January 28th, 2011
06:15 PM ET
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Chefs with Issues is a platform for chefs we love, fired up for causes about which they're passionate.

Back in December, Chef Michael Symon sent out what he thought was an innocuous Tweet, reminding his over 20 thousand followers to eschew the center aisles and do their holiday food shopping at the perimeter of the grocery store. Little did he know that he'd be called an "elitist" - and much worse - for his trouble.

We invited the Iron Chef to sit down and expound on his wishes for clean, healthy food for all, the importance of cooking with family and why his grandfather just flat-out rocks.

michael symon twitter

Previously - 5@5 with Michael Symon

soundoff (88 Responses)
  1. JudyN

    Symon is right. It's not elitist to cook food from scratch like our parents and grandparents did, instead of opening up a cardboard box or a few cans. Frozen and canned vegetables aren't always cheaper, they can actually more expensive. You buy one can of carrots and there's maybe 2 or 3 carrots cut up inside. You can buy a bag of 12 organic carrots, (yes, organic, that dreaded elitist word that means your food isn't grown with poison) for $1.

    You can buy a whole chicken, get a few meals out of it and make your own stock from the carcass and freeze it. Throw it in 8 cups of water w/an onion, some carrots and herbs, let it simmer for a few hours and voila. I haven't bought stock or broth in years. That saves money.

    I'm not what anyone would call wealthy but I shop local farmers markets, The West Side Market and the big box, Giant Eagle. I grow my own veggies & herbs as a member of a community garden in the summer and freeze them for winter. There are many many ways to eat healthy and save money.

    If there is a sale on a veggie or cut of meat, I buy extra and freeze it. We don't buy veggies that are out of season because they're expensive. We cook on the weekend so we have meals during the week when we're busy.

    Eating well isn't only for the wealthy, that's a cop out. It takes some extra work, some time away from the TV and video games but it isn't elitist at all.

    February 4, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  2. Farhibide

    There's nothing elitist about wanting to eat good food. Bragging about it and talking down to others because they don't do the same...THAT'S elitist.

    February 1, 2011 at 8:47 am |
    • JudyN

      He didn't "brag" or talk down to anyone...all he said was stay away from the center aisles i.e. make fresh food. He was attacked for making a recommendation which is absurd.

      February 4, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  3. Jim

    Palin went after Michelle Obama for the same thing (recommending healthy food choices)... and her minions followed her.

    February 1, 2011 at 4:00 am |
  4. Really America

    I'm amazed at how people can attack someone for encouraging healthy choices. I mean really he had the best intent. Maybe he could have said it differently, but people would still be mad.

    If you get that upset about what he said then maybe you are feeling guilty about your own practices!

    February 1, 2011 at 3:00 am |
  5. Susan

    Only in this day and age would someone be considered "elitist" for recommending people actually buy and cook fresh foods. How dare he? /sarcasm

    My husband and I have been hit just as hard by the economy as other people and it actually changed our way of eating for the better. Buying the junk is actually more expensive than planning a meal yourself. I can make a pot of Pasta Fagioli for around $5.00 and it's a filling, healthy meal. The other day I made a huge pot of split pea soup the other day and it cost about $5.00 to make that too. It really doesn't take much to get creative. A crock pot is a huge time saver and great investment as well. I stretch a buck by using cheaper cuts of meat, using what's on sale or splitting more expensive cuts to stretch them across 2 or 3 meals. One of my son's favorites is a turkey chili that I make in the crock pot. I put it together in the morning and it's ready by the time he gets out of school. It's loaded with beans, carrots, peppers, zucchini, onions...very comforting and the turkey is extra lean so it's very healthy. It can be done if you really want to do it, you just have to apply yourself. One whole chicken can be made into at least 2 meals if you do it right. Don't get me wrong, I know there are plenty of people working more than one job to make it and they don't have a lot of time to do this stuff, but this is where getting kids involved helps, too. My son is learning how to cook by helping me and it's a great way to spend time with your family.

    In a nut shell, if you cook in large quantities and eat leftovers, use a crock pot, cook with veggies that are healthy and cheap and plan ahead, you can eat well on a lower income.

    February 1, 2011 at 2:32 am |
  6. Student

    SpedTeacher stated it perfectly. It's not what he said but how he said it. We ALL sacrifice some things to buy groceries, though how much each one of us sacrifices is different.

    I agree we should all try to buy fresh ingredients, but during an age when many people eat only through the drive-thru, we shouldn't patronize those who buy canned or frozen vegetables. Yes, raw is ideal, but if it's between seeing kids with a prepackaged fruit cup or seeing them buy chips in the vending machine at school, the canned fruit isn't so bad. Think of it less as settling and more as a move in the right direction, with the end goal as everyone eating fresh, local and seasonal.

    January 31, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
  7. Mattmchugh

    Kind of off-topic, but why is being "elitist" such a bad thing?

    January 31, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
  8. jason

    Stop making excuses. I haven't been able to find work since I graduated 4 years ago. My brother and I live just fine off his 10.08 an hour wages. I pay 66$ each paycheck to have dinner for two weeks. I always buy the highest quality food and make everything from scratch. Its so weird how I can create such amazing high quality dinners for two each night with some leftovers, yet other people can't. 10.08 isn't anything special to make per hour and we survive only eating the best of the best. People must just be horribly stupid with their money management.

    It is nobodies fault but your own if you have problems eating healthy. I have done it for years now. Its cheaper to make your own meals and if you don't think so then you are doing something wrong. IT IS YOU THAT IS THE PROBLEM.

    January 31, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
  9. ieat

    Isn't fresh food cheaper than prepared food? You can get veggies EVEN cheaper through CSA. Actually my grocery bill has gone down significantly since I started my CSA box. It's more work to wash, chop, cook veggies everything and I have to get creative with beet greens and winter squash, but it sure is a lot healthier and affordable than canned or prepared meals.

    January 31, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
  10. Sidd

    Eating well isn't elitist; assuming that others don't only as a function of sloth or ignorance certainly is.

    January 31, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
  11. 4U Mister

    Eating healthy can sometimes be cheaper, too, but if it is not mainstream, it can be bad for the self esteem. As a youngster I remember breakfasts of rosehip tea, a hard boiled egg, and toasted roman meal bread. Only told the kids at school about that breakie once, still remember the teasing. I have a coworker whos kids were raised vegan and they were teased too. Oh well, at least it's good for you. And maybe those high-sugar breakies turn you into a bully. Who knows.

    January 31, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
  12. SpedTeacher

    Sometimes its not what you say, but how you say it.

    My husband and I are both public school teachers with children and a mortgage. We manage to eat very healthfully, with a lot of fresh and organic produce, whole grains, and antibiotic/hormone free meat.

    That being said, Michael Symon came off as very arrogant in this piece. He seemed like this martyr who sacrificed soooo much for the well-being of himself and his family. That kind of attitude is actually going to be counterproductive. Instead of being inspiring, he came across as holier-than-thou. There's a way to reach people without putting yourself on a pedestal.

    January 31, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
  13. lindsct

    I would say it is not elitist to feed your own family health food but do not belittle those who can not afford to shop in the organic, locally grown section of the grocery store. There are families in this country that had a can of spaghetti O’s purchased at Wal-Mart for dinner because that was all they could afford.

    January 31, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • Eric

      That's a false dichotomy. There aren't only two choices here, and I think Symon (in the video) and most of the commenters here have been very clear about that. You don't have to shop local/organic to cook from raw. Symon didn't say "don't buy food from stores that sell motor oil." He said "don't buy food from the part of the store that also sells motor oil" as a cute way to say don't be processed stuff that tends to be kept in the center of the store. You can still buy raw fruits, vegetables and meat at Wal Mart and it's worlds better for you than anything that comes out of a can or box, and in most cases if you shop right it will be as cheap or cheaper than the processed stuff.

      Buying raw and cooking is generally more of an investment of time than it is for money. For people that can afford it, yes I think buying from local purveyors is preferable, but if you can't it's still pretty easy to cook on a budget without relying on overly processed foods.

      January 31, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
      • lindsct

        While I agree that fresh fruit and veggies are preferable to canned; it is not exactly ground breaking information. I do not agree that it is always cheaper to buy fresh produce over processed foods.
        Spaghetti O’s = $1.29, Shopping this weekend at my local grocery in Connecticut I could not even buy a head of lettuce for $1.29. My point is that there is real poverty in this country and lecturing the public about eating fresh fruit and veggies is downright patronizing.

        January 31, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
      • ieat

        you're not doing it right then. Buy what is in season. They're usually cheaper. A lot of people ignore green veggie like kale and chard. They are very filling and very nutritious. Now you should be looking at winter squash, not lettuce.

        January 31, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
      • lindsct

        I'm grocery shopping wrong... seriously? It is that exact condescending attitude that makes people feel like healthy food is elitist. Not to mention the squash I bought this weekend, believe or not I do buy lots of fresh produce, was $.98 but hardly constitutes a full meal. In fact, the can of Spaghetti O's offered a wider range of nutritional value buy including calcium, fiber, protein, and 20% daily vegetables.
        I recognize that I am simply nit picking with the Spaghetti O's but my point is still the same: not everyone has the luxury of affording fresh vegetables. For a brief period of time after college I was a very poorly paid summer intern in NYC. Everyday I ate lunch from the free Costco size bin of pretzels that my coworker would bring into to share with the office. Would I have loved to going on a veggie shopping spree? Sure! But, it was either pretzels or not paying my rent. Fortunately I now have an excellent job and can purchase what ever I please but I will not judge those who have to pick up a pack of mac 'n cheese for a meal.
        Both you and Chef Symon can get off your high horse and leave the rest of us to enjoy our Spaghetti O's in peace.

        January 31, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
  14. T3chsupport

    That's not elitist in the least. I would hope it would be common sense, but so many people have been fed this bull crap that raw vegetables are inherently more expensive than processed junk. Hell, I've made very delicious, large, healthy, and impressive to look at meals for a family of 4 adults without breaking $12, and nothing coming out of a can or a box (besides the butter and oil of course). (easy example – a Cornish game hen [freezer section, don't know if you want to count it] costs about $2, and feeds 2 people – $4, about $3 for enough zucchini, $1 or < onion, roasted red potatoes @ about $3 a bag – all done in about an hour)

    Another problem is that people have gotten it into their mind that eating healthy = buying organic = expensive. You don't have to buy organic to eat healthy. Even the most EEEEVil Monsanto carrot is healthier than a can of processed ones (the origins of which you have no idea!).

    Yes, it's possible. It's even affordable. It can be intimidating at first, because you might not know what you're doing with these raw things. It's a learning process. Yes, squeezing squashes takes a little bit more time in the store than simply throwing a bag or a box of something into your cart. Still a better time waster than watching Glee.

    It's funny that people might consider this elitist. People usually start throwing around that word when they're afraid that they don't have a chance at being/having 'good enough'... something. So because they feel bad that they can't (or don't feel they can) do something, they try to make the people who do it feel bad about that, like it's those 'elitists' who are 'oppressing' them or something. I'm closer to 'ghetto fabulous' than I ever have been to 'elite', but I believe in real food, sooo... kiss my ring, plebeians! I can cook a potato 5 different ways! This makes me elite, and I shall put my little finger up as I eat snails and slimy things I can't pronounce!

    January 31, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • Dvac85

      Hahaha oh that comment just made my day. :) "kiss my ring, plebeians!" Couldn't agree more. Let them eat Betty Crocker!

      February 3, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
  15. Tiffini S.

    Everyone here has great points – pro and con. But let me add one more kicker: When you grew up in the 70's and 80's, the child of a power Mom who relied heavily on processed food to feed her family efficiently, you honestly just come to like that kind of food. I'm doing OK trying the whole foods approach, but sometimes I just want good, honest food, and that may come out of a box or a can.

    January 31, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • hfeatherz

      "...sometimes I just want good, honest food, and that may come out of a box or a can."

      How ironic is it that people now see boxed and can foods as "good, honest food" instead of home-cooked meals made from scratch?

      January 31, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
  16. Jim

    I can feed my family of four a main course sized portion of linguine with lobster and asparagus in a non-fat lobster "cream " sauce (use evaporated nonfat milk) for about $6.00 more than feeding us all at McDonalds (two Happy Meals & two adult meals). It comes down to having the time, knowledge and the willpower to do make a home cooked meal. Thanks Chef Symon.

    January 31, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
  17. jorge

    The good thing about this country is that you can choose to eat or live any way you please without being thrown in a gulag. If you want to eat healthy and exercise your head off, it's fine as long as your not an inane idiot with an undying need to lord it over everybody else By the same token, you can be a gluttonous, shiftless slob if you wish to, as long as you don't sour-grapes trash-talk others for being healthier and better-looking than you.

    January 31, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
  18. vel

    claiming someone is "elitist" is a way for people to excuse their actions and their own personal willful ignorance. They can remain fat and lazy as long as they can point to people who aren't and denigrate their efforts. Shall we call medical doctors "elitist" for daring to get a good education so they can help people? How about calling pregnant women "elitist" for not smoking and drinking?

    January 31, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
  19. paulbmro

    Did you see the best movies of 2010?? Here you can find: moviesfan.eu/related-top-list/93-best-movies-of-2010

    January 31, 2011 at 11:52 am |
  20. Healthyfoodlover

    His advice was not elitist. As plently of other people mentioned, this is a common recommendation made by many in the health industry. The processed junk in the middle sections is not cheaper and it is sometimes more expensive. I don't make a ton of money and for many years I didn't have a car and eating healthy is still cheap and easy. Really do you think a box of processed cereal at $4 is a better value than a bag of oatmeal or oatbran at $2. Let's see one you get 6 serving with the other you get 30 servings with. Once is packed with sugar and artifical flavorings while the other is completely natural and packed with fiber. Or what about processed frozen meals...how much do they cost or how many serving do you get? And really how unhealthy are those for you?! What about buying dried lentils in bulk where in reality that costs you a few cents per servings and is packed with proterin, fiber and is natural! I belong to a CSA program thats costs $20 and is way more than a weeks worth of veggies and fruits and i don't need a car or to pay for gas. It really is annoying when people say eating healthy is too expensive when reality that is a lie and I think they are just to lazy to find inexpensive healthy options or are using it as an excuse becuase they like junk and its easier to put something in a microwave then cook a decent meal.

    January 31, 2011 at 11:41 am |
  21. Alyson

    Believe me, it is very possible to eat healthfully on a budget! Boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs, an onion, a couple cloves of garlic, some carrots or broccoli, chicken stock, rice and spices – you can make so many different things from these staples. I can feed myself for 4 days on leftovers from one night's cooking and I usually spend no more than $20 at the grocery store each time. The spices are probably the only big expense.

    It IS possible to eat healthy and still be frugal if you prioritize well – if I, as a 25 year old graduate student with an extremely small income, can do it, then nearly anybody can.

    January 31, 2011 at 11:38 am |
  22. mark in nyc

    not elitist, just simply unaffordable

    January 31, 2011 at 11:14 am |
  23. Grondahl

    Elitism isn't pointing out that Evil lurks in the center aisles; it would be calling the people who shop in said center aisles Evil. This is the land of the overly-sensitive, however, and being indirectly called out on anything is grounds for serious Twitter-related backlash.

    People don't like to be reminded of the sacrifice inherent in doing most worthwhile things. This guy gave up TV for good food for him and his family. It's not a direct commentary on everybody, but doesn't it make you feel a little silly for budgeting X number of dollars on Taco Bell every month?

    January 31, 2011 at 10:56 am |
    • Well Read


      You're assuming that people in America actually make a budget. I work in banking and can tell you that not only do most people not have a budget, they can't even balance their checkbook. Education is the key. Americans are simply disregarding the little bit they were taught in school. Most people can't figure out the price per ounce of a product without the label in the store telling them. So, if we can explain to people the real cost savings they can obtain by trading their time in front of a TV to spending that time in the kitchen, maybe this country may eat healthier.

      January 31, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
  24. Jennifer I

    I heartedly agree with Marc - people need to relearn some skills that have been lost. For instance, a whole chicken fryer can be purchased BOGO once a month at my grocery, or they go on sale .79 a pound. I freeze them. I dethaw the day before, then put into my crock pot on low. I come home, make a few sides. Then, I can eat off that bird for my family of four the rest of the week. Chicken pot pie, chicken soup...etc. You can make so many meals from beans and rice.

    But I have some resources to learn all these skills. I have access to and read numerous food blogs. I can get to a computer. I have learned how to research and to not fear the unknown.

    Having the food accessible in a local market is not the only step. Education is another.

    January 31, 2011 at 10:54 am |
    • Amanda

      We go through a lot of whole chickens at my home. Now, I am only feeding two of us (the kitties get the good stuff inside) but when you also figure in the chicken stock I make from the bones, that also stretches it out a bit.
      When I first started living with my husband, we were very poor and were restricted to sometimes eating once a day. Those whole chickens really came in handy. I think people can also benefit from preparing their meals ahead of time. I work full-time (so does he) and I also go to school at night. Sundays are a huge make-ahead day for us. I see nothing wrong with taking the time and spending a few extra bucks on what you put into your body.

      January 31, 2011 at 11:44 am |
  25. intelliwoman

    Right. Like I'm going to travel 10 miles in my car to pay $8 for a bunch of broccoli for one meal when that same $8 at a supermarket can feed 4 people for 3 days. get real. And FYI this "organic" stuff is mostly BS

    January 31, 2011 at 10:11 am |
    • Seriously

      Unfortunately you are far from intelligent and have clearly never eaten broccolli. It's pretty cheap. I can get a giant bag of it at costco and eat it every day with my fiance for at least a week. Processed food is expensive considering how nutrient-lacking it is and it's chocked full of sodium, which will kill you.

      January 31, 2011 at 11:08 am |
  26. Amy

    It's not elitist, no. But only the elite can afford it. My family eats rice and ramen noodles just to survive!

    January 31, 2011 at 10:10 am |
    • Paula

      Not true. I'm a single mom raising 2 teenage boys with big appetites, and I'm not "elite" nor do I make a fortune. Planned menus and meals, sale shopping at the grocery store (not organics, just regular foods) and NO JUNK. No ramen noodles. Plain pasta is cheaper and a couple of dollars more adds some tomatoes, seasonings and ground beef to make a nice home-made pasta. Look for store brands, sales and simple home cooking – it's less expensive than you think!

      January 31, 2011 at 10:50 am |
    • John

      Eating healthy doesn't cost more, in fact it can actually be cheaper! Yes it can take a bit more time but as someone else said if you get a crock-pot then you are set!

      January 31, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
  27. Dee

    Yeah, stop eating processed junk. End of story.

    January 31, 2011 at 9:55 am |
  28. Rick McDaniel

    Not elitist......just more expensive.

    January 31, 2011 at 9:43 am |
  29. Cheryl

    Thank you, Chef Michael, for a gentle reminder of where the most healthful food is. This country–with the upswing of diabetes, heart disease, cancers, etc–really does need a reminder of what is healthy and what real food tastes like. I'm sorry you got such a backlash, but I really encourage people to think about the small-scale farmers and ranchers who work hard to produce good products...quite unlike the mega-feedlots and over-fertilized, chemical fields that produce most of America's food. We really do need to become educated about where our food comes from and how it is processed (time to start Googling, folks!). I think the consumer outrage would become pretty significant!

    January 31, 2011 at 12:19 am |
  30. Amanda

    It's all about priorities and BRAVO to Micheal Symon. I'm really not a fan of his on the Food Network. I don't really get his personality but everything he said is true. People seem to think that the food you eat has nothing to do with your health and wellness. It's crazy. Americans are obsessed with cheap food. Well, guess what? Cheap food isn't even worth the couple bucks it costs you. How about we spend a little more up front on healthful meals and save a TON on the back end because we'll have fewer prescriptions, doctor's visits and medical procedures. But it seems like everyone is caught up in the instant gratification of food. I'm certainly guilt of it as well, but my family and I are taking steps to improve our health and our community by buying fresh and local as much as we possibly can.

    My family gets by on just my husband's income while I stay home with our son. Our budget is tight. We eat out no more than once a month, we ditched the land line and TV, and have basic cell phones. But we spend the extra money to get a weekly CSA of locally grown, organic vegetables and free range eggs. We also receive a monthly beef CSA. I know that isn't an option for everyone but you have to prioritize what is important to you. If having a smartphone is more important that the fuel you give your body, that's your call. But don't fault people who feel that food is one of THE most important things you can spend your money on. And Michael Symon is right on the money.

    January 30, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
  31. Anna

    I like Michael because it's remarkable to me that someone from NE Ohio actually succeeded in life. However, this does come across as kinda condescending. Not everyone lives in the city and has the option of giving up a car or even going to farmer's markets. I live about 45 min from the city and work until at least 7 pm every day. If we even had such markets near me, they would be closed by the time I get off work. I have the option to shop at Giant Eagle or Wal-mart. Then, when my boyfriend gets home from work at midnight or 1 am (he works 2nd shift with tons of OT) I make dinner for both of us. Do you really suppose I have the energy to cook a gourmet meal at midnight when I have to get up and go back to work in the morning? And between our two paychecks we barely scrape by with our living expenses, which include gas and car maintence because we both have long commutes to work. It's called living in the boonies and obviously Symon has never done it.

    January 30, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • Marc

      Anna:: Get a slow cooker. You can make homemade meals as soon as you get home, and then relax while it cooks until your boyfriend gets home. Super easy, way cheap, and much much healthier.

      January 30, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
    • a little surprised

      "it's remarkable to me that someone from NE Ohio actually succeeded in life" Excuse me? I can point out SEVERAL people that I personally know that are successful. We all grew up in Trumbull County. The fact that you do not consider yourself successful is quite telling. I agree with the other comment. Get yourself a crock pot. There's also a cookbook called a "crock pot cookbook". I've cooked in my crock pot using frozen meat before. In the future, it would be wise to NOT call each and every one of us that has grown up in NE Ohio an idiot. We may just take that a little personally. Especially those of us with college degrees; and others of us that make >200k/year. K?

      January 31, 2011 at 10:11 am |
      • Anna

        I didn't mean any offense, and BTW I also have a college degree. I am a proud graduate of Kent State University. Unfortunately, this area is so economically destroyed that I have been unable to get a job in my field. I ended up working at a call center in a position that requires only a GED. No one will hire me in my field because I don't have years of experience. Oh, and with my very small hourly wage I get to pay on tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. I'm glad you've managed to find successful employment but I think you are probably in the minority. I know only one person who is truly successful here. I also know tons of people who are unemployed or working at low-paying jobs that they are overqualified for (just like me) and also hold college degrees. So excuse me if I see success as very hard to come by in this area.

        And I do own a slow cooker which I use quite a bit, but when I get down to my last handful of change before payday it's mac and cheese time. I suppose I should just default on my student loans?

        January 31, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • Mary

      If you're finding that the lack of time and energy to cook a meal when you get home from work is a problem, might I suggest cooking all of your meals during the weekend, then refrigerate/freeze them for the rest of the week?

      January 31, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • a little surprised

      I know how economically depressed the area is. I've been there and seen it first hand. We've moved... the jobs simply aren't in that area. Sometimes, it takes leaving an area to be successful at what you want to be successful at. That's what both my spouse and I had to do.

      January 31, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
  32. dave

    Symon is an elitist douchebag. It's one sided and pathetic to only show his side of the story. Typical CNN bullshit.

    January 30, 2011 at 10:42 am |
    • Marc

      So, what is so elitist about wanting people to cook real food, Dave?

      January 30, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
    • Peter

      yes he must clearly be an elitist so keep shoveling the overpriced frozen factory food down your fat lazy gullet and die!!

      January 31, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
  33. Cole

    I don't have an issue with what the chef said. If I were to present an argument, for the sake of it, it would be on what is and isn't perceived as being "healthy."

    Eating healthy comes down to (only) 2 factors:
    1. You get all the essential nutrients in their proper amounts
    2. You're active enough to balance your calories

    After that, it really doesn't matter. Some supplement issues aside, it doesn't matter where you get the essential nutrients from. It could be from fresh foods or it could be from processed. As long as you're getting them, you're set. After that, as long as you don't over-consume, you're set. Everything else is minor, a special case, or an outright lie.

    January 30, 2011 at 6:26 am |
    • Marc

      The real problem is that Americans are losing the ability to cook real food. Cooking meals out of whole ingredients is much cheaper and does not have to be difficult. For someone like Anna to denegrate real cooking as "gourmet meals" just goes to show how low we've come. Throw some pieces of chicken, a few chunks of potato, some carrots and some rosemary into the oven, sit on the sofa and relax. Rotate stuff during commercial breaks. Fourty minutes later you have a roast chicken and veggies. If you want to take an extra 5 minutes, you can turn the pan drippings into gravy with some flour and water. The whole meal will cost under $5, will be healthy, and anyone can do it. But someone has to teach people to cook.

      January 30, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
      • Marc

        Oops. Posted this in reply to teh wrong person. Sorry about that!

        January 30, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
      • M.N.

        I could not have said it better myself. For any number of reasons (or excuses, if you prefer), not enough people have the most basic of cooking skills. They are intimidated by raw ingredients and therefore turn to the vast array of pre-packaged convenience foods that are available in the dreaded center aisles of the grocery store. It is actually cheaper to buy basic ingredients and cook them yourself than to rely on lots of canned and packaged goods. It takes planning, but I think it's worthwhile in the long run. The biggest problem is convincing people that it's really not as hard as they think it is.

        January 31, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
  34. himalayan salt lamp

    healthy food can be purchased at any grocery store, even Wally World.

    January 30, 2011 at 2:34 am |
  35. llillia

    What I think is most interesting about this article are the comments. The conversations are passionate, yet remain respectful, well thought arguments. There's no trolling, rolling the eyes, silly or irrelevant posts. It's serious. So if the case is that eating well is not for the elite, can it made that it *is* for the educated?

    January 29, 2011 at 11:28 pm |
  36. Jacks

    Amaditalks, this problem is clearly the consumer' fault. Consumers run everything in our country. If people don't buy a product, it is removed or changed to fit what the customer wants. Case and point, it's not McDonald's fault when kids get fat from parents allowing them to eat Happy Meals every day.
    My main point, we as consumers get to choose what kinds of food go into our bodies. If we can eat healthy, high quality food and support our "little guys" locally by buying food from them, why in the world wouldn't we?

    January 29, 2011 at 12:24 am |
    • Amaditalks

      We absolutely should buy the best things we can buy. But the reality is that for many Americans the best food we can buy IS the food at the store that also sells motor oil and golfballs, a store which routinely advertises on the shows that the chef stars in. The reality for a lot of people, lack of ability (i.e. disabilities) or time or access to kitchen tools and appliances means that if it isn't microwaveable or pre-made, made by the companies that routine advertise on the shows that the chef stars in, then they're not eating at all, or they *are* going to be stopping at McDonalds.

      At a time when record numbers of Americans are reliant upon food stamps, proclamations about not buying canned vegetables and shopping at thrift stores as an austerity measure (as if these people aren't shopping at thrift stores out of necessity already) came across as entirely out of touch, condescending and self-righteous.

      If Michael Symon wants people to have access to better food, then he might try working on initiatives to change American agricultural subsidy policy like his fellow Iron Chef Mario Batali and chefs Tom Colicchio and Rick Bayliss. They're all working hard to get American tax dollars out of the hands of Monsanto and ADM and into programs like WIC and the federal school lunch program.

      And if Michael Symon wants people to eat better, then he needs to stop making money by cooking high-fat, high-sodium foods on Food Network programming that provides an advertising platform for Monsanto, ConAgra, PepsiCo and everyone's favorite food makers/tobacco peddlers, Kraft-Altria, oh, and also, yes, McDonalds. But then, if Michael Symon weren't on Food Network, dishing up hamburgers topped with bacon, cheese and fried eggs (which he just did not 30 seconds ago as I type this) he wouldn't have a platform from which to be preaching at people on Twitter at all. And his true priorities are fairly clear.

      January 29, 2011 at 11:48 am |
      • SpiceHound

        While it's a complicated problem the biggest issue is people simply not choosing better food. I run a farmers market in the Cleveland area's biggest food desert, East Cleveland. There are several programs that people with low incomes can take advantage of to help afford these better choices including a five dollar incentive for anyone who uses their EBT card at the market. Since we are open three days a week, in season, this meant an extra $60-$70 dollars a month to those who shopped the market regularly. Surprisingly few people took advantage of this. WIC offers $15 dollar coupon books to it's recipient to use at the markets. They have only 3000 of these books for 36,000 eligible people yet almost 1000 went undistributed due to a lack of interest this last season. Better food is available and affordable. People need to be constantly reminded of this and that's exactly what Chef Symon was doing.

        January 29, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
      • Theresa

        Amaditalks: You`re obviously very passionate and a critical thinker...what other avenues do you use to put your words into action? Your time would be better spent campaigning for better food for all rather than wasting hundreds of well-written words on what was really just a lighthearted, if somewhat glib, tweet from a TV personality. If you're already working for change, than I say THANKS.

        The kids at our small local school (Canadian west coast) have a year-round garden from which they eat lunch regularly. It was funded by government grants and local donations. Six of the mothers found the time to organize and fund raise for this amazing creation that has been alive and growing for 4 years. It can be done!

        February 2, 2011 at 1:53 am |
  37. Joe Blow

    Chef Symon might not be my favorite but he's hit the nail on the head here. Shopping the outside ailes of the grocery store isn't elitist, it's looking after the well being of your family/guests. He's 1000% right, all the crap is in the center, stay away.

    January 28, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
    • Veganman

      I agree completely.

      January 31, 2011 at 10:40 am |
    • Charlotte

      Indeed, there is nothing "elitist" about feeding one's family healthy food. It's a very smart thing to do, so many of the determinedly undereducated who seem to hate everyone who exhibits signs of intelligence, will claim that doing ANYTHING smart is 'elitist' in an effort to feel better about their own stupid choices. But no, it is not elitist. Only a negligent parent would strive to not feed healthy food to his/her family.

      January 31, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
      • Joe

        Amen to that sister. Seems like a big portion of this country tries pretty damn hard to be as stupid as they can possibly be. If there is a good argument for why people shouldn't eat healthy but consume junk food all the time instead I'd like to hear it. Because that means reality doesn't work anymore.

        January 31, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
      • John

        Gotta agree with Joe. I'm astonished at the willfull ignorance I encounter so often in pop culture: the food choices, lifestyle preferences, educational priorities, entertainment types, etc. It sometimes seems as if some demonic genie is casting a 'dumbocracy' spell over the US.

        January 31, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
  38. Amaditalks

    Rather one sided to show only Symon's side of this twitversation, isn't it? How about a little context, showing what Symon was replying to, specific questions about how his "I gave up TV" etc. "answers" corresponded to someone who was reliant upon food stamps or other meager entitlements to feed their family, those who live in food deserts (like many in the urban core of his beloved Cleveland), or do NOT have an accessible green market in their city (especially in winter) and who are working so many hours that they simply don't have time or energy to prioritize making sure that their tomatoes are locally grown and their chicken thighs (bought in a frozen package of 2 at the dollar store because that's what they can afford) are free-range.

    It takes a special kind of insular thinking to say to someone doing the best they can with every day "I gave up my car" as a "solution" to buying affordable food - which they clearly should not buy at Walmart (see the jibe about motor oil and golfballs) Super Target, Meijer, even if those are the best values for their food budget. I'd love for the chef to explain how someone who works 8 – 5 every day gets to the green market across town (if it exists at all) that closes at 4 and buys enough produce for a family with three or four kids if they don't have a car. Easy answer: they don't.

    In his glib responses on Twitter and in this self-serving puff piece, the chef nicely places blame and responsibility for the sorry state of food in America on consumers. How about going after the sources of those low quality "center aisle" foods, how about taking on ConAgra and Monsanto, taking on the "corn sugar" lobby, taking on WalMart - the country's largest grocer who puts the loss leaders on those center aisles while maintaining rather non-competitive prices on fresh produce and meat? They're all far more responsible for how food gets from the field to the American plate than any random consumers. But wait, he can't, because ConAgra and WalMart and the food industry are the people paying the bills for the television programs that keep the chef, whose restaurant empire has faltered in recent years, famous, well-paid and able to afford the very best food money can buy while preaching about the horrors of canned vegetables which may be the best that many, including the person he gasped at in the above screenshot, can afford.

    January 28, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
    • kelseyincleveland

      Do you live in Cleveland?

      Speaking as someone who lives and eats in Cleveland, I know for a fact that there is a plethora of options for affordable whole meats, produce, and dairy. Do I eat 100% local? No. But that isn't what Michael Symon is advocating. He is advocating using whole ingredients and as much local, seasonal produce as possible. Trust me, that is possible on a budget on public transit in Cleveland – the West Side Market, several fairly affordable CSAs with myriad convenient pick up points, Marc's (locally owned, at least), neighborhood butchers, etc.

      Don't knock a city unless you live in it. Sure, it might be difficult or expensive to eat "green" 100% of the time – but Symon isn't saying that's the starting point. It's the goal. The starting point is eating whole foods you find on the perimeter of whatever grocery store you shop at as much as possible. And if you think that's bad advice, well, I just don't know what to tell you.

      January 29, 2011 at 1:15 am |
      • RichardHead

        I had to have my Plethora removed after eating in Cleveland.

        January 29, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • Daniel

      How about you stop bashing someone who suggesting that we shop and eat from the perimeters of the grocery store?? That's something that thousands of people say all the time and various fitness professionals, doctors, nutritionists and chefs have said around the world. Why bash Symon? Did he say, "Go for broke. Stop buying pop tarts and buy the organic free range chicken." NO. He didn't. Calm down. Clearly, you're one of those people who are out to attack well known people by "doing your research" on what's out there and then spewing this kind of nonsense on the internet. Just trying to get recognized and start a fight. How was his first tweet so offensive to you? That's what I don't get. Get a life. What you say here does not shine a positive light on your cause. In trying to defend yourself and further bash someone, you've only made yourself appear more ignorant.

      January 30, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
    • SensibleAmerican

      Actually, it is the consumer's fault. Do you think the millions of dollars that are spent by big corporations on market research, consumer surveys and focus groups are just for grins? They sell us what they believe we're most likely to buy. That's how they make money. Consumers direct the market by indicating to companies what products they're most likely to purchase. Example, why don't we get clean turbodiesel economy cars here, even though they're cleaner and perform better & more efficiently than many hybrids & e85 vehicles? Partly because they're slightly more expensive to manufacture than our existing econoboxes, but primarily because *focus groups* show that consumers are not as interested in these vehicles here in the US. In short, according to consumers, fewer people would buy them. And because of that, it's not worth it for companies to manufacture them.

      January 31, 2011 at 9:33 am |
    • Bella

      Your response is typical American mentality. No personal responsibility. Eating healthy can be done, people from all walks of life do it. People in every economic circumstance do it You are just as likely to find wealthy people feeding Cocoa Puffs to their kids for breakfast. Food choices have to do with just that, choice. People need to quit blaming others for their owe poor choices...and not just about food. If you choose to eat junk, fine. Just don't blame others because their choices are different than yours. I worked as a cashier all through college. I saw what people bought with food stamps. 90% bought junk. Tons of soda, chips, processed food, etc. 10% actually ate better than me. Believe it or not, you can buy some damn good meat for what you pay for three 24 packs of soda. It's all choice.

      January 31, 2011 at 10:52 am |
      • Jimmy

        You obviously have never endured the plight of the impoverished. When one can buy part of a meal of vegetables for the same price as a few cans (meals) of Spaghetti-Os, one who is impoverished does not have the option of health. A starving child is worse than a malnourished one, and sadly these are the choices of those parents who don't have enough to go around. What makes these statements "elitist" is because it is assuming that what one has done is the same as what everyone else can do without considering their circumstances.

        January 31, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
      • Turtle

        Jimmy – the local dollar store in the food desert right next to my low class urban apartment sells those spaghettios for $1 a can, cheapest in the area. For the same price, I can get 3fresh or frozen veggies, rice or noodles, and 1 dozen eggs, some cheese, sauce or sauce packets/spices, or a cheap meat item.

        While neither of these options is ideal, I'm pretty sure the second option is significantly healthier than the cans and would provide a much more substantive meal for the same price.

        January 31, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
      • Pariah

        Jimmy - there was a point where I was on food stamps and literally scraping together change for things, and my son and I never once ate canned anything. Frozen veggies (of course fresh is ideal but frozen is better than canned), fruit, small portions of lean proteins, whole grain products and beans are all healthy and they were affordable to me when I was unemployed and had next to nothing except food stamps. I agree with Bella that it is all about choice - if you're determined to figure out a way to put healthy food on the table for your family, you WILL be able to do it. It is about priorities.

        February 1, 2011 at 8:39 am |
    • Sean

      Ummm, the chef is saying buy fresh stuff and cook it. That it's actually fun and stuff. This very, very drawn out snarky little (not) response is stupid.
      Probably the reason the guy who works 9-5 and can't get to the greenmarket or buy from the perimeter of a store is, quite frankly, because he weighs 300 friggin' pounds on a good day. His family not far behind.
      It literally takes 30 prep minutes to make an apple pie that will last a few days or chicken stew, etc etc. (and the house smalls awesome for days)
      Gosh, numbnuts like this one above who wrote this post are mind numbingly annoying. Sorry for the insults, dude, but YOU sir are insulting. Gotta throw a little back at ya! sheesh.

      January 31, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
      • Sean

        Oh yeah, one more. Buy organic when you can. There's poison (actual poison) in the "all natural" stuff and non-organic. Small kids don't really need a daily dose of pesticide residue in their food. Just sayin'.

        January 31, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • matt c

      If you believe in Capatalism, and I do, then you don't blame the suppliers. Suppliers will always answer demand and attempt to create more through marketing. The only way to shift what people eat is by convincing them that it is worth it to spend an extra 12$ a month on groceries. I'd like to see how many people who are calling him elitest eat out for lunch instead of brown bagging it. That would save them enough to shop better.

      January 31, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
      • Jim


        February 1, 2011 at 3:59 am |
      • PrimalOne

        If you believe in Capitalism? I don't think there's a question that Capitalism exists. Those who understand how it works would know that the relationship between suppliers and consumers is a two way street. Suppliers do what they can to influence demand through advertising and they are very good at what they do. To say they are not at least as culpable as the consumer is foolish. Humans are not all perfectly rational beings as supposed in economics 101. This is a childish view that people support because it reinforces their own amoral notions about human behavior.

        February 1, 2011 at 9:08 am |
    • T3chsupport

      There's not going to be any sort of effective 'going after' any of the big guys. It's been tried. They've got the money, and the lawyers, therefore they have the law, and you're not doing much by... what would you try to do? Make them stop genetically modifying things? Stop patenting? Stop existing? All highly unlikely.

      What IS possible,, and what is doable and being done, is voting with your dollars. It might not have any effect whatsoever on the Monsanto types, but it does have an effect on the person you're buying from. Buying from people who share your values tells them that their value is worth having. It gives them the ability to produce the same again, and hopefully, if enough people share those values and purchase from them, they'll be able to share them with even more people. When you buy something, you're voting for who you want to buy from, and where you want that money to go. Do you want your money going to someone who has a small farm, and is selling to pay their bills, or do you want it to be another penny in some out-of-touch corporate guy's million dollar bonus? What's elitist about that?

      January 31, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
      • PrimalOne

        Because 'voting with your dollars' is inherently undemocratic. Those who have more dollars have more votes. It's no surprise that those who have more dollars tend to favor this approach.

        February 1, 2011 at 9:01 am |
    • Jim

      The joy of being American is that we can do whatever we want, for the most part, as long as we don't harm others. That means we can eat really bad foods, enjoy poor nutrition, poor hygene, and the poor health that comes with it. Eating right, and encouraging others to do so, isn't elitist any more than McDonalds is red neck. Eating poorly spans the social and economic spectrum, so does eating healthy. But, poor people get less food education, and often less choice in their foods. Hey, kids don't usually get fat on fresh string beans, I'm just sayin....

      February 1, 2011 at 3:58 am |
  39. JBJingles

    Geez, I hate it that I can't see the video! Love you Chef Symon!

    January 28, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
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