Chef Judson Todd Allen, of Oak Park, jumped into the national spotlight as a competitor on season eight of Food Network Star in 2012. The cooking show show gave Allen, known as the Architect of Flavor, a national platform for his unique approach to healthy eating and weight management. And earlier this year the local chef released his new book called, “The Spice Diet.”
Growing up on Chicago’s south side, Allen remembers his life as filled with ridicule and negative attention because of his weight. “I learned later in life,” says Allen, “that I had a serious addiction to food at a very young age.” The chef speaks candidly about how his intense childhood dreams about eating morphed into consuming four hamburgers in a single meal on a regular basis. The resulting weight gain left him the victim of bullying and lead Allen to seek solace in greasy bags filled with french fries and burgers. As much as he tried to comfort himself with food he never felt fulfilled by eating. Eventually Allen’s distorted view of food and the vicious cycle of emotional eating left him in a lonely place.
But then he made a switch.
Fourteen years ago, Allen assessed his life and realized he had always been passionate about food, but his passion had turned into an addiction. This epiphany helped the budding chef see he could turn his passion into his purpose and led Allen to begin his weight-loss journey. Ultimately he shed and kept off more than 160-pounds and transformed his life by focusing on food from a healthy perspective and using a wide variety of spices to bring bold flavor to his recipes. Allen’s lifestyle change helped him to fully appreciate the value of fresh, high-quality ingredients; along his weigh-loss journey he became a chef.
Today, Allen is a chef first and works actively to dispel the myth healthy eating is lifeless and bland. His book, “The Spice Diet” seeks to inspire readers to think creatively about food by introducing spices to excite people about cooking. Additionally, Allen’s book is a call to remove salt, sugar and processed foods from meals and supports that healthy choice by specifically addressing how to battle inevitable cravings.
“I want people to remember the Spice Diet was written by a real person, who had a real problem with food;'” says Allen gesturing at himself, “I’ve been in the trenches for years and I know I am not selling a hopeless dream.”
BRINGING THE SPICE DIET TO LIFE
The Ultimate Tuna Salad
Serving Size: 1 Cup
Calories Per Serving: 257
“The Spice Diet” Says: The Ultimate Tuna Salad is extremely rich-even without the mayonnaise. The herbs and spices make this unlike any tuna salad you’ve ever tasted. Its a party in your mouth.
Oak Park Eats Thinks: The salad offers bold flavor without the guilt; the dish is even better garnished with a batch of Chef Judson’s Sweet and Sour Dill Pickle Cashews. The cashew recipe and more than 70 others can be found in, “The Spice Diet.”
3 (5-ounce) cans albacore tuna in water, drained
1/2 English cucumber, diced
1 teaspoon capers, drained
2 avocados, pitted, peeled, and cut into 1/2” cubes
1 small red onion, thinly sliced into half moons
2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh dill
2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
3/4 Cup sliced cherry tomatoes
2 teaspoons Bayou Cajun Spice Blend (recipe follows)
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 Tablespoons olive oil
In a large serving bowl, combine the tuna, cucumber, capers, avocado, onion, fresh herbs, tomatoes and Cajun Spice Blend. Add the lemon juice and olive oil and toss the salad.
Bayou Cajun Spice Blend
Makes 1/4 Cup
2 teaspoons freshly ground white pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons paprika
1 Tablespoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
Mix together all the ingredients in an airtight container and store in a cool dry place away from heat and light.
Recipe reprinted from “The Spice Diet” with permission from Judson Allen