Published in the Star Tribune, June 3rd, 2017, written by CJ
Chef Marshall O’Brien was full of insights into a consumer trend that perplexes me: businesses that package ingredients for meals to be cooked at home.
Are we really that lazy? It’s almost as maddening as stores selling pre-cut apples. Unless you have a physical limitation, I don’t get it. But Chef Marshall does. “We’ve got this unsustainable lifestyle. We are overscheduled, overburdened, stressed out, chronically sleep deprived. Meals are an afterthought. … One out of four meals an American child eats is fast food. So you get meal services for which you pay a lot of money. I have made a huge focus at our home of us going to the grocery store,” said the married father of two.
“My team and I are trying to help people recognize that there’s a better way to live when you take control of your life. And that way is through smart nutrition,” said the chef behind “Smart Nutrition Solutions,’’ the name of his meal-planning website and workbook. “We direct families, our ultimate target, to ChefMarshallObrien.com to start,” he said.
There is a fee to become a member of the website “but if they buy the workbook, they get a discount. There are delicious recipes created by me and my team and we are regularly adding new ones; a personalized meal planning tool with automated shopping lists; daily nutritionals, and a growing list of nutritional wellness articles such as Chronic Inflammation, Boosting Metabolism, Healthy Fats, Getting Through the Holidays.”
Viewers of Fox 9’s “Jason Show,” already have a taste for Chef Marshall’s fare. While I shot the video interview at Chef Marshall’s studio kitchen, he demonstrated how to prepare a dish that has flummoxed me — gnocchi. The chef, who earned communications and psychology degrees before going to culinary school, also prepared a delicious side of Swiss chard and shrimp, and I helped.
Q: When did you realize, to use a Mario Batali phrase, you were gastronomically inclined?
A: My mom said the first thing I made was a potato leek soup. I remember that. She lived on James Avenue in Uptown in an attic. I was like 4 or 5. My mom said I always liked to cook. Fast forward. I always liked the instant satisfaction people got when you prepared something that tasted really good. Fast forward even more. I realized when you eat certain foods that taste great, you’ll feel a certain way and that’s a great thing. You will realize you have been feeling like crap for the last 10 years, headaches and not good sleep, stomach’s being hurting and then you realize, “I’ve been eating stuff that’s absolutely horrible.” I figured out that I was into food and the flavors of food and helping people make that connection with food at a fairly young age. I didn’t realize how I could use that to help people until I was probably in my early 20s.
Q: Who is your TV chef idol?
A: Jamie Oliver. He did it from a sensational standpoint to get TV ratings and unfortunately alienated a lot of people in the process.
Q: What can’t you cook?
A: I’m not a baker. I do bread but that’s about the only thing. I want to learn how to make Indian cuisine.
Q: Did I hear that you did improv to work through anxiety?
A: It’s cheaper than therapy, I’m telling you.
Q: What food won’t you eat after it’s frozen? I ask because I recently realized I hate frozen carrots.
A: I’m not a big fan of thawed berries. I’ll eat them. My mom exposed me to a lot of different foods. I wasn’t a picky eater then, I’m not a picky eater now. Canned vegetables I can’t stand.
Q: Everybody likes their kids, but I’m told you are uncommonly sentimental about yours.
A: You’re going to make me cry. I’m a relationship guy. For the most part, 9 out of 10 times I’m the problem when it comes to how my child deals with a situation. I’m kind of emotional. I’ve got these two passionate, emotional, strong-willed girls. What do you think happens if I get sucked into that and I start spazzing, “Come on, do it my way.” In my short 5½ years of being a dad, how I show up and think through their world, a lot of times I can defuse a situation.
C.J. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on Fox 9’s “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.