Chef Cordell McGary is the superhero America needs in an age of increasing obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. The philanthropic Chicago native established his food service company Eating Well With Chef Cordell (www.chefcordell.com) nearly five years ago and has made it his mission to educate people about the importance of healthy eating. After moving to Charlotte in April, McGary has taught cooking classes at the Annex (3128 The Plaza), doing demonstrations at Earth Fare in Ballantyne and expanding his personal chef catering business. He believes nutritious foods can be creatively combined for flavorful results. Case in point: his upcoming cooking class "The Wonderful World of Chocolate," where he plans to feature a chocolate-flavored flank steak.
Creative Loafing: That chocolate steak sounds oddly delicious. Can you tell me about the dish and what else you have planned for upcoming cooking classes?
Cordell McGary: The chocolate flavored steak I've done a couple times. I add seasonings to it as well as cocoa powder. I sear it and slow cook it and cover it with a chocolate sauce. When people hear about it, they usually think it sounds interesting because they've never thought to put steak and chocolate together. But the flavors go well together. In the "Asian Sensations" class (Aug. 31), we will feature the flavors of Asia, with a focus on India in particular. For the "Magic of the Mediterranean" food and wine event (Sept. 21), I'll choose food from the countries that border the Mediterranean, like Greece. I'm a big fan of lamb, so a signature dish of mine would be leg of lamb, a vegetable and risotto.
Why did you start your company, Eating Well with Chef Cordell?
It came from growing up in Chicago. We were privy to lots of different types of foods. None of it was necessarily healthy, though, especially in the neighborhood that I grew up in. There weren't a lot of grocery store options, only one or two main grocery stores. I grew up close to other neighborhoods that had nothing, so they were relegated specifically to what was in their neighborhoods, which was nothing fresh. With my company's mission, which is to raise education and the awareness of healthy eating, it's more about being able to go to some of these urban neighborhoods around the country; those areas that don't have fresh produce within a five-mile radius. That's really prevalent across the country in poor neighborhoods. My overall mission is to go to these particular places and set up urban gardens where we can teach the people how to farm, how to maintain their land and produce their own food to sustain their neighborhood. I really want people to understand that it is possible. In whatever economic situation you're in, it is very possible to eat healthy and afford it.
What are your plans for the future?
I'll be finishing up the summer classes and food and wine tastings soon. I'll be doing some chef demonstrations at public schools on healthy eating. We will be doing more traveling, chef demos and public speaking in regards to healthy eating. Everyone needs to know how to go about eating well and living well. When you look at a lot of TV cooking shows, they're more for the art. They aren't for people to actually learn how to be better. A lot of people can't go [and] actually do what the chefs demonstrate, but they like to watch it. When you're told you need to work on your diet, people don't know where to start. I'm doing my best to make sure I can help people know, at least, where to start.
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