While there are about seventeen million individuals employed in the U.S. food industry, macrobiotics cooking is still a fairly new and foreign phenomenon for most. This is precisely why, following the incredible effects the diet had on her mother, thirty-one year old chef Chrisi Harper decided to start a food revolution. After graduating from culinary school, the Tennessee native started changing the lives of many families (and the occasional celebrity) by drastically altering their eating habits. This fairy foodmother opens up about her success stories, the philosophy behind macrobiotics, and why it is possible, easy, and cheaper to eat well.
When did you start getting interested in macrobiotics?
Before I was born, my mom was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and was looking for alternatives before they were going to have to remove parts of her intestine. She came across macrobiotics when I was just nine months old, and it had amazing results on her. So I really grew up with them, seeing how it helped her heal, and how food affects people’s health. Our household was not strict in terms of food, but we knew that it had the power to affect you emotionally and spiritually.
Did you enjoy cooking back then?
I didn’t know I loved cooking until I decided to become an acupuncturist. [laughs] In order to complement my program, my mom sent me to the Kushi Institute, which provides macrobiotic education. When I finished that school, she asked if I wanted to cook for some of her clients. The rest is history!
How would you actually define macrobiotics? It seems like one of those words lots of people hear but don’t necessarily know about.
I think of macrobiotics more as a lifestyle – it is a whole foods diet based on whole grains and vegetables. It is predominantly vegetarian, there are no dairy products involved, and a lot of people discover it because they have serious illnesses they want to cure.
Do you have personal examples of success stories?
One family I cook for in Connecticut has a son who was experiencing serious digestive disorders. I started cooking for them in January and he has really come full circle. It’s amazing to watch my clients’ health change… You know, when you’re a chef at a restaurant, you don’t have the one-on-one feedback, but when you’re in people’s homes it’s a much more nurturing feeling.
Have you ever cooked for big names?
I was the chef for the family of LA Reid for two years full-time, traveled with them, and entertained at certain parties. It was truly an adventure, and I got to cook for big names such as Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige, and others.
From a personal standpoint, I feel like there is a shift in the way people are eating in America, and an increase in consciousness regarding healthy food. Is that accurate?
Very much so. I feel like we are on the verge of a revolution. A couple of generations ago, our grandparents had it down naturally. Eating wasn’t a challenge, but now that fast foods and processed refined foods are everywhere, things are different. See, even though those types of food have made living easier and allow you to make a meal in fifteen minutes, we’re going to come full circle and go back to better quality. That’s why the local thing is becoming trendy, and that’s great.
In addition to cooking for people, you also provide them with advice on how to eat correctly, right?
What is the number one tip you share with them?
I think there are two really important things one needs to focus on to get results: quality and quantity. For quality, switching your diet to organic food—even for meat, with grass-fed beef or free-range chicken—will increase the number of nutrients you’re getting. For quantity, it’s tough to control the amount of sodium or fat we’re getting, but reducing the amount of refined products when eating out helps.
There are thousands of talented chefs in America. What do you think makes you stand out from others?
My macro background and knowledge of how it energetically affects people’s health. To tell you the truth, I cook with an intuition that I can’t really explain. I know the rules, and the way that the chemistry works in the kitchen, as well as dietary nutrition rules.
What are some of your future projects? Any intentions of being on Top Chef? [laughs]
I’ve always dreamed of having a bed & breakfast, but it’s not something I’m shooting for in the immediate future. You know, I’ve been doing freelance in New York for the past two years and have surrounded myself with a great circle of people. I’m finally feeling steady, like I have the faith and confidence to survive in this city. Right now, I’m focusing on keeping that strong base so I can start expanding.
I’m guessing that not all of your work is based in New York.
When it comes to New Yorkers, they go out of town during the summer: the Hamptons, Long Island… I take advantage of that time to travel. I was in Dubai for seven weeks last summer for example.
How can you eat well and cheap at the same time?
Once you start buying groceries, the amount spent on food will go down significantly. If you commit to making a few meals at home, you can go up in quality and still reduce your food budget.
How can Daily BR!NK readers contribute to your success?
I think that Daily BR!NK itself is really special because it exposes people who are doing amazing things. It is rare to come across a personal chef, to even know they exist; that service is sometimes not valued enough. I help people with food allergies, special diets, recovery from illnesses, or pregnancies. I think everybody knows someone who could use this service.