Chef Michael Silverstein made a name for himself and solidified his status as one of America’s best cooks on MasterChef Season 10. The culinary superstar recently lost almost 100 pounds on the Keto Diet and now he’s sharing Keto-friendly recipes in his latest cookbook, New Comfort Cooking. Even notoriously hard-to-please Gordon Ramsay was impressed. We certainly were, so we took the opportunity to chat with Chef Silverstein about his new cookbook, weight loss and his favorite new comfort food recipe.
What was it like being on MasterChef?
Simply put, MasterChef changed my life! What many people don’t know about me is that I’m actually quite an introvert. I had never wanted to be on TV; in fact I still get nervous getting my photo taken. But I quickly discovered my love for TV as soon as I was on set with Gordon Ramsay. Every single day was thrilling, exciting and challenging, and it pushed me to my limits as a chef and as a person. I had to find my confidence in front of a camera. Once I got past my insecurities, filming on set was quite fun. Finding that inner confidence, thanks to the show, helped me launch my career as a food writer and content creator, and I use that newfound confidence every day.
How did you discover your love of cooking?
I’ve cooked for as long as I can remember. I have so many fond memories of cooking with my mom. I was always fascinated by the food industry and I remember telling my big sisters that one day I’d have my own restaurant – a dream I still work toward today.
Your weight loss is so inspiring. What would you say to people who doubt the Keto diet?
The Keto diet definitely gets a bad rap. I think when people hear anything encouraging a “high fat” diet it sounds terrible. We’ve been taught our whole life that fat is the enemy, but when you dive into the research, it’s sugar and carbs that are making us fat. And healthy fats (e.g. avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, etc.) are actually quite amazing for the body. That said, I don’t push a keto “agenda.” It did work for me, but every body is so different, so I don’t think Keto will work for everyone. But it helped me build a healthy relationship with food and ultimately helped me lose a lot of weight and feel better than I’ve felt in years. I think Keto food can be beautiful and wholesome and healthy, and I hope my recipes can help others see that too.
What’s your favorite dish to make from your latest cookbook?
My mother’s slow-cooked brisket. This recipe is based on the brisket my mom made every single holiday and it’s very special. It’s also surprisingly easy to make. When I started writing this book, my mom actually flew to Texas to help me “Keto-fy” some of my family recipes, so this brisket is the real deal. And the meat is just fall-apart perfection. Don’t miss it!
How does the process of creating a cookbook differ from creating a meal?
I think the real finesse in writing a good cookbook is not just making delicious food but writing recipes that anyone can recreate perfectly in their home kitchen. A good recipe is simple enough for anyone to make, without sacrificing flavor. As a chef, this is a real challenge for me. In a professional setting we can get away with using fancy equipment, complicated processes and top-tier ingredients to help us create the yummiest food, but I can’t do that with my books. I make sure every recipe uses ingredients that can be found at any grocery story, using equipment anyone will have at home. My recipes can be done quickly and easily and yet come out perfect every time. That’s the difference in writing a cookbook versus how I may cook a meal as a professional chef.
Do you have any cheat days? If so, what does that look like?
Of course! And there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, I try to think of them as “treat days” rather than “cheat days,” because I’m not “cheating” or doing anything wrong. You don’t have to eat perfectly every day in order to feel your best. I just try to find balance. When I’m on vacation I eat whatever I want. Holidays and special occasions? You better believe I’m eating the dessert! An occasional late-night falafel after some drinks? Sure. I’m focused on building a lifetime relationship with Keto, so a few “treats” here and there won’t slow me down. The important thing is not letting those treats turn into a total collapse. This is how so many fall off the wagon. After a treat day, enjoy it. Then just get right back on the horse.
What’s your best cooking tip for the novice chef?
1. Get a meat thermometer ($10 on Amazon). It will help you get perfect juicy meat every time.
2. Don’t be afraid of high heat. As Gordon Ramsay says, “Color = Flavor,” so don’t be afraid of really searing that steak, browning those veggies and getting a nice crispy skin on that fish.
3. Have fun in the kitchen! Put on some music or a good podcast, pour that glass of wine, find a new recipe and make cooking something fun. I promise the food will be tastier that way.
Anything exciting for the near future that you’re working on?
I’ve got a big secret I’m holding in and it pains me that I can’t talk about it. But yes, I have a big project coming out in a few months. I just can’t talk about it yet (blame the lawyers, not me!). Until then, my second book is finally here so get your copy wherever books are sold, and stay tuned.
Favorite go-to ingredient that everyone should have in their kitchen?
Good salt! Please stop cooking with regular table salt and buy a box of kosher salt or natural sea salt. Also, don’t be afraid to salt your food generously. This alone will make your food restaurant quality. I like to aim for around 1 teaspoon of kosher salt per pound of meat in the recipe as a general rule of thumb. It sounds like a lot, but kosher salt is much less “salty” than table salt and has much better flavor as well. Every good chef has mastered the art of salt, and you can too.
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