Chef Judson Todd Allen: Building Flavors Instead Of Fat
Once battling an addiction to food, chef Judson Todd Allen, the Architect of Flavor is now showing others a heart-healthier way to enjoy good food. He has helped celebrity clients like Jamie Foxx, Jill Scott, and is the key to mega-superstar Steve Harvey’s weight loss by being his personal chef.
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But the journey to where he is now, wasn’t always pretty.
“I grew up around food and I grew up around good food. But somewhere along that line, that love and passion for food turned into an addiction to me. I tell people it got so bad that my mother had to put a lock on the refrigerator door. Those dreams turned into me getting up at night and raiding the refrigerator. It wasn’t necessarily that I was hungry, I just wanted to eat. I was over passionate about food to my detriment.”
“I saw myself in my graduation photo in 2003 and I said, ‘Oh Lord, I’ve got to make a change,'” he remembers. “I had this degree in food science and nutrition. There was no excuse for me not to make the change.”
Making that change and losing more than 135 pounds then keeping them off did more than affect Allen’s physique. It shaped the 32-year-old chef’s career and helped him pursue his dream of working in food, entertainment and business.
In 2007, he established Healthy Infused Cuisine LLC (personal chef services, event cuisine, etc.), branded himself the Architect of Flavor, and this year launched a bottled habanero hot sauce.
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“Healthy Infused Cuisine is based on my personal mission to transform the way people think and feel about healthier food,” says Allen, who first had to retrain his own palate. “I thought anything in a brown paper bag with grease stains on it was flavor.”
As a self-taught cook, Allen’s interest in food and cooking was deeply influenced by his family.
“My grandfather’s from New Orleans — New Orleans equals flavor — and when I thought about food, there was no way I was going to survive a healthy lifestyle change without having food that was pleasing to my palate. I was able to design these foods that changed the way I thought and felt about what healthy food was.”
“Whether it was getting together for Sunday catfish and grits or getting together for grandma’sarray of desserts, it was something that we always made a family event.”
But instead of using the fat and salt he saw while growing up, he layered herbs, vegetables and fruits to build flavors. He reworked his granddad’s fried catfish into one of his most popular dishes,…
…baking catfish coated with a mix of Creole spice, Parmesan cheese (“a little because a little goes a long way and it’s pretty salty”), fresh lemon juice and zest, herbs and crushed pecans — or sunflower or sesame seeds for people who can’t eat nuts.
To change your eating habits and add flavor instead of fat, Chef Allen encourages these helpful tips:
- Add citrus such as lemons or limes. “I love working with citrus juice and zest to add freshness, acidity and a pop to most dishes.”
- Use a variety of spices to replace salt and create your own blend over time. “My secret weapon is my no salt, creole seasoning, which incorporates things like garlic powder, smoked paprika, fresh cracked pepper and dried parsley.
- To add creaminess to soups and sauces without all the added calories included in things like heavy cream and butter, roast vegetables and beans like cauliflower and chickpeas and blend them with olive oil, parmigiano reggiano cheese and garlic until smooth.