been eating,” Chef Kenny said.
When he performs an in home cooking session he’ll talk with you about what you are buying and how that contributes to your health and your overall well-being.
One bit of advice that he always gives is that you don’t have to stop eating the food you already know, but you do have to add fruits and vegetables to your meal.
“If you like fried chicken you don’t have to stop eating fried chicken. You can eat the fried chicken but add a healthy grain salad to it,” he said. And only eat fried food one to two times a week.
He recommends foods that are roasted, steamed, boiled, or poached. By using other cooking methods as a way to incorporate healthy cooking you almost “ensure yourself of eating for life,” he said.
Berry-Hazelnut Power Smoothie
- 1 1/3 cups Vanilla Almond or 1 percent milk
- 2 tablespoons Nutella hazelnut spread
- 1 /2 cup fresh mixed berries (frozen is OK)
- 2 scoops Vanilla protein powder
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 8 ice cubs
Directions: Place all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.