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COOKING WITH KINDNESS: AN INTERVIEW WITH MIAMI SPICE CHEF TIMON BALLOO
Photo courtesy of Andrew Meade
COOKING WITH KINDNESS: AN INTERVIEW WITH MIAMI SPICE CHEF TIMON BALLOO

Cook together as a family and always try to eat fresh! In celebration of Miami Spice 2015, I had a wonderful opportunity to catch up with one of Miami's best-loved chefs, Chef Timon Balloo. We talked about his various passions, including SUGARCANE raw bar grill, his kids, and the fight against childhood hunger.

Cari Garcia: Chef Timon, your joy and passion for food comes out in every original dish you create. Which of your creations most reflects who you are and how you feel about your art?

Chef Timon: It's mixed because most of the whimsical parts of me come out on the SUGARCANE raw bar grill menu, but not all of my culinary philosophies. I was trained to cook in fine dining concepts, but nowadays, the trend has moved to more casual dining.

That said, my cooking tries to marry the two: for example, in our 'Duck and Waffle' dish, there are French fundamentals—the duck confit—paired with American improvisational spirit. It is a great representation of me.

CG: You have tireless energy! You run fabulous restaurants and give so much of yourself back to the community. Plus, you're deeply involved with No Kid Hungry. What motivates you to support their work?

CT: I feel like it is my obligation to help out where I can, and I am I fortunate to be doing what I love to do. To help an organization such as Share Our Strength is an honor; the team there is committed to helping stop hunger.

CG: Childhood hunger and food insecurity are very real issues that we face right here in our community. How does No Kid Hungry combat it?

CT: The No Kid Hungry network is made up of many people: citizens, government officials, business leaders. We work to make sure that kids have access to healthy food. We want to provide better school breakfasts, better summer meals.

I'm a part of the Cooking Matters program that helps low-income families eat healthier. I show them how to make healthier food choices, how to cook fresh, affordable meals at home and how to read nutrition labels. It's really a great program.

CG: You made a big splash at Taste of the Nation for No Kid Hungry. Did you create an original dish, or can we order it at SUGARCANE raw bar grill?

CT: I made Moroccan-spiced carrots with yogurt & a crunchy garnish. It was exclusive to the event.

CG: What's your favorite part about collaborating on a large-scale event like Taste of the Nation?

CT: The number of great restaurants and chefs that help to make the energy come alive!

CG: The fight against childhood hunger goes hand-in-hand with access to healthier food options and education. Tell us about your important work with Citi Gardens®.

CT: I've recently started to help with The Education Fund, which, with the help of Citi, puts gardens in schools.

CG: What is your role at the gardens? What do the kids do?

CT: My role in the garden is to help by using my voice in the community. Together with Citi and The Education Fund, we will be launching a series of themed dinners utilizing the garden's ingredients grown and harvested by the kids themselves.

CG: In your effort to teach families about making healthy food choices, what's one piece of advice you always impart?

CT: Cook together as a family, and always try to eat fresh.

CG: What do you cook for your family?

CT: When I cook with my family I always try to incorporate vegetables by adding fresh spinach or kale to a lasagna or corn, peas and carrots to a quick fried rice. One of my family's favorite dishes is chili. We've substituted the traditional beef for turkey and the dollop of sour cream garnish with Greek yogurt.

CG: Is there anything I could do at home to cook more like you?

CT: I recommend buying a burner and cooking outside. Being able to sear meats on high heat, without dealing with the fuss of smoke detectors or exhaust fans, allows you to get restaurant-like quality, color and crust on meats and vegetables.

CG: Chef Timon, what do you do when you're not cooking, running restaurants, donating your time, and devoting yourself to food education?

CT: I try to be a great dad!

Citi is proud to partner with Share Our Strength and its No Kid Hungry campaign to end childhood hunger and provide nourishment to our next generation. To learn more about No Kid Hungry and the impact of its work, visit nokidhungry.org/onedollar.