One on One with Top Chef Alum Andrea Beaman
By Fabiana Santana
Top Chef contestant, author and host Andrea Beaman has a lot going for her. She is the host of WISE UP!, a show that allows Andrea travels across the country in search of life-enhancing activities, alternative therapies healthy lifestyles, holistic health and organic foods. And coming soon Andrea will be hosting FED UP!, a cooking show that teaches viewers how and what to cook to alleviate specific health conditions. When diagnosed with a debilitating thyroid disease, Andrea took a holistic approach to nutrition, and it changed her life. It will change yours, too!
Thyroid issues plague a lot of women. What, exactly, is your condition?
At 28 years old, I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and I had a goiter – an enlarged thyroid gland. My endocrine system was not functioning properly. The thyroid gland is part of the endocrine system so it’s all related. My hair and nails were brittle, had heart palpitations, and my periods were very painful. I had cystic acne, and a very weak immune system. I was also about 20 pounds heavier. Egads! I was a mess.
When were you diagnosed?
I was diagnosed in 1996. I was constantly suffering from sore throats and swollen glands and went to the doctor for a routine check up.
How did you come to the realization that nutrition was the cure? When I was about 23 years old, my mother was diagnosed with cancer (for the 2nd time). Her breast cancer had come back after 10 years of being in “remission.” The doctors initially removed her breast and all of her lymph nodes, radiated her and gave her chemo, and none of it truly worked. The cancer returned.
The second nd time she had cancer we went the same route again (chemo, radiation), but it wasn’t really healing anything. It was killing her slowly. So, we tried something radical. We changed her diet to a more “wholesome” whole foods diet, and saw slight improvements in her health. More color in her face, more alertness. It’s as if the whole foods we were giving her, had more “energy” and it was apparent and showing up as energy in her body. I began eating that way too (whole foods, whole grains, beans, fish, sea vegetables, vegetables, organic), and felt a change in my own body. It was a very interesting experience to feel the effect of food on my system. My mom eventually died about 1 1/2 years after her second diagnosis, but I vowed that if I were to ever get sick, I would try food first before letting the medical establishment destroy my body.
What specifically, did you do to heal it through nutrition?
I elminated sugar, coffee, highly refined foods and junk foods and no-fat, low-fat foods from my diet. Anything that was “diet” or considered a fake food or a “diet-food” was off my list. If it wasn’t “real” food, I didn’t eat it. I incorporated WHOLE foods, seasonal foods, direct from the earth, into the pot, and into my body! This included whole grains, beans, vegetables, sea vegetables, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds.
After two years of eating this way, my thyroid naturally healed without radioactive iodine, and without drugs. Today, I eat a wide variety of foods (all natural, of course) from all food categories; meat, veggies, sea veggies, beans, grains, fruits, nuts, seeds, and small amounts of dairy (not too much).
You wrote a book about it – part memoir and part how to, can it help women suffering with all kinds of thyroid trouble?
Yes, I wrote a memoir and an accompanying food guide to help people heal from many diseases, not just Thyroid disease. I believe we are being duped by the pharmaceutical companies, medical establishment and many more. Sickness is a BIG business, and I write about that in my memoir. Many industries are making big bucks off of our inability to properly care for ourselves with good food choices. It’s so crazy!
When did you know that food was your calling?
After I healed my thyroid disease, I really began to have an appreciation, gratitude and deep LOVE for food and how it affects the body. I don’t just enjoy food. I LOVE FOOD. I love eating food. I love touching food that comes out of the earth. I love cooking food. I love teaching people about food. Food is energy. When I teach my cooking classes and seminars, I feel so much love and passion in my heart. I want people to get re-connected with their source of life, with the earth, and all the elements. It’s very important to me. I guess you can say it’s my “calling.” Or more appropriately… it’s my “mother earth calling.”
What is your first food memory?
My first food memory is of my uncle Al. At one time in his life he was a short-order cook. He used to make us something on Saturday mornings called Adam and Eve on a Raft, with a Brown Cow. It was poached eggs on top of buttered toast and a tall glass of chocolate milk. It was delicious.
Favorite childhood memory of food?
I used to LOVE a big bowl of fresh strawberries with sour cream and sugar. Unfortunately, I used to eat so many that I would break out in hives! Eek!
Favorite make for yourself meal?
My favorite meals change all year round. In the fall I love squash ginger soups, and stir frys with chunks of chicken and seasonal vegetables (broccoli, leeks, carrots, onions) with garlic sauce. In the winter time I really enjoy a piping hot bowl of Beef or Lamb stew with hearty root veggies (parnsips, potatoes, carrots) and a slab or whole grain bread with butter or a Pinto Bean chili with ground turkey or buffalo. In the spring I enjoy poached eggs on whole grain toast (Adam and Eve on a raft) and lightly steamed veggies, and in the summer…. lots of fresh fruits and salads and grilled fish. Omigosh… I’m getting so hungry right now.
Do you have a ritual for when you cook for yourself, for example, Judith Jones lights candles on her table every night?
I don’t necessarily have a ritual when I cook for myself, but I am aware of getting very grounded and centered when I cook for myself. Standing in front of my cutting board, I make sure my feet are directly beneath me and I’m not leaning on one side more than the other.
And, I never really make a meal for “one.” Even though I am a single gal (a “one”), I prefer to make recipes so I’ll always have leftovers and won’t have to spend all my time in the kitchen!
What are your favorite foods and how about foods you could never learn to love?
My favorite foods vary all year. In the summertime sometimes my favorite food could be a ripe juicy peach that dribbles down my chin when I eat it. You know the kind…. when you pass by the farmers market and it’s peach season and all you smell is peaches everywhere! Right now my favorite foods are turkey and duck. I love duck and crispy duck skin. I want to know how come someone hasn’t come out with duck bacon yet? Foods I don’t like…. well I don’t enjoy raw clams and oysters. The texture doesn’t work for me. I prefer fried oysters and baked clams, or even smoked oysters…. but the raw ones, kind of make me gag.
What was the Top Chef experience like? Did you find the judges open to more nutritious cooking?
I really enjoyed my Top Chef experience. I have never worked in a professional restaurant kitchen before. It was a wild experience. I loved the adventure. It was exciting to work under pressure like that.
It also solidified for me that I do NOT want to spend my days working in the back of a restaurant kitchen. I really shine when I’m out front teaching and inspiring folks to make good food choices.
As far as the judges being open to nutritious cooking…. c’mon…. the more bacon the better.
Here are some recipes that are perfect for the fall and holiday seasons.
Check out Andrea’s website for more!
Carrot Ginger Puree
- 1 tbsp. butter
- 2 large white onion, peeled and chopped
- 5 cups chicken stock
- 2 inches ginger, peeled and chopped
- 8-10 large carrots
- Fresh parsley, sprig
On a medium high heat, saute onion in butter 3-5 minutes. Add stock, ginger and carrots. Cover and cook on medium heat for 10-12 minutes or until carrots are soft. With a slotted spoon, remove carrot, onions and ginger and puree in a food processor or blender. Add puree back to soup. Garnish with fresh parsley.
- 3 pears, cored and diced
- 1/3 cup pear nectar
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1/2 cup whole grain all purpose flour
- 1/3 cup rolled oats
- 1/3 cup maple sugar
- 1 tsp. allspice
- 1/4 tsp. sea salt
- 3-4 tbsp. butter softened
Preheat oven to 375. Place diced pears in a 9×9 casserole dish with pear nectar and lemon juice. Combine flour, oats, maple sugar, allspice and sea salt. Work softened butter into the flour mixture until it looks like crumbs. Top pear with crumb mixture. Bake 40-45 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling.
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