When you set out to make a meal, you might start with what you feel like eating. Maybe you’re in the mood for pasta, or a salad. You might figure out what ingredients you need, then go to the store and pick up what you need for that dish.

But what if you approached meals the other way? What if you picked the ingredients first and then figured out what to make? You might see some really juicy tomatoes and start dreaming of all the dishes you could make with them. Or maybe you’d find out that a fisherman you know caught a really good fish, then think of all the ways you could prepare it.

This is how Chef Christian Graves works.

At his restaurant, JSix, Chef Graves chooses what to make based on the ingredients he likes the most at the moment. There are many reasons to cook this way.

One, you get to be really creative. Chef Graves experiments with a lot of flavors that don’t often go together. Like corn-stuffed pasta with lemon and fried basil. Or a salad with pumpkin seeds, tangerines and blue cheese. Another reason is that you get to use the very best ingredients you can. Chef Graves uses fruits and vegetables from local farms. He uses meat that has been raised in a way that is good for the environment. And he chooses fish based on what will help keep the oceans healthy.

Best of all, it means you get to have fun. You can change the menu any time you get a new idea. You can decide to whip up some raspberry sorbet because berries are at their peak. And you can decide to spend the afternoon tinkering in the kitchen until you get a dish exactly the way you like it.

Next time you are shopping, look at the foods around you. Pick one that excites you. Then try to think of all the things you could do with that one food. Before you know it, you may be the next Chef Graves.


Ginger Beer and Sorbet Floats

Makes 4

  • 4 scoops raspberry sorbet
  • 2 cups berries in season (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries)
  • 1 bottle of non-alcoholic ginger beer
  • 4 sprigs fresh mint (optional)

Set out four tall, narrow glasses. Place one scoop of sorbet in each glass. Divide the berries evenly among the four glasses. Then pour ginger beer over the top. I usually garnish with a little fresh mint. My wife and I don’t normally give our kids soda. But this is too good not to share. Kids love it and it’s very yummy!!

Curry Chicken Salad

Serves 2 adults or 3 kids

  • 8 ounces cooked and diced chicken breast
  • 1 tablespoon golden raisins
  • 1 tablespoon dried apricots, diced
  • 1 tablespoon shredded carrots
  • 1 tablespoon celery, chopped fine
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • ½ teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon fennel fronds (or dill), chopped fine
  • salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Taste a little and add salt and pepper to meet your taste. We serve this on whole grain bread or in a pita. It is also good on a nice crisp leaf of butter lettuce.

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