“The idea that farm to table is revolutionary is funny to me because it is something I grew up with,” says Michael Psilakis. “I remember my mom pulling up tomatoes from our garden and slicing them and serving them with sliced onions that she had chilled in ice water. She’d serve me this as a snack so I could go and cut the grass or play baseball,” he says. With an upbringing full of such offerings, it is easy to understand why Psilakis, a first generation Greek-American who was raised in Queens, New York, has distinguished himself as an early proponent of the Mediterranean diet.
“To have health and wellness,” says Marco Canora, “the best thing you can do is cook for yourself, because you control the fats and salts and you are cooking with whole foods.” These days, health and wellness are of central importance to Canora, the New York City chef who owns Hearth restaurant and five wine bars, all under the Terroir umbrella. But until a few years ago, that wasn’t the case.
At the multiple Middle Eastern eateries Einat Admony owns in lower Manhattan — the restaurant Balaboosta as well as the Taïm falafel franchise — the chef pays homage to her upbringing with remarkable care. Not only does she skillfully prepare honest renditions of the fresh and flavorful cooking she grew up eating, but Admony makes sure her dishes are nourishing too. “I treat my customers the way I treat my kids,” she says, “which means giving them good proteins, whole grains and keeping a vegetable focus.”
With her out-of-the-box approach to salads and sandwiches, all of which put seasonal vegetables to delicious use, Caroline Fidanza has earned a cult following among the food world’s cognoscenti in New York City, where she is based. At Saltie, her Brooklyn sandwich shop, wholesome creations like the Clean Slate, a sandwich where hummus, bulgur, pickled vegetables and yogurt get held between Indian naan bread, are as tempting as the sinful sandwiches, like the Balmy, which pairs chicken liver pâté with sliced ham and mayo.
“Mainly, I think about what I want to eat,” she says of her culinary process. “Sometimes that falls within the healthy category, sometimes not so much. Over the past five years, though, I’ve definitely thought more about vegetables. As I’ve moved along as a chef,” Fidanza says, “I have thought more about healthy foods.”