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King of the Kitchen

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King of the Kitchen

Our company kitchen is probably much like yours. It's the heart of our corporate house. Recipes are tried out and sampled by hungry staff. Meals are prepared for special events.

Our company kitchen is probably much like yours. It’s the heart of our corporate house. Recipes are tried out and sampled by hungry staff. Meals are prepared for special events. Impromptu meetings are often held around the stove. The kitchen is a busy place! It should be. Because food is important, nutritionally-emotionally and socially.

Our message is that whole foods–unrefined, unprocessed and often uncooked–are the basis of health. That’s why we call our recipe section "the whole foods kitchen." The king of that kitchen, (along with our food editor queen, Christel Gursche), is chef and food stylist Fred Edrissi. His first book, The Pasta Book, is part of the alive Natural Health Guides series of Healthy Recipes published by alive Books.

Fred says he learned about whole foods quite unconsciously in his family kitchen in Abadan, Iran. He was one of nine family members who sat around a loaded dining table twice a day.

In Iran, he says, family life is important. Everyone is home for lunch as well as dinner. In his home every meal was a feast: vegetables, fruit, cheese, fresh salads, whole leaf herbs to aid digestion and freshly baked sourdough tortillas. Yogurt and kefir were served with every meal. Rice was the staple grain and used in many ethnic dishes. Cardamom, cumin and turmeric were the popular spices. Salad Shiraze was served at every meal and consisted of cucumber, onion, tomato, mint leaf and lime juice. Garlic was lavishly used. So was olive oil.

"We grew everything ourselves," Fred explains. "What we could not grow we bought locally. Everything is grown in Iran, from Romaine lettuce to olives."

Unrefined foods and organic agriculture were a normal part of life in Abadan and mothers routinely presided over the kitchens and were responsible for the health and well-being of their families. Doctors were rarely consulted.

The Making of a Chef

Fred loved his mother’s kitchen. At first because he was always hungry and looking for food. Then he became interested in how the dishes were put together, what herbs were used and what made them taste so good.

When Fred left home for Germany to study computer technology, he naturally gravitated to the aromatic aroma of kitchens and worked in a three-star Italian restaurant at night. He was still hungry–and even more hungry to learn!

"I copied everything the cooks did," he says now. "I learned their techniques: what went with what. What would happen, for instance, if I cooked sweet potatoes with horseradish?"

After long hours with computers during the day Fred looked forward to the restaurant at night.

"Munich is a mecca for Italian cooking," he explains. "I learned how to make and cook pasta. The right way to make a sauce. It’s a lot of work, but the rewards are worth it!"

He was launched on his career as a chef and worked in several countries, usually in gourmet restaurants. His passion, however, is Mediterranean food because it offers so many healthy possibilities. When he went to Italy finally it was to absorb the culture–and test his Italian touch. It was authentic!

"My strength is in pasta and Tuscany cooking," he says with a firm nod. "Pasta, antipasto, vegetables, fruit, fish, light desserts. Contemporary cuisine."

The Canadian Chapter

He was fascinated by what he heard about Canada: the space, the freedom, the weather, the winter sports (he loves the cold!). In 1984 he visited Toronto for five weeks to find out for himself.

"It was all true. I saw Ontario, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia–and fell in love with all of it. I said, ‘One day I will move here’."

He finally emigrated with his wife Sabine in 1997.

"I’m now living happily ever after!"

He came to our whole foods kitchen by one of those serendipitous events that often guide our lives. Sabine got a position as assistant to book publisher Siegfried Gursche and Siegfried was busy putting together one of his best-selling titles, The Raw Gourmet, by Nomi Shannon. He needed a food stylist. Sabine just happened to have one at home!

"That book took a long time," he says. "Especially as I was working at a well-known Italian Restaurant in Vancouver during the day. And attaining alive Books’ high standards was challenging. The ingredients had to be fresh, whole, organic–and tasty."

But he succeeded.

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