Illustration Cierra Pedro

Dr. Chef Is in the House

An unscientific look at how professional cooks battle cold and flu symptoms with food and beverage.

Yup, it’s cold and flu season (not to mention pneumonia, bronchitis and, in my case, whooping cough!), and a pretty rough one at that. Whatever’s taking you and yours down this year, there’s no denying that ’tis the season to lie in bed feeling like crap. And since getting an appointment with an M.D. in this town isn’t always easy, I asked a bunch of my chef friends what I can put into my body to fight off the billions of microbes conspiring to sideline me. Their scientific validity may vary, but their recommendations are tastier than most of the antibiotics I’ve swallowed over the past few months. So what the hell, you may want to give some of these home remedies a try.

Eating your vegetables is about as classic as health advice can get. But, of course, how you ingest them matters tremendously. Gary LaMorte, corporate executive chef for the Mina Group, advises using “whole raw vegetables to supercharge your system.” Or, you can drink your veggies. Border Grill’s Jamaal Taherzadeh says, “When I’m feeling ill, I’ll make a carrot and ginger juice, or something with kale and apples.” And if you’re not juicing at home, it isn’t difficult to find stores selling fresh, cold-pressed juices around the Valley.

“When I’m feeling sick, I’ll braise a whole chicken at home with some chilies, and eat it with some white rice and some fresh salsa on top.” – Jamaal Taherzadeh

But if you’re juicing primarily to fight off a bug, you may want to look beyond the standard vegetable and fruit concoctions to the more concentrated health shots. At the Juice Standard’s two locations, you’ll find a trio of “shots” intended to keep you healthy with less traditional ingredients. The Flu Shot is made with turmeric, apple cider vinegar, oil of oregano and black pepper. The Wellness Shot contains ginger, lemon, cayenne and black pepper. And the E3 Live Shot contains live algae and coconut water. They’re sold together in a flight of shot glasses (which makes the often challenging tastes easier to handle), and washed down with an envelope of vitamin C gel. You’ll find four similar shots at Fruits & Roots that rely on many of the same ingredients, but are sold separately.

Remember how Mom used to tell you to eat chicken soup when you got sick? Well, according to Taherzadeh, she was on to something, because chicken contains vitamin C—although you can spice your bird up with a preparation a bit more exciting than soup. “Because I’m a chef, I don’t want to eat things that are bland,” he says. “When I’m feeling sick, I’ll braise a whole chicken at home with some chilies, and eat it with some white rice and some fresh salsa on top.”

If chicken isn’t for you, chef Vincent Pouessel of Daniel Boulud’s DB Brasserie suggests you warm up with French onion soup on “those cold and dry days of the Las Vegas winter.” The chef insists “the gelatin of the shanks just sticks to the inside of your body as a blanket would do, the tender caramelized sweet onion will fill you up, the reduced sherry wine will add an extra layer of sweet and the melted Gruyère cheese will just go down your throat as a warm honey infusion would and maintain your body temperature for hours to come.” OK, sure, I’m not hearing anything about vitamins or minerals in there, but it certainly sounds comforting.

Chef Kim Canteenwalla of Andiron, Honey Salt and Made L.V. swears by “great small-batch bourbon.”

Ginger tea is also a popular remedy for many chefs. “Whenever it’s cold/flu season, I always lean toward ginger,” says Micah Waltz of Andiron Steak & Sea. “Raw ginger tea is a go-to for me. The ginger brings up your body temperature to help fight whatever cold/flu causes, while also relieving any stomach issues. If you have allergies, honey is the way to clear up your stuffy head. I use local honey from Pahrump.”

Stratosphere executive chef Rick Giffen is also on board with this home remedy, although his recipe varies slightly. He makes his ginger tea with lemon and promises “it works great for symptom relief.” And chef Anthony Meidenbauer of Block 16 Hospitality goes all in, making green tea with ginger, honey and lemon.

Perhaps no suggested remedy is more surprising than ceviche. But Jeremy Jordan of the catering company Cut & Taste insists that the marinated raw fish dish is the cure for what ails you. Jordan, whose family is from Peru, tells me, “This is a standard dish that Peruvians use to fight off illness, [because] ceviche has a high level of vitamin C, which helps build the immune system and battle a cold.”

Meanwhile, the recommendation that probably contains the least scientific validity to back it up also sounds like the most fun. Chef Kim Canteenwalla of Andiron, Honey Salt and Made L.V. swears by “great small-batch bourbon.”

At the very least, it should make your symptoms more tolerable.

Illustration by Cierra Pedro. 

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