A Top Toque graduate of the Culinary Management and Culinary Arts programs at the Institute of Culinary Education, Licensed Wellness Coach, Chef Guddia Singh found her culinary voice in the health and wellness arena. With a strong background in public health and wellness, advocating a healthy and balanced lifestyle has become a mission.Chef Guddia is a chef-advocate for the American Diabetes Association and was a finalist for the Women in Culinary Leadership competition, founded by the James Beard Foundation. Past experience includes working in the test kitchen for Everyday with Rachael Ray. Currently, Chef Guddia advocates through her own culinary and wellness consulting business; teaching classes and coaching clients to adapt healthier lifestyles.
When did you first realize that you wanted to be a cook?
Going to culinary school was pretty much a second career. I decided right after I left my corporate job. I made two huge decisions at that time; I wanted to become a professional chef and I never wanted to work for anyone else again!
What have influenced your choices as a chef?
Being involved in corporate health on a global level, I started connecting the importance of self-care to the importance of knowing how to cook good food for yourself and your family. I recognized a huge void of culinary knowledge within our culture – many of my students thought if t
hey worked out, they would be able to eat anything they wanted; that’s not the case. We have made delicious meals that don’t leave you feeling guilty.
How do you teach those who have a difficult time eating healthy?
The key to healthy eating is balance and exploration. I would never ask anyone to stop eating something they love cold turkey. I always say if you love pizza, eat pizza; just don’t eat a whole pizza every night! You also have to try different things and recognize what makes your body feel good. For instance, cauliflower is a great substitute for potatoes, pasta and rice but for some people, it can cause bloating. You just have to know what works for you and what doesn’t.
What is your favorite recipe and what is your favorite ingredient to use?
Being a chef, it’s tough to pick favorites but I love salad! It is one of the rare dishes that can incorporate all your basic food groups. I like to mix it up with whatever is in season and I love getting my produce from the local farm. One of my favorite combinations includes lacinato kale, garbanzos, quinoa, cauliflower, dried cranberries and toasted walnuts. I love having pan-toasted baguette with my salads. My dressings are usually pretty simplistic – a little lemon, sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
As far as my favorite ingredient, there are many that I love using but I would have to choose garlic. Depending on how you use it, the texture and flavor completely transforms. I convert garlic into paste as a basis for sauces and dressings, confit in preparation for meat dishes, crunchy bits as a garnish on salads and caramelized as spreads and dips – the choices are endless!
How do you incorporate Sikhi in your everyday cooking?
The concept of langar, or an open kitchen, and sangat, your community, are two major pillars in Sikhism. Feeding others, self care and community care are priorities that I implement in my work. Sikhism does not discriminate based on race, religion or social class and my philosophy of reaching out to everyone resonates with that concept. I work with clients who come from a range of backgrounds and lifestyles. I think everyone is entitled to good food and knowledge.
Do you keep cooking alive as a daily joy and experience?
I do. Cooking a meal for/with my family is one of the purest joys and can be a humbling experience. Seeing my kids get excited about food makes me even happier, knowing that what they are learning now will stay with them as they grow into their own persons. My job rarely ever feels like a job and that’s how I know I’m doing what I love!