This March we are celebrating National Nutrition Month® by exploring the cultural eating traditions of the Mediterranean. Hear how some of our top chefs got to where they are today and what they think about the Mediterranean lifestyle.
How did you get your start in the culinary world?
My love for food and the kitchen was nurtured by my mother’s home cooking. She was an excellent cook and unafraid to try new cuisines and ingredients. My first professional experience was washing dishes in a restaurant and banquet house. Oh the never ending piles of dirty plates! I was fascinated watching the restaurant cooks work and soon found myself spending every spare moment during my shift assisting with basic food prep. One thing led to another and two years later I enrolled at The Culinary Institute of America, which was where my passion and interest in food really took off.
Where do you find inspiration for cooking?
My inspiration can come from anywhere but of course there is nothing like just getting out there and trying whatever new foods and flavors I can find. Beyond that, I read many trade publications and food magazines, attend trade shows, and get to work with our amazing Culinart Chefs each day. Our superb team and each of its members contribute brilliant ideas and approaches to cooking, and this is a source of great inspiration for me as both a professional and home chef. They are always developing new recipes that reflect modern trends, like plant-based and meatless proteins for the center of the plate that our customers keep coming back for!
How do you think a Mediterranean cuisine fits into a healthy eating style?
The foods grown and eaten in the Mediterranean have natural health benefits and also taste amazing in recipes that make it easy for everyone to enjoy this cuisine. A healthy dose of fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains make outstanding recipes that entertain and provide a tasty, healthy, well-balanced meal.
Do you have any practical tips for beginners in the kitchen?
- Use a spray bottle for oils in the kitchen. You will use less oil, reduce waste and then you can spend for the better Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Shop around the outside of grocery store. Purchase less processed foods. This means that you will spend more time in the kitchen honing your skills and really enjoying whole foods.
- Use a smaller plate at the table and remove the distractions- spend time talking and enjoying your food
What is your favorite Mediterranean dish and why?
Greek salad! In the summer when all the vegetables are in season, you add tomatoes, onions, cucumbers , Kalamata olives, bell peppers, fresh oregano, creamy greek feta extra virgin olive oil, and splash of red wine vinegar- perfect bliss!
Bio: Jared Becker joined Culinart Group as the inaugural Vice President of Culinary in 2019, bringing with him over 25 years of experience in the foodservice industry. Becker has held several roles within Compass Group since 2007, most recently as a Regional Executive Chef for the northeast division of Chartwells K12, where he oversaw food purchasing, culinary direction and programs, menu development for more than 120 school districts and provided exciting and healthy foods to more than 30 million meals yearly. Previously, Becker worked in Compass’ healthcare division, Morrison Healthcare, in various marketing, retail, and operations roles. Becker is a proud graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, completed his BS degree at SUNY Empire, and earned his MBA from Fitchburg State University in 2019. He is a member of the American Culinary Federation, the Association of Food and Nutrition Professionals, and holds both CDM and CFPP certifications.