Story and photos by Kim Fuller
Welcome to the Gaiam Life food and recipe blog! We are getting our goods from our very own chefs in the Gaiam Café.
Starting next week, we will be posting at least one dish per week from the delicious and wholesome cuisine made fresh every day.
But first, we’d like to introduce our chefs …
Meet the masters of Gaiam gourmet
The sounds of chopping, mixing and sautéing can be heard from the hallway outside the Gaiam Café kitchen. It’s an early weekday morning, and Ruben Valentin and Jason Terkoski are already cooking. Our master chefs don’t use recipes; rather, they rely on their skills and intuition to create their cuisine.
Today’s menu: Peruvian. Tomorrow’s: French. Yesterday’s: Mexican.
Every day they start from scratch, guided only by a hand-drawn diagram in a spiral notebook. Music plays from a radio overhead, but the chefs are focused only on the art of the food. They each seem to dance to the sound of their knives and the beat of their blenders, working together while cooking apart.
Jason (above) knew as a child that cooking was his calling.
“I was told by my parents that everyone has a purpose,” says Jason. “I knew at a very young age that my purpose was to feed people.”
He was born in upstate New York, where he volunteered at a soup kitchen with his mother at age 10. He has worked in restaurants, colleges and markets, but says he learned most of his skills from a 71-year-old Japanese chef in New York. She also taught Jason how to make large ice carvings, which he has done for special occasions and events.
Jason started working at Gaiam in July 2008. He says that changing the cuisine every day is a challenge, but he enjoys having freedom to be creative with the menu as well as the opportunity to use high-quality ingredients — natural, organic and local whenever possible.
Ruben (above right) also landed in New York with his early cooking endeavors. After culinary school, he worked closely with Italian and Japanese cuisine at popular and acclaimed restaurants. He cooked for former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani in his private residence several times and also managed a vegan café and juice bar.
Ruben says he has a love for cooking and it’s part of his Puerto Rican culture.
“I consider this to be my gift,” says Ruben. “Seeing the enjoyment of people you serve and putting a smile on their face … that makes me get up and go to work every day.”
At the Gaiam Café, Ruben and Jason can serve anywhere between 50 to 150 people per day. Ruben says he loves hearing feedback from people and getting them to try new dishes.
“It’s rewarding to make a plate for someone and see their reaction,” says Ruben.
Cooking tips from Jason and Ruben:
- Start with five-ingredient recipes and with “one-pot wonders” to build confidence.
- Spend money buying extra food to practice cooking styles and to get new ideas.
- Season lightly because you can always add more.
- Have patience and go with your palate.