Featuring: Chef Chad Sarno


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Whether you’re new to plant-based cooking or looking to elevate your current cooking methods, we're filling the next two episodes of the Plant-Strong Podcast with great kitchen tips and techniques that, in our opinion, every cook should know! 

Cooking plant-based can be intimidating for some, but Chef Chad Sarno keeps it simple, practical and delicious for all taste buds. From meal prep planning and key plant-strong ingredients to practical kitchen utensils and tools, Chad dishes on his favorites that will help you kick up your own kitchen skills. 

Interested in taking your plant-based kitchen to the next level? Enroll in Rouxbe, the world's leading online culinary school with over 530,000 students across the globe. 

Learn More and Enroll in Rouxbe 


Support for this week's episode comes from Nutramilk - the easiest and fastest way to make your own plant milk at home!  Enjoy a $50 discount and free shipping with code PLANTSTRONG.

Seeking a solution for making the plant-strong lifestyle convenient and inspiring?  The Plant-Strong Meal Planner offers 1000s of recipes customized to your preferences, an integrated shopping list and grocery delivery!  Our Engine 2 Coaches are on hand to offer support and answer any questions - all for $1.90 a week when you sign up for a year.  Visit our Plant-Strong Meal Planner today!

Chef Chad Sarno

Chef Chad Sarno

Chad Sarno is the co-founder of Wicked Healthy, a thriving, mission-driven online community that focuses on culinary education, consulting, innovation, training, and product development for manufacturers, retailers, and food service outlets.

Chad is also the co-founder and VP of Culinary for the plant-based seafood company, Good Catch Foods which offers a line of ‘seafood without sacrifice’, now available in stores.

Chad formally held the position of VP of Plant-Based Education at Rouxbe Online Culinary School, the world’s largest online culinary school, and launched the first accredited plant-based culinary courses online.

Internationally, Chad has launched a boutique plant-based restaurant brand throughout Europe in Istanbul, London, and Munich, and has consulted on restaurant launches globally. Chad’s mission of health inspired plant-based eating and education has reached all corners of the globe.

Chad joined the global team at Whole Foods Market as the company’s Global RnD Chef and culinary media spokesperson for the Whole Foods healthy eating program.

Chad’s celebrated recipes have also allowed him to publish, together with his brother Derek, The Wicked Healthy Cookbook (released May 2018), and the Whole Foods Cookbook (released October 2018). He has served as contributing author to more than 10 health-related books, including New York Times bestselling cookbook The Conscious Cook, and to co-author the bestseller Crazy Sexy Kitchen with Kris Carr. Over the years, he has been a guest on dozens of morning shows and food-focused programs on national and international television and radio. Chad has been featured and quoted in numerous media outlets ranging from CNN, NBC, Bloomberg, The New York Times, and The Guardian, and has been a contributing author to publications such as VegNews, Men’s Health, Self, Shape, and Prevention magazines.

Chad calls the US home, and, when he is not spreading his mission of cooking and eating more plants, can be found in his garden with his two amazing kids, his wife, and a variety of woodland creatures.

Wicked Healthy Food Website

Good Catch Foods Website

Transcript of Episode 13: Chad Sarno, Part 1

Rip Esselstyn: On the heels of last week's Plant Strong Podcast, I want to share with you a very personal story that really has to do with getting outside our comfort zones and for a short while, putting aside the Sunday morning pancake breakfast. I've been swimming my whole life. In fact, I can't go more than a couple of days without getting in the pool. And I started swimming when I was probably, let's see, seven or eight years old. I started getting fairly good in high school and I got good enough to where I was offered an athletic scholarship to the University of Texas at Austin where I went to school from 1982 to 1986.

Rip Esselstyn: I was a three-time all American. I went to the Olympic trials in 1984 and after graduating from University of Texas, I decided to immediately start a career as a professional triathlete. I did that for 10 years and then I continued to compete at a world-class level in triathlons for almost another seven years as a firefighter until my mid-40s. I became, really, one of the premier open water swimmers in the sport and have never stopped. And since I stepped down from doing triathlons, I joined a master swim program that I swim at at least five mornings a week.

Rip Esselstyn: And what happened is about six weeks ago, one of the guys, he challenged me to get the world record in the men's 200 meter backstroke age 55 to 59 age group. And he said, “Rip, there's a swim meet here in Austin in two weeks. I think you should go and I think you should try and get it.” And so, he planted the seed and I would wake up in the morning and I'd be thinking about that record and I'd go to bed at night and I'd be thinking about that record, and in swim practice as I started doing a little bit more backstroke. I went to the meet and I missed the record by 1.9 seconds, and I realized that I had not given the record the respect that it deserved.

Rip Esselstyn: But the good news is I realized that I wasn't that efficient in the water. I got tired on the last 50 meters pretty badly and if I wanted to get this record I had to train in a 50 meter pool. The pool that I've been training in for my Masters Swim Program is a 25 yard pool and in order to get a world record it has to be set in a 50 meter pool. It's the same distance that the Olympics are swimming, where Michael Phelps won all of his Olympic gold medals. And so I found a pool in Austin that is 50 meters and for two weeks I trained. I went to eight different morning workouts and trained in this 50 meter pool to really develop a much longer more efficient backstroke.

Rip Esselstyn: And I did a lot more race pace, interval work and I did a lot more backstroke. I found a meet that was in Texas… in Houston, Texas. It was just this last Sunday and I ended up driving there with my son and we spent the night. We woke up, I put on my game face and decided that, “You know what, it's now or never. Tomorrow you're going on a two week vacation and if you don't get it today, it's not going to happen in 2019.” I went out, the gun went off and I felt good going out but also relaxed. I was out slower than I wanted.

Rip Esselstyn: I was out in a 111.4 and I wanted to be out in a 108 or 109 but I brought it back like nobody's business. I brought it back in a 110.3. I negative split it and I broke the world record by one second. And I felt so relieved and so happy and so psyched because I had put this big, scary, intimidating goal out there in front of me and I was able to conquer it. And my advice to you is put something out there in front of you. And if you want to share it with a couple people for accountability reasons and whether you win, whether you lose, whether you draw, you will not regret it and will make your life that much more rich and fulfilling. Thanks so much for listening to my story. Keep it real. Peace. Engine-Two, Plant Strong.

Rip Esselstyn: Support for today's episode is brought to you by the NutraMilk. I know that kitchen counter space is prime real estate and in order for an appliance to make the cut in any house, it has to be super useful not just a dust collector that rarely gets plugged in or hides away in a cupboard. I can share that since adding the NutraMilk to our kitchen, we have taken an immense amount of joy in making and creating our own oat milk from scratch. I love plant-based milks but our family had a serious oat milk habit that was costing us over $150 a month. Now we make our own in a blink of an eye and it has made my Rip's big bowl cereal, something that I've eaten every day for the last 30 years for breakfast, even better.

Rip Esselstyn: Believe me, your kitchen counter will be glad you made room for this blender. Visit the nutramilk.com and use the code ‘plant strong' for a $50 discount and free shipping. One of the things that I hear from people, especially those who are brand spanking new to eating plant based, is that they don't even have a clue where to start when it comes to making really tasty plant strong foods and I totally get it. If you're like so many people that we work with at Engine-Two, you probably have been eating the standard American diet for decades. You know your favorite recipes by heart, your pantry is probably stock with ingredients that you are super comfortable with.

Rip Esselstyn: You can meal plan for your family for the week without even taking a shopping list to the grocery store and now you're making this huge change. But it's more than just what you eat. You have to, almost, relearn a new way to shop and develop flavor profiles to make delicious dishes that are not only going to nourish your family but also even convert a visiting carnival friend from time to time. I want you to know I got you covered. Developing plant strong foods that are spectacularly delicious is a vital part of thriving in this plant strong lifestyle. If you feel like going plant strong is going to be a diet of deprivation, you are setting yourself up for failure and you are 100% wrong.

Rip Esselstyn: I want you to know this is truly a diet of abundance. Your mindset needs to be that you are going to be eating these new amazing foods and not on focusing on what is being taken off your plate. Now, the foundation of cooking has always been creating a balance of flavors using salt, sugar, fat and acid. And guess what? It still is going to be the case but you can use healthy fats. For example, they come from plants and seeds instead of using any animal products or any animal byproducts. We're going to teach you how. Creating amazing food is such an important part of this lifestyle that I'm devoting the next two episodes to giving you practical tips, recipes, cooking techniques and some really fun stories from one of the most sophisticated chefs in the plant-based movement, Chad Sarno.

Rip Esselstyn: I've known Chad since 2008, which was right around the time we were both brought into Whole Foods to be part of their Healthy Eating program. Chad served as Whole Foods head global culinary chef along with a number of other big time roles before he left about five years ago and since that time Chad has authored three highly successful cookbooks. He launched The Wicked Healthy brand with his older brother, Derek, as well as Good Catch Foods and Wicked Kitchen. And because he doesn't seem to get tired, he also launched the first plant-based certification program for the largest online culinary school called Rouxbe.

Rip Esselstyn: Chad is an absolute superstar in the plant-based culinary world. Now, maybe you've been tuning into the Plant Strong Podcast when you're out on a run or when you're driving or maybe even biking but on this one, I think you're going to want to be sitting down with a pen and paper in hand because Chad is about to unleash an absolute torrent of useful information to help you develop plant strong flavors using some simple recipe techniques for sauces, for soups and for building layers and layers of flavor. Along the way, he'll also answer some of Joe Inga's burning questions related to recipes that he's been making for his family.

Rip Esselstyn: And we're also going to talk about what dinner was like when he was recently flown to cook a mega plant-strong dinner for the terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and a slew of his pals before the Golden Globe Awards. Welcome my friends, this is Plant Strong. I want to dive into just some kind of practical tips that we can give listeners that are starting to get into plant based. But before I do, I want to ask you two questions. First question is how long have you been a chef?

Chad Sarno: I've been cooking my whole life. It took me years of cooking and of working in kitchens and eventually running kitchens. Even when I was consulting with kitchens, it was hard for me to call myself a chef because it's such a grand title, I think… I look at… And it really was a number of years of actually running kitchens that I was okay with that title, humbly okay with it. Right? I would say I've been in kitchens my whole life. I mean, since I was probably… It was my first job so-

Rip Esselstyn: How old were you?

Chad Sarno: -since I was always 15-

Rip Esselstyn: 15?

Chad Sarno: 14. 14 I was washing dishes.

Rip Esselstyn: So we're talking like 30 years?

Chad Sarno: Yeah. Yeah, 30 years. Yeah, exactly 29 years.

Rip Esselstyn: Wow, okay.

Chad Sarno: 29 years I've been in a kitchen. Man, that makes me feel old as shit and yeah I've been plant-based for almost 22 so…

Rip Esselstyn: That was my second question. Of those 30 years that you've been cooking, how many of them have you really devoted to the plant-based cuisine?

Chad Sarno: Yeah, since before my 21st birthday so almost 22 years.

Rip Esselstyn: What inspired you to go plant-based and do you use plant-based, vegan? How do you refer to yourself?

Chad Sarno: A little bit of both. It depends who I'm talking with. If it's in an article or if it's any kind of media, it's plant-based because it's accepted more. If it's with products, it's plant based. But I love to live with vegan lifestyle. I'm an ethical vegan also, but that… I think plant based, they've done consumer testing. You know you have a product line. People adopt a product much faster when it's called plant-based rather than vegan. But, yeah, so that was… What really started was I was blessed with asthma most of my childhood. And I say blessed with asthma because I'm not sure if I would have discovered plant-based as soon as I did if I didn't have asthma.

Chad Sarno: I was on four or five different inhalers throughout my childhood, and I don't know if you knew that, and I was ready to do anything. And so somebody had mentioned… I heard it somewhere, whether it was a friend of the family or something I read…

Rip Esselstyn: Was it possibly a doctor?

Chad Sarno: Something along the way. No. At the time it wasn't a doctor but it was the connection between dairy and health and dairy and asthma. And I was like, “Huh, maybe if I stopped eating dairy products.” And within six months I cut out all dairy products and my asthma was gone. And dairy was the first thing I cut out, I still had seafood and things like that, but then I just started to dive a little bit deeper and what it meant and the ethical side and so that's when I went vegan.

Chad Sarno: But within a couple months of eliminating all dairy, I was off four inhalers. I used to go to the hospital on the weekends to breathe off nebulizers in the hospital as a kid. I had, probably, four or five asthma attacks as a kid, which was the most terrifying thing you could ever have.

Rip Esselstyn: Yeah. Not only terrifying for you but for your parents.

Chad Sarno: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. I look back now, I have kids, and my little boy sometimes has chest things because he's young and we are in Austin with a lot of mold but it's scary. I mean, what I must have put my folks through at that time.

Rip Esselstyn: Yeah. I don't know how much you know about season one of the plant-strong podcast but I'm working with a guy from the Bronx. His name is Joe Inga, he's a firefighter, and he reached out to me to help him with his failing health back in January. And so this season, this season one, is all about me marshaling together some of my plant-based superhero friends so we can help Joe. And by helping Joe, we help every Joe and Jane that's out there, that's starting to try and embrace this plant-based lifestyle. With my father, we talked about heart disease, with my mother, we talked about some cooking tips that she has. The list goes on and on and on.

Rip Esselstyn: But so what I'd really like to do with you today is, so many people that are transitioning over they're like, “Oh my God, what am I going to eat, how can it possibly be flavorful? I'm going to be missing out on all these animal fats and the butter and the dairy and the creams and all this stuff.” And so my question to you, in order to help Joe and everybody else, is what would you say to people that say the only thing you're going to be eating when you're eating plant based, like firefighters, are twigs and berries and salads-

Chad Sarno: That's just so funny.

Rip Esselstyn: -and life isn't worth living if I have to eat that way.

Chad Sarno: Yeah, yeah, which is... I think it's just an excuse. I think that's pure laziness. We are at a time right now that is so exciting in the retail space of just products that are on the market. I mean, it's easier than ever to adopt a plant-based diet. You can certainly adopt an unhealthy plant-based diet very, very easily because there's so much processed food out there but in terms of knowledge and knowhow and the abundance of vegetables and the abundance of heirloom grains and beans that are on shelves now, it's so easy.

Chad Sarno: And in terms of resources, recipe inspiration, there's courses out there that you can take from the comfort of your home. I think so if someone is stuck in their way and just puts their nose up to it or has that excuse… Everybody will use every excuse in the book as you know but it's just about not being lazy and looking at the resources that we have out there.

Rip Esselstyn: Well. All right, let's just dive into then some techniques and stuff that you use. What do you think is the most under-utilized way to add a depth of flavor to plant-based cooking?

Chad Sarno: What I would recommend, rather than just taking out the oil and salt and thinking that it needs something at the end of the day, it's looking at every ingredient that's being used in that recipe and asking yourself the question of how can I bring the most flavor from each ingredient. If I'm not reaching for that bottle of oil or that bottle of salt or that sugar, you want to focus on all the other ingredients. And rather than if a recipe calls for steamed sweet potatoes in general and you typically had dosed it with olive oil or whatever, now look at that sweet potato and say, “How can I get more flavor out of that?”

Chad Sarno: And it's roasting, it's caramelization, it's grilling. It's things like that. And so it's looking at every technique that can take an ingredient to the next level with flavor, will give you that end result that's going to give you a better overall flavor.

Rip Esselstyn: So like one of my tricks, I just love putting onions, putting corn off the cob. Put on parchment paper and then roasting them in the oven.

Chad Sarno: Yeah.

Rip Esselstyn: But you said roasting. Is that your definition of roasting?

Chad Sarno: Yeah, exactly. Roasting, caramelization, through slow heat also happens. You can do that with onion, you can do that... I also… In the book, the Whole Foods cookbook which is to definitely check out - all no oil - , we have this whole section called Flavor Bombs which is really important. We'll basically take onions or take garlic and we will… Basically, you braise them in a little vegetable stock and basically covering them in vegetables. We'll chop them up, put them in a casserole pan, cover them in vegetable stock, roast them until they get little crispy bits on top.

Chad Sarno: And then most of the liquid has evaporated and so you're get that caramelization not only from the vegetable stock but it's drawing out from the onions and garlic. Take that, you blend it up, put it in some ice cube trays, freeze them, pop them out, put them in a zip lock bag. Every time, you're making a soup, drop one in, in a sauce or into a soup or something like that. And so we have a-

Rip Esselstyn: Like a little veggie bouillon cube?

Chad Sarno: Yeah but it's just very concentrated. It's a concentrated onion puree or a concentrated garlic puree and that doesn't have the salt or oil in it. And you're making a soup or a sauce, it just takes it to the next level.

Rip Esselstyn: These are the tips that people want to hear. That's beautiful right there.

Chad Sarno: Yeah. And seeds, toasting seeds, just by… If you're going to use… Going back to that bringing the most flavor out of every ingredient, if you're working with seeds or nuts, dry toast them in a pan and it brings out so much more flavor. Like toasted sunflower seeds, I always have them at my house to sprinkle them on salads, sprinkle them on rice and beans, and it just adds a totally another level of flavor to them.

Rip Esselstyn: What about… Can you do that with like walnuts?

Chad Sarno: Oh yeah, completely. Walnuts. I love doing seeds. You can do it with the walnuts and then just chop them up afterwards or you chop them up so it has a little more surface area to toast and then add those. If you're using spices, same thing. If a recipe calls for cumin, try toasting the cumin in a pan and then grinding it.

Rip Esselstyn: And so what does that do? Does it just bring out the flavor?

Chad Sarno: It brings out the essential oils. With the toasting process, you're heating the surface with heat or any kind of nut or seed or spice, whole spice, it brings out the essential oils to the surface of that product so that you're getting a lot more flavors. There's no need to roast things in oil. That's why I let you go into the bulk department. There's all these roasted cashews, there are roasted almonds and there's tons of oil in them. With the roasting process, you can dry toast them and it's amazing. You don't even need it. Using the toasted spices though, Rip, is one of my favorite ways to get a lot of flavor with vegan dishes.

Rip Esselstyn: Speaking of spices, what would you say are spices that every plant-based cabinet should have in them? Is there an assortment, like an essential five or 10?

Chad Sarno: Yeah, I like to have… I mean, it depends on what type of cuisine you like to focus on. Myself, I like either eastern flavors like Thai, Vietnamese, those kinds of flavors, or more Mediterranean so I'm kind of all over the map. I'll always have onion granules, garlic granules…

Rip Esselstyn: Do you like granules as opposed to powder?

Chad Sarno: I do. I do because it has a little bit more flavor. Powder tends to clump up, especially in sauces, so if you get granules there's a little bit more distribution and they don't clump, which is nice.

Rip Esselstyn: Okay, so onion, garlic…

Chad Sarno: Onion, garlic. I would do some Paprika. If you like some smoky flavor, you can add smoked Paprika which is nice.

Rip Esselstyn: Yeah.

Chad Sarno: Also, cumin is a good staple.

Rip Esselstyn: Cumin seems a little divisive. Some people don't like it, some people do.

Chad Sarno: Yeah. And if I use cumin seed, cumin seed and mustard seed are two of my favorite spices to work with also especially when I'm making soups.

Rip Esselstyn: So you don't get the cumin powder, you get to cumin seeds?

Chad Sarno: I get cumin seeds and then I grind them. That's the thing.

Rip Esselstyn: And then you grind them.

Chad Sarno: Yeah. And you can get a mortar and pestle.

Rip Esselstyn: You are a chef.

Chad Sarno: You can get a mortar and pestle or you can get just a little spice grinder or a little coffee grinder and grind them yourself. But mustard seeds are amazing so if you're doing… if you're cooking a soup, let's say. One of my favorite soups is a lentil, just a split lentil soup. When I'm dry sautéing the onions, I'll add some mustard seeds in there so those get a little bit of toasted flavor also. And then right when the onions are translucent, the mustard seeds I assume are cooked at that point. And then I add the lentils and I the coconut milk and then I add the vegetable stock and all that. You build it from there.

Chad Sarno: Soups are a perfect example of building flavor because soups are all about layering flavors rather than you can certainly take all these ingredients and put them all in one pot and just turn on the heat. Right? You can do that but it's going to have one flat flavor. And this is the whole mindset of a chef. It's how do you layer flavors. And so like for a soup, a perfect example.

Rip Esselstyn: Can you just walk… Let's, me and you, right now make a… what did you say your favorite soup was? Was it a split pea?

Chad Sarno: I would say a lentil… It's a lentil coconut soup. It's so good.

Rip Esselstyn: Okay, lentil coconut soup. Will you just walk me through that from start to finish in two or three minutes?

Chad Sarno: Yeah. And you can swap out the ingredients for each step so if I'm saying use onions, you can use shallots, you can use green onions, you can use leaks. Right?

Rip Esselstyn: Right.

Chad Sarno: If I'm saying use mustard seed, you can use cumin seed, you can use coriander seeds, things like that.

Rip Esselstyn: Okay.

Chad Sarno: You can always swap things out. If I'm saying use split lentils, you can use whole lentils, you can use other beans and things like that. You always want to look at a category to make the recipe your own. If you always look at a category and be like, “I don't like white beans,” then use black beans, use lima beans. Or, “I don't like onions,” well, great, use leaks. I'll basically start a heavy bottom pan, so a stainless steel pan.

Rip Esselstyn: That was going to be one of my questions, it's what type of pots and pans? Are you cast iron, are you non-stick? What do you love?

Chad Sarno: I love cast iron. The problem with a lot of non-stick, there's Teflon in a lot of non-stick and it's just proven to be slightly toxic when you're cooking acidic vegetables on there or acidic fruits. I like cast iron but when it comes to pots, there's a ceramic coated which is good… so you can get cast iron ceramic coated. There's a great company called Lodge in the US here. It's a cast iron company. They have some ceramic coated. You can also get a Le Creuset which is way overpriced in my opinion.

Rip Esselstyn: So Lodge is reasonable?

Chad Sarno: Yeah, Lodge is really good for cast iron especially the enamel coated ones.

Rip Esselstyn: How much would a typical maybe…

Chad Sarno: You can get… I like Lodge for… they're called Dutch ovens, which is basically just a nice soup pot like a stew pot.

Rip Esselstyn: How much is that going to cost me?

Chad Sarno: 50 bucks.

Rip Esselstyn: 50 bucks?

Chad Sarno: 40 bucks and they'll last forever.

Rip Esselstyn: I've got my Lodge-

Chad Sarno: You've got your lodge.

Rip Esselstyn: -and I'm getting ready to make this… [crosstalk 00:24:12].

Chad Sarno: Let's heat it. Let's turn it up to a medium heat.

Rip Esselstyn: Okay.

Chad Sarno: You don't want it to go too high because you'll burn things. Turn to a medium heat. The key to starting every recipe is to make sure that the pan is hot before you add your onions or before you add any aromatics. Make sure it's hot and the way that you can do it, just hover your hand over it and you can tell when it's hot or when it's not. Obviously, you don't want it smoking so I always put it on a medium to high rather than a high. Add the onions to a totally dry pan.

Rip Esselstyn: Okay, and we're not doing any oil.

Chad Sarno: Zero. Zero. Nothing. Just dry onions to a dry pan. And the reason this works though is you add dry onions to a cold pan and then start heating it up, they're going to contract at the same time so they're going to stick and they're going to burn. Okay, if you heat up the pan first, the pores of the pan contract so you're adding the onions which are not contracted at the same time so it creates almost a non-stick surface.

Rip Esselstyn: You're also a physicist.

Chad Sarno: Yeah, but it's true though. This is how we figured out how to cook without oil. And so you're stirring those around constantly and what you'll notice on the bottom of the pan is all these little bits and coloration on the pan. And what that is, someone will say it's burning but it's not. It's basically the sugars being released from the onions.

Rip Esselstyn: Caramelizing?

Chad Sarno: Caramelizing slowly without oil. You don't need oil at all. If you're going to add spices to that, what I'll do is I'll add mustard seeds, as I mentioned, a black mustard seed.

Rip Esselstyn: Do you do that? How long after you add the onions?

Chad Sarno: Onions, stir them around for a couple minutes and then I add some mustard seeds in there. I believe this is a recipe in the Whole Foods cookbook.

Rip Esselstyn: And these are mustard seeds that have been grinded, right?

Chad Sarno: No, this is whole little black mustard seeds.

Rip Esselstyn: Whole?

Chad Sarno: They're teeny little black mustard seeds so it's more the Indian flavor. Right?

Rip Esselstyn: Okay.

Chad Sarno: We're adding those to the onions. Then when normally if you were to add oil, you add a couple tablespoons to start off that soup but what I use is I use a flavorful liquid of the same amount that you would use oil, maybe a little bit more. Once the onions are translucent, you get some speckles on the bottom of the pan, now you can deglaze it. Deglazing is basically… it translates to picking up the sugars so any liquid will do it. You can heat it with wine, you can heat it with vegetable stock. I tend to avoid water as much as I can with cooking because all the vegetables and everything we use have so much water and water has no flavor so try... You can get plenty of no sodium vegetable stocks out there.

Chad Sarno: And so I'll add a little bit of vegetable stock and what it does is it deglazes the pan. You'll start stirring up and you'll see all those little speckles are now picked up off and it's clean bottom of the pan. Then, what I'll do is I'll use my red split lentils and then I'll just add those to the pan after I add the vegetable stock. Stir, stir, stir.

Rip Esselstyn: Why red lentils as opposed to brown, yellow?

Chad Sarno: Because they melt. Split lintel melts. Any kind of duller split lentil melts when you cook it. You can use a black lentil, you can use a green lentil and those will keep their shape, which is great.

Rip Esselstyn: But so the red ones cook the fastest?

Chad Sarno: The red ones cook the fastest but they also melt so it turns into almost just like a creamy soup-

Rip Esselstyn: Oh, that's nice.

Chad Sarno: -which is really nice. I add the lentils and then I'll add some of the more aromatics while I'm stirring that up still on medium heat. I'll add some ginger to it. Okay, you can add some chilies to it at that point. And this is just the lentils and onions in the pan, right?

Rip Esselstyn: Right.

Chad Sarno: Then you can heat it with vegetable stock or diluted vegetable stock, or water if you wish, until you're just about an inch over the lentils stirring it up. These are going to cook pretty fast. Keeping it on a medium heat, bring it up to a simmer. And once it's to a simmer… Red lentils cook, especially even if you soak them beforehand, just like you would any…

Rip Esselstyn: 10 minutes.

Chad Sarno: Cook maybe 10 to 15 minutes, the soup is done. Right. You add the vegetable stock, bring that up to a simmer, stir that around. You can cook it for a few more minutes, five to eight minutes or so, and then what I like to do is I add some coconut milk, totally optional. But I add a can of coconut milk to a whole big pot of soup and that's going to really help with that creaminess.

Rip Esselstyn: And then do you add any other vegetables or is that it?

Chad Sarno: That's it, man.

Rip Esselstyn: Well, I like the simplicity of that.

Chad Sarno: Oh, and then when it's done so then I remove it from the heat. Okay, when it's done, you can see the lentils are almost melted. That's a good way to describe it as they melt and they break apart. That's when it's done. You remove it from the heat and you can put a lid on it. I'll chop up a bunch of cilantro, I will chop up more chili if I want and then I have lemon juice. And I take one lemon or you can zest it if you want in there or you can just squeeze the lemon in.

Rip Esselstyn: And is that giving you some acid?

Chad Sarno: That's the acid. You're basically building these flavors. I talked about the importance of building flavors.

Rip Esselstyn: If you're enjoying the guests on my podcast, come spend the weekend interacting with all of us. Dance with my sister Jane, hike with my mother Ann, share a meal with my father Essie and spend time with all of our dynamic speakers, Doctors Dean and Ayesha Sherzai the authors of The Alzheimer's Solution, Paul De Gelder the host of Shark Week, Dr. Jim Loomis from The Game Changers documentary, Dr. Cyrus Khambatta and Robby Barbaro of Mastering Diabetes. Dr. Saray Stancic as featured in the documentary Code Blue and my buddy John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods market, and many, many, many more.

Rip Esselstyn: Pick and choose from a robust variety of talks. Enjoy plentiful plant strong buffets, take in the mountain air and start the day with an invigorating morning dance party. Come celebrate what it means to live plant strong. Onsite accommodations are still available so join us August 9th through the 11th at our eighth annual camp plant stock. For more information, go to enginetwo.com and click on events. I look forward to doing Kale shots with you. Tell me like salt, sugar, fat and acid, how you've incorporated that into the soup.

Chad Sarno: Whenever you have something that's really rich, the easiest way to lighten it up is with a little bit of acid. It really brightens the flavor. Acid, especially citrus in particular, brightens flavor. Okay, so if you have something rich… This is why I like a traditional Thai soup called Tom Kha soup. It's a coconut milk soup. This is why it has lime in it because otherwise it's just going to be rich. If there's a lot of lime in it, then, it's like, “Wow, this is a really light, refreshing soup even though it's rich.” Right? That's what lemon and other citrus does. At the end of the soup, I add the citrus, I add the cilantro. It's off the heat, stir, stir, serve it, and you can put them…

Rip Esselstyn: And let me ask you this. So for the hardcore Engine-Two audience that's out there that is trying to stay away from the saturated fat that's in coconut, can you use a coconut extract with a plant-based milk as a substitute?

Chad Sarno: Well you're not going at it... You're not using it necessarily for the coconut flavor, you're just using it for the richness so you can put in half a cup of milk at that point, any kind of plant-based milk.

Rip Esselstyn: Plant-based milk.

Chad Sarno: Oat milk is awesome.

Rip Esselstyn: Right.

Chad Sarno: Make sure whenever you're cooking with a milk in savory dishes, totally unsweetened. And even unsweetened have sweetened them, a lot of them, so just make sure that it's completely unsweetened because you don't want it at all sweet. But the key is really going back to the flavor building and the layering of flavors and that final touches. Those herbs gives you that burst of freshness, the citrus lightens it up. And so you're thinking about layering and that's what you should consider whenever you're making that.

Rip Esselstyn: I'm psyched to make that when I get home. I seriously am. I think one of the things, if you want to call it a flavor, that people miss is that Umami. Right? For people that don't know what that term is, can you explain?

Chad Sarno: Yeah. Umami is basically what you can get through ingredients and you can get through techniques usually if people are charring. And a lot of meats, they have that Umami flavor. It's the iron in that flavor so you can get the same thing obviously with plant-based. And so a lot of our focus with food is considering the Umami flavor.

Rip Esselstyn: Is it like a… When I think of Umami, it's kind of a…

Chad Sarno: Earthy…

Rip Esselstyn: It's like a meaty flavor.

Chad Sarno: It is. For example, mushrooms, nutritional yeast, soy sauce, these are Umami flavors. Those are in terms of ingredients. And then you look at… Tofu is Umami. If you bake Tofu, that's Umami flavor because you're getting a little bit of Tamari in there and a little bit of...

Rip Esselstyn: Portabella mushrooms?

Chad Sarno: Yeah, any kind of mushrooms will be Umami flavor. And then you can also achieve Umami through technique so roasting, caramelization, charring, grilling, a little bit of slight smokiness. Those are also…

Rip Esselstyn: So a lot of things we talked about to bring up the flavor profile.

Chad Sarno: Exactly. Those are also Umami. A lot of people may not know the flavor or what it's called but everybody's doing it and then consuming it and enjoying it. This is why Japanese food, it's their main flavor profile… it is Umami.

Rip Esselstyn: Okay, so you talked about mushrooms there. I think a lot of people are kind of spooked, weirded out, by mushrooms. What's your opinion of mushrooms? Do you use them a lot in your Wicked Healthy cooking?

Chad Sarno: Yeah. Mushrooms, I would say, are the most sustainable food on the planet without a doubt… without a doubt. Derek, my brother and partner at Wicked Healthy, he's like the mushroom maniac.

Rip Esselstyn: Mushroom man?

Chad Sarno: He's the mushroom man so he's basically dedicated many, many years to master the art of cooking mushrooms and it's obviously rubbed off on me and that's how I'm working with them as well. But mushrooms are… I mean, you look at from a flavor and Umami standpoint, a substitution texturally for meat. And then you also look at the sustainability aspect. You get something that's like a king oyster mushroom, which is the long ones with a thick stem kind of smaller top that we use in like sautés and grilling and things like that. Those grow from spore to full grown two weeks. That's insane and that is… That's a meal. That's two weeks. It grows into it. There's nothing else on the planet that grows in two weeks that I know of.

Rip Esselstyn: Well, you say that and I think about my backyard. I'll go out for a walk one day and there's no mushroom and next day it's the size of a grapefruit. I'm like, “How did that grow that fast?”

Chad Sarno: It's really crazy and it's the only seed that survived in space, which is totally weird but random back there. That's not wild so they're not from here. But anyways, they're… And when we speak of mushrooms, we're not just talking about buttons and… Portabellas are great but…

Rip Esselstyn: What do you like?

Chad Sarno: My go-to, I love just clustered oyster mushrooms. Those are pretty common to find. Those are in a cluster. You can get gray oysters or white oysters. There's also yellow and pink also but gray are the most common. Also King Oysters. King Oysters, they're also called French horns or Eryngii mushrooms. Those are the ones that I was saying that have a really thick stem. So if I'm making a scallop, that stem you just cut it up, I cook it in like a Kombu stock, like a seaweed broth, and then I'll roast them or grill them.

Rip Esselstyn: And that's a killer seafood substitute.

Chad Sarno: It's amazing. It's textually and appearance-wise identical to the scallops. You're infusing it with a little bit of seaweed flavor, with Umami stock. I call it Umami stock but it's seaweed, a little bit of soy sauce water.

Rip Esselstyn: What about white button?

Chad Sarno: White button are great. It's just a matter of how you cook them. A lot of people don't like mushrooms and they freak them out because a lot of people were grown up on canned mushrooms.

Rip Esselstyn: Oh yeah.

Chad Sarno: And canned mushrooms, they're slimy. That's what most of these pizzerias use when they put them on pizzas and…

Rip Esselstyn: Nasty.

Chad Sarno: And so if you don't cook them, they're going to be slimy. They absorb liquid so the key is to press them. Okay, even buttons. I started pressing buttons.

Rip Esselstyn: What do you mean by that term ‘press'.

Chad Sarno: Pressing themselves, I use cast iron a lot when it comes to mushrooms. This is, again, Derek's philosophy around mushrooms that has completely dominated Wicked Healthy Instagram feed and as you can check out. But, basically, you get a very hot cast iron oven and if seasoned properly, seasoned and making sure that you do have some oil around your house because you're seasoning your pan and that's making it so it doesn't rust and that's also creating that non-stick surface. You're not using it in cooking but it's a seasoned pan. You basically get it nice and hot. You get a smaller sauté that's a little bit smaller than your other one.

Chad Sarno: And so let's say that you're cooking buttons, super, super hot. You put the mushrooms… You slice them, you put them face down… flush down, and then you put the other pan on top and then you take your…

Rip Esselstyn: Oh, press them like that?

Chad Sarno: Then you press them like that. And it's like a traditional dish that they used to do with that's called brick chicken. They basically pressed it so it condenses the fibers. We're using that same technique with mushrooms, with all mushrooms. And so you're basically… you're removing the moisture, all right? So, you're… Even with buttons, you're removing the moisture. I do the same thing if… I used to just throw Portabella on the grill, marinate it and throw it on the grill. What I'll do is I'll press it first so I'll put a cast iron.

Chad Sarno: If you choose you spray oil, that helps, if not a seasoned cast iron is totally fine. You press it, high heat, press it, and then you flip it. Press it again so you're charring both ends, both sides, and then you're condensing the fibers and you're releasing a lot of the moisture in there. And then after it's pressed, then, I'll marinate it. You're marinating it and so you're removing the water.

Rip Esselstyn: And then would you roast and grill it?

Chad Sarno: And then grill it. Oh gosh, so good. That's so good.

Rip Esselstyn: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Chad Sarno: Super media like a Portabella, a Portabella just pressed both sides, marinated just with whatever your favorite flavors are with marinade and then throw it on a grill, get those char marks. Throw it out with some rice and beans. Oh my gosh, you can't ask for a better meal.

Rip Esselstyn: I had somebody once make me a bunch of Portobello mushroom jerky that had been totally dried it out and then with spices and I was just blown away.

Chad Sarno: Yeah, that's crazy. It's crazy. Because really what we're looking at… I mean, you can baconize anything, all this whole bacon rage which is ridiculous. But the reason that people are attracted to bacon is because of the smoky sweetness and saltiness of it. That's it. It's just flavor so you can do the same thing with so many different vegetables… eggplants and carrots and Tempe and Tofu and mushrooms and...

Rip Esselstyn: Yeah. I once was in Portland with a cousin and we went on a hunt for some chanterelle mushrooms.

Chad Sarno: Oh, nice. Nice.

Rip Esselstyn: Do you ever use those?

Chad Sarno: Oh, yeah. Yeah, chanterelles are amazing. Chanterelles are amazing. They look a lot like hedgehogs. I like that hedgehog mushrooms.

Rip Esselstyn: You're right.

Chad Sarno: And so those are fantastic. In our book when we… For the Wicked Healthy cookbook, there's a ton of mushroom recipes in there. We talk about the pressing method in there. It was early in the season. I remember we did the photo shoot. We did the photo shoot up in Oregon and it was late August and super early for mushroom season. But we had a camera person with us and we had our photography team for the book and so we ended up just saying, “Okay, let's just take this day and let's go scavenge mushrooms. Hopefully, we find something.”

Chad Sarno: And so we go out in the mountains super early at 6:30 in the morning, all misty in the Oregon Mountains. It was so beautiful. And we're walking, we can't find anything and it's super early. We don't even know what we're looking for. Derek was the mushroom hunter so I was kind of following his lead and a couple other folks that were with. But then we come across this patch and all these… all… it was crazy. All these mushrooms rounded this canopy of trees and they're their lobster mushrooms. Lobster mushrooms when you buy them in a store, and they're very seasonal, they look like… you cut them, it looks like a lobster because it's white on the inside and it's red on the outside.

Chad Sarno: The skin is red and it's like they're these big chunky mushrooms, huge mushrooms. And we found almost 25 pounds of mushrooms under this one canopy of lobster mushrooms, which I was blown away. And it was super early and, of course, we have this film crew and it was perfect so those are all captured in the book too, those photos. It was by chance that we found them but you poach the same thing. You poach those in a little bit of seaweed stock and then you can use those mushrooms.

Rip Esselstyn: Just like lobster?

Chad Sarno: Just like lobster. You can put them on a grill. You can basically chop them up, make an egg-free mayo and you do that and put them in a sandwich. It's amazing.

Rip Esselstyn: I feel like we could have this whole episode be just on the mushrooms. But one of the things you said, so you talked about seasoning that cast iron pan. When you wash it, do you have to be careful about washing it? Like do you never wash it with soap or how do you do that?

Chad Sarno: A lot of times, unless it really needs it, I won't use soap on my cast iron so I'll just use hot water. And it's the same thing with the walk. I have a carbon steel walk, which is probably one of my affordable pans. It'll cost like 30 bucks and it's the one I use the most. I have these expensive pans too but I use my carbon steel walk and my cast iron the most of my kitchen. But, yeah, when you properly season you have to care for cast iron. So whenever I wash it with water… Never let it soak in water because it'll de-season your pan and it'll remove all those good oils that are in your pan. But I'll basically wash it out when I'm ready to... It'll sit dirty next to my sink until I'm ready to wash it, until after dinner or whatever.

Chad Sarno: I'll wash it out with hot water and making sure you're not using a metal scrubby like a [inaudible 00:42:08] pad or anything like that. Just a green scrubby is fine. Wash it out with hot water then I put it back on the burner. Put it on the burner and you make sure you heat it up. And I just put it on the burner and I heat it up until all the water's evaporated and then I shut it off and it just stays on my burner until it's cool enough to put away. That's how I keep it seasoned. And if it looks even slightly dry, I have spray oil sitting around. I'll spray a little bit of oil, wipe it with a paper towel, wipe it out, and so it just kind of coats it. And you do the back too. You lift it up, you do the whole back, you do the whole pan.

Rip Esselstyn: Why do you do the backside?

Chad Sarno: Because if it's has any moisture still on the bottom, it's going to rust on the bottom of the pan so you want to keep it completely… A beautiful cast iron is a beautiful sight because it's like shiny black and it shouldn't have any rust or any discoloration, any patina sort of rust on the bottom or anything.

Rip Esselstyn: I need to go home and throw out my cast iron pans. They all look like what you just described there. You mentioned the walk, we talked about this cast iron pan, I want to know, so for somebody that's just getting in this lifestyle, what would you say are the must-have kitchen utensils to make this lifestyle easy and to work?

Chad Sarno: Well, if you don't want to go through the problem, the hassle, of seasoning cast iron, because it's a commitment and it becomes routine, there's also other pans. There are some non-stick green pans out there. There is a company called Green Pan which is nice which they use a silica base. It's not tough lambaste non-stick. There are healthier versions of non-stick pans out there. There's also very affordable. I would say if you're just getting into cooking, definitely have a cast iron around because they're affordable, 30 bucks a pan, 25 bucks a pan. But also you can get some non-stick as well.

Chad Sarno: If you have the budget, you can get some stainless steel pans, heavy bottom pans, copper core pans, things like that that are a little bit more fancier but, again, not too affordable. In terms of utensils…

Rip Esselstyn: Utensils, appliances.

Chad Sarno: Yeah. A high speed blender, you can do the majority of everything and even a cheap home blender. If you have the budget go high speed blender, which is like a Blendtec or Vitamix that you can make soups and sauces and creams and things like that. And then a food processor, you can pick one of those up and that's where you're going to make your chutneys and your course ground pastos and puttees and things like that.

Rip Esselstyn: Oh my God, you're talking about good language right there.

Chad Sarno: Those are the really the two tabletop pieces of equipment. I like to have, people call it a bermixer or a stick blender and it's basically one of those little blenders on the stick that plug in. And the reason I like that is because if I'm making a soup, and I make a lot of like cream soups so… and when I say cream soups, that's using a little bit of starchy vegetable in the soup to cream it. I'm not talking about using any kind of cream or any kind of butter in it, using beans or using even a little bit of rice in there or a little bit of potato in a soup or any other starchy vegetables… squashes, carrots, things like that. They cream really, really nicely. Instead of pouring that pot in a Vitamix, which is just totally dangerous when it's hot, just get that stick blender and I blend it in the pot.

Rip Esselstyn: Yeah, I was at John Mackey's for dinner not too long ago and he served that corn chowder-

Chad Sarno: Oh, that's a good one.

Rip Esselstyn: -from the Whole Foods diet that I think that you guys… Oh my gosh. I had force. It was amazing.

Chad Sarno: That's great.

Rip Esselstyn: We ate the whole thing.

Chad Sarno: That's great. Excellent. Excellent. Okay, so a stick blender. Those are really the equipment. Getting yourself a good cutting board. There is a company called Boos, B-O-O-S, they do wooden cutting boards, getting a nice wooden cutting board. If you're not doing animal products, you don't have to worry about the cross-contamination piece. You're just using vegetables, right? I always use a good cutting board, a wooden cutting board. And then a good knife. That is the most important piece of all equipment in the kitchen.

Rip Esselstyn: What do you recommend?

Chad Sarno: A lot of people think you have to go out and spend 200 bucks on a nice knife. All you need is a sharp piece of steel that you're comfortable when holding it and it's sharp and you know the basics of knife safety. That is absolutely critical. You can have all these fancy equipment but if you don't have a sharp knife it's miserable to cook. You know what I mean? There are some really simple like on Rouxbe or other. You can just basically go on the Internet and search ‘short knife classes' and you can just do this in the comfort of your home.

Chad Sarno: I highly recommend everybody doing a short safety and use in knife class, which is the hour class or something online that you can sit there and practice while you're watching. Right? Because, really, there's a lot of chopping as you know and with going plant-based your vegetable consumption increases and so does your prep.

Rip Esselstyn: Is chopping vegetables... I mean, you've been doing this now for close to 30 years in the kitchen. Are you like, “Oh God, I can't believe I've got to cut another bell pepper.”

Chad Sarno: No.

Rip Esselstyn: Or to you is it just part of…

Chad Sarno: It's cooking. That's what it is.

Rip Esselstyn: Right.

Chad Sarno: That's cooking. It's just how I consume food, how I feed my family. I have to chop plenty of things and it's natural.

Rip Esselstyn: And you've probably gotten so good at it that doesn't take you too much time now.

Chad Sarno: And I think that's where the stress is. The process of cooking is the prep that stresses people out. And there's a couple of things that stress people out. I think with cooking is, we talked about spices. It's looking at the spice aisle and seeing a hundred spices and totally overwhelming people, right? Having your basics and knowing the flavors that you like will determine that, right? And it's a lot of trial and error. A lot of people, the reason that people get so stressed with an adoption of a different type of diet is it's uncomfortable for them. It's not what they're used to. What I really like to push clients and students is to just try new things.

Chad Sarno: You have to explore new food, you have to explore new tastes, new textures, new flavors, new ingredients because if you… You know better than anybody, if you look at the standard American Diet, you take out all the processed, take out all the animal products, you're left with about 15 different fruits and vegetables that people consume in their lifetime, right?

Rip Esselstyn: Right.

Chad Sarno: And so, looking at that and going out and trying something new, trying a new green, trying a new vegetable, trying a new spice and that's how you know if you like it or not.

Rip Esselstyn: Next week on Plant Strong, we're going to give you the second part of this interview and we're going to go even deeper. I want to thank my co-creator of the podcast, Scott Battishill and 10-percent media, Laurie Kortowich, producer extraordinaire and the Engine-Two director of events, Bumble Media for this podcast production and Brandon Curtis for everything in between. Thanks to Whole Foods market for believing in me and giving me a platform for the last 10 years. Special thanks to Joe Inga, our Bronx firefighter, for your courage to not only change your life but also allowing us to share your story along the way.

Rip Esselstyn: And lastly, I want to thank my father and mother, Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr. and Ann Crile Esselstyn as well as all the plant strong pioneers who have been pushing this boulder uphill for more than three decades. As they say, we are standing on the shoulders of giants. And remember, if you're digging the show please rate us on iTunes, Stitcher, Google play or wherever you get your podcasts. And with that, let me say, peace. Engine-Two, keep it plant strong.

Ami Mackey