Be the change you wish to see in the world...

- Gandhi

Friday, October 18, 2013

Meet CompleatChef

I  recently discovered this great new site, CompleatChef, a community of home cooks sharing their recipes and love of scratch cooking.  I recently had a chance to chat with Vicki & Paul Harte, Co-founders of CompleatChef.  Read the interview below and be sure to check them out here.  I have posted several recipes to the site too! 

VM: Tell us about CompleatChef.  Why is cooking from scratch with fresh ingredients important to you and your team?

CC: CompleatChef was born from the idea of getting people closer to their food through cooking.  In our country today it is so easy to rely on pre-made processed food, and quick meals from restaurants and grocers that microwave in minutes.  Unfortunately, we are paying for this convenience with our growing waist-lines and health problems caused in no small part by our choices of a calorie rich nutrient poor diet.  Scratch cooking more of our meals with fresh ingredients became our solution to the processed carb filled diet that is too readily available.  

We also view food as medicine, and good health really does start on the end of our fork.  Cooking with fresh ingredients from the farm is a big step on the road to better health, and this approach to food started in our own kitchen. Our family was touched by some diet related health problems, and our solution was to change the food on our plate.
Ultimately, we want to be part of the growing movement towards healthy eating, cooking more fresh, local food, and CompleatChef is utilizing social media to spread this message one recipe at a time. Our site is a free and open forum where everyone into food from farm to fork can share ideas, recipes, tips, favorites, and spread the message that cooking is easy, healthy, and ultimately cheaper than buying a pre-made processed stuff.
We also invite farmers and food producers to join CompleatChef, and share their offerings with the eating public. We feel everyone should buy some of their food from the farm or farmers' market, and what better way to know where your meal comes from than visiting the people that grow it.

VM: For those interested in cooking from scratch, what 3 things do you suggest people do now to get started?

CC: For the novice, start small with simple dishes, and experiment with flavors and spices. Cooking well takes some practice & you get to eat your work while in training. Worry about the look later, just get the taste right first. Definitely visit a local farm or farmers' market & talk to the producers.  Invest in a couple of good knives, 2 good pans & a large pot (we love All-Clads). An inexpensive option are cast iron pans. Season them well & they'll last for decades.  Another tool is a good blender like a Vitamix.  It can make smoothies, soups, & double as a food processor.  Finally, start cooking something!

VM: How did you come up with the idea for CompleatChef?  I see you have some vegetarian/vegan recipes on the site?  Do you plan to add more?

CC: Our idea was to create a community of people and organizations in food from farm to fork. A place where people can share what they cook and eat every day, along with more complex recipes, and a forum where food producers could connect with the eating public. We encourage farmers, ranchers, grocers and everyone bringing us food to share their offerings with the CompleatChef community. We have some links to zip code search tools for farmers' markets in the U.S. under our Food Feed section within “Farm to Fork”. We hope everyone supports local farmers today so they are here tomorrow.

We are not strictly vegan/vegetarian at home, but we do enjoy many vegan/veggie dishes and have some recipes from this category on the site. We do think everyone should eat more fresh fruits and veggies, and buy from local producers whenever possible. We are big fans of fruit & veggie smoothies also, and they are a favorite vegan/vegetarian meal for the CompleatChef team.

Ultimately, the goal is for members to drive content, and we welcome food and recipe ideas from all categories. CompleatChef is an open forum for everyone into food, and we encourage members to share all recipes from their kitchen. People that have food allergies & sensitivities to different foods can share their favorites family dishes with others, and hopefully help people that find themselves dealing with similar issues. Our goal is to grow the community & get people back to scratch cooking more of qhat they eat.

VM: The social aspect of cooking - bringing people together who cook to share is an important aspect of the site.  Why is this important in your mission and how do you help foster that among your community?

CC: We love to cook, entertain & share meals with friends and family, and we thought a website dedicated to similar ideas with a social/community focus was the perfect vehicle. Once people can connect virtually, we felt the next step was to have a way for them to meet in the real world and break bread together. Getting people together for a meal is such a universally human thing, and what better way to express love & friendship then cooking a shared meal.

VM: What trends do you see in scratch cooking today?  

CC: The growth in farmers' markets from 5000 in 2005 to over 8100 nationally in 2013 is a big trend. People are turning to local producers for more food and we think this trend is only going to increase. We are seeing more community gardens, and grass roots organizations popping up across the country in the slow food fresh & local movement. This is all tied into scratch cooking. Having a platform for sharing great ways to prepare all these seasonal & regional foods is where we hope to play a part in this change.

VM: Can you share a couple of your favorite scratch ingredients?

CC: Fresh tomatoes for sauce has to be one of my favorites. For my smoothies, fresh kale is the green that must be in the blender. We try to visit a farmers' market or farm stand every week, and fresh produce is a must have in any scratch cooked meal.

VM: What is your favorite vegetarian/vegan recipe on the site?

CC: I love the Farmers Market Zucchini Lasagna, but it does have 1 egg in the cheese mixture so not completely vegan. 

VM: If someone is new to CompleatChef, what would you suggest they do first?

CC: Check the Food Feed section & link to some of the articles. Join the site & add some content, kitchen tips, recipes and create a table under 'My Tables' about any topic of your choice. Finally, pick something to cook and share it!

VM: I love the "Food Feed" section of your site.  Is there a way to get those articles delivered to our inbox?

CC: We do change the articles from time to time, and we can include a link in our news letters that go to all email addresses that join the site. That is probably the best way to deliver it to our members. Everyone else will just have to come and look for themselves.

VM: I am on a quest to live the "good" life in all aspects of the word.  What does the "good" life represent/mean to you?

CC: The good life is different for everyone that is for sure, but from our perspective it is about being with our family & friends. We can't think of a better way to express that sentiment than cooking & sharing a meal with the ones we love. 

VM: Can you share your favorite quote?

CC: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi.  For us, that starts with scratch cooking.

Thanks, Paul and Vicki!  Be sure to check out CompleatChef at