As the host of Top Chef Canada, a chef, and the girl behind that highly Instagrammed pizza pregnant shot—you know, the one with the slices stacked on her belly—Eden brings a certain je ne sais quoi, palpable joy and humor to everything she does. In advance of her cookbook launch (we see you, September and every meal thereafter) we caught up with this feel-good-master to get her POV on balanced living from eating to activity. Here, she talks about her veg-forward approach to cooking, and how she balances eating well with indulging, of course!
Major takeaway: Laugh big. Eat well. Dance always, even in your living room.
WHAT IS YOUR APPROACH TO FITNESS?
I grew up dancing, so being active has always been a part of my life. After high school, I moved to London for culinary school and couldn’t keep up with my dance regime in the same way unfortunately, but it’s high on my list of things to get back to in life. I love music and movement, and at a minimum, I'm always dancing in my living room.
After culinary school, I backpacked through India for a year and fell in love with yoga. Plus, when I had my daughter, my scoliosis was aggravated by my pregnancy and giving birth, so I started going to Pilates which was massively transformative. I have never seen my body change so fast; it’s made a huge difference.
Lest we not forget—I live in NYC and walk everywhere, at a very fast pace because I'm usually running late for something. Basically, I sprint all over the city, up and down the subway stairs; it's incredible cardio.
That said, I try to go to Pilates, twice a week, but if I don't make it, I don't feel bad about it. I set reasonable expectations for myself and do my best to achieve them. I am a mother, I have a full time job, and relationships I care to maintain, plus I like to go out and enjoy myself too. Truth.
DAILY THOUGHTS ON COOKING AND EATING?
I think about food all day, every day because I love it. I don’t think about food calories though. I cook simple, no-fuss, effortless, and approachable Middle Eastern-inspired cuisine that’s balanced and veg-forward. My dishes are bright, abundant, packed with flavor and loaded with seeds, tahini, yogurt, grains, & nuts which are very satisfying. As a result, my diet represents a huge part of my wellbeing simply because of the way I like to cook. That said, I believe in moderation. When I'm out, I indulge and never hold back. Most of the time I eat very well and consider it good for the soul to really go for it from time to time.
HAVE YOU ALWAYS HAD A BALANCED MINDSET?
Growing up I never thought about what I ate. I was constantly dancing and burning calories, but after high school, I went to culinary school to study pastry and cuisine. It was my first time away from home and I pretty much lived between the pubs and the school kitchen. I definitely gained the freshman 15 (probably more)! I never saw the sun, was cooking (and eating) indoors all day, plus drinking all night in the pubs—I didn't look well. I was green.
I remember seeing a photo of myself and realizing I needed to turn it around, eat healthier and start working out again. Once I discovered my passion for Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine, everything balanced out. Over time my shifting food philosophies began to inform the type of ingredients I shopped for, what filled my home, and inevitably what I craved.
THAT’S SO TRUE, THE MORE YOU EAT THE MORE YOU CRAVE FOR ANYTHING. WHAT ARE SOME TIPS TO MAKE SOLID FOOD CHOICES?
I always have an abundance of fresh produce overflowing in the house; out on the counter and packed in the fridge. When grocery shopping, start in the produce section and load the cart with tons of vegetables such as cucumbers, bell peppers, sweet potato, squash, cauliflower and so on to have at the ready.
WE LOVE YOUR TAKE ON HEALTHY, BUT MAKE IT YUMMY. DO YOU INDULGE FROM TIME TO TIME AS WELL?
Yes. All the time. We live in NYC and are constantly out and about. There's always a restaurant to try or a bar to swing by, which is what I love about living here; giving that up would be such a waste. The way I see it, when I'm out, I can’t control the ingredients being used be it salt, fat or butter, so I'd rather not stress about it. Instead, I enjoy every last bite and rest in the knowledge that most of the time I make healthy choices. In short, control what you can at home and where you're out, live it up!
SPEAKING OF INDULGING, HOW DO YOU AVOID FEELING "GUILTY"?
I think guilt that's associated with food is tricky. People have different relationships to food. It’s an emotional and individual thing. Therefore I believe it's important to understand what works best for you on the reg, put your best foot forward, and be kind to yourself.
Plus, I actively try to speak positively to myself. It's an ongoing effort, but now more than ever as the mother of a daughter, I'm learning to change my inner and outer dialogue. As a role model to the younger generation, it's my job to amplify her self esteem and self-worth, and that starts with me and how I treat myself.
WE LOVE HOW YOU EAT JOYFULLY, THIS IS SUCH A POWERFUL MESSAGE...
Honestly, I think that's why my pizza photo went viral, the joy was real. I was pregnant, celebrating my body and indulging in pizza; it was truly heaven and hilarious. After that, I took some of the pictures from that series to an extreme for the sake of being funny, but the underlying message was to shed this idea of "guilty pleasures" often associated with enjoying yourself. I don't want to call anything a "guilty pleasure,” because I don’t feel guilty. It’s just pleasure, within reason.
I'm frequently asked how I eat all this food and stay in shape. It goes back to balance and moderation. For example, when we order pizza once a month, I don't sit down and eat the entire pizza by myself. Physically, I couldn't do it. I have two slices max and I feel great. Once the fear of enjoyment is eliminated and you eat what you want (responsibly), the bingeing subsides and the body/mind naturally craves more balance. Instead of feeling like it’s your last chance to eat pizza, it becomes no big deal and you realize all you need is a few bites to satisfy.
THAT BRINGS US FULL CIRCLE. TELL US ABOUT YOUR SOON-TO-LAUNCH COOKBOOK...
Yes, I'm very excited. I have a cookbook coming out in the Fall of 2020, full of fresh, ripe, Mediterranean-inspired food I cook on the reg for my friends and family in my kitchen in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It’s rooted in Middle Eastern flavors re-imagined in approachable and contemporary ways. The pages are filled with food memories and my culinary journey along with no-fuss, satisfying, straightforward and vegetable dominate dishes. Through these stories I hope to inspire people to make a festive mess with tahini everywhere and wine aplenty.
WOW, CONGRATS! WE CAN'T WAIT. SO MUCH GOODNESS IS HAPPENING...
YES! I feel very fortunate. I've wanted to write a book for as long as I can remember. Finally, this year everything aligned and I knew it was time to share that with everyone as a cookbook. Plus, my pride and joy, Top Chef Canada is premiering April 13th at 10pm EST on Food Network Canada. And, sidebar to that, I've started filming stand & stir episodes with The Food Network app. I’ll keep you posted as those roll out!