Whether you call it “Stone Age,” “Primal,” or “Paleo,” there’s a dietary plan that says everything you need is what was readily available in nature—before the discovery of grains, dairy, and legumes. At Manhattan’s Paleo-inspired Hu Kitchen, owner Jordan Brown calls it “getting back to human.” We talked to him about his old, old school diet…with a twist.
Q. Isn’t the Paleo diet very meat-heavy?
A. A common misconception is that anybody who decides to go grain-, dairy-, legume- free spends their days eating raw organ meat and foraging wild mushrooms. I am all for that lifestyle—it is perfectly healthy given the removal of all toxins, et cetera. Nonetheless, there is no one “human diet.” Depending on geographic location, prehistoric humans were eating an array of things.
Q. Not everything on Hu’s menu was in the Stone Age person’s diet. What are some of the tweaks you’ve made, and why?
A. At Hu, we cater to all ways of eating that get us back to human—a more natural way of eating. We’re big proponents of Michael Pollan’s maxim, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” We do serve very limited grains, such as brown rice and amaranth, but you will never find gluten in any of our food. Our goal is to change the way modern humans eat; maximizing high-quality vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, animal protein and fat from animals fed their natural diet.
Q. We’re guessing that real-life hunting and gathering isn’t part of your repertoire. Where do you “forage”?
A. Our chefs take trips to local markets and are always on the lookout for new sources of the highest possible quality. Our ingredients change daily, because high-quality food isn’t reliably available in the same kind of way that mass produced food is. That said, we also source from some big suppliers because they have fantastic products that are consistent with our ideals.
Q. A lot of health “fad” diets are anti-fat. How do Paleolithic cooking techniques differ?
A. We totally reject the focus on avoiding fats. In our opinion, it is the onslaught of whole and refined grains, sugars, poor quality dairy and animal protein, and laboratory fats that are the true problem. At Hu, we love good fats. We cook with olive oil, organic coconut oil, and also use grass-fed butter in a few baked goods. The key is to make sure that the animals we eat also ate [as nature intended].
Q. When did you go Paleo?
A. I randomly stumbled upon The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson. I did three weeks of dietary self-experimentation based on its principles, and that was that. My skin started glowing, my energy levels reached new heights, I exercised less with better results, and my mood was great.
Q. For someone who’s brand new to Paleo, which dishes would you recommend?
A. Cauliflower purée, our take on mashed potatoes. “Mashbar,” our take on a sundae/yogurt bar. The only dairy is a bit of grass-fed butter in the cookies. We mix fruits, nuts, seeds, non-dairy puddings and creams, and no refined sugars. Almond-Crusted Chicken Tenders, our take on the classic, fried delicacies. These are roasted. No grains or gluten, of course. And muffins, made with coconut flour. Compare that to a grain-based muffin that will have you craving another one an hour later.
Q. Why do you believe omnivores need this diet, especially in this day and age?
A. At Hu, our main goal is to take the anxiety out of eating well. Now that we have unlocked the ability to manufacture foods rich in sugar and refined-grains, we have essentially become children who have found the bottomless cookie jar. The results are becoming quite obvious: premature aging, obesity, diabetes, and myriad other lifestyle diseases. “Get back to human” is really about getting back to a pre-neurotic relationship with our food. We think we are on our way to achieving that.
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