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  • The Chopping Blog

What Do Chefs Eat When They Don't Feel Well?

Posted by Shelley on Oct 25, 2017


My fascination around what people eat when they are under the weather started when a beloved former employee of ours mentioned that she would make her husband a soft-boiled egg when he was ill. I thought that would be the last thing I would want to eat when I was sick! But that is what his mother made him when he was young, so she made it for him because that particular food is what made him feel loved and cared for.

Just recently, one of our employees and blogger Erica Forneret was under the weather, and I asked her the same question. Her response was “Albondigas soup! My mom never made it, but she would get it from my favorite Mexican restaurant Margaritas,when I was young. It's still my favorite soup, sick or not!”

I think my fascination with this type of food comes from the fact that my family was a "fend for yourself" type of family when we were sick. I honestly cannot remember once in my life where someone even made me a piece of toast, much less a bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup, when I was sick. 

chicken noodle soup

Most of us in the food service industry do what we do because we like to take care of people. We are thrilled to find personal ways to make our guests and customers feel special. But truth be told, we aren’t so hot at being on the receiving end. I figured one of the few times a chef will lay down and let you wait on them is when they are sick! So, I reached out to a few of my friends to ask them what foods make them feel better when they are down for the count. Here is what they said:

Gale Gand, Pastry Chef & Restauranteur

I definitely have a go-to dish when I'm feeling sick or blue... I can't recover without Matzah Ball Soup. Or even Mish Mosh Soup, it's more complex grown up cousin. I usually have the hubby pick it up at a Jewish deli, but I only like it from certain ones. Not all Matzah Ball Soup is created equal. I like Max and Benny's (just matzah balls and broth) or Once Upon A Bagel's (though they confuse the issue with lots of chopped chicken and vegetables). Some places try to elevate it (a terrible mistake) with things like dill in the matzah ball mix (Max's Delicatessen in Highland Park) but I prefer a more pure version.

I think the origin of this craving is from my mom, Myrna, who made matzah ball soup for me for lunch often. Also, we didn't go out for dinner much but somehow would go to Jewish Deli's in Highland Park and on Howard Street in Evanston when my musician father would be picking up guitars or sheet music (I think) from Lyon and Healy, a wholesaler near there. My 10 year old mind doesn't remember it quite accurately.

Hugh Amano, Chef, Author of The Adventures of Fat Rice

When I'm not feeling good, I 100%, no doubt, head to The Bagel in Lakeview for a quart of chicken broth. I usually believe in feeding a cold, too, so I get it with kreplach, eat the whole plate of pickles, plenty of bread and butter, and follow it up with a grilled cheese with bacon and tomato, with fries. But for sure, this is the Jewish penicillin. Total cure!

Rick Ortiz, Chef - Antique Taco

My under the weather food" Is Caldo de Repollo (Cabbage Soup). It starts with a 1 pot chicken stock and veg. The twist is we use red cabbage. It turns the broth a purplish color that might be strange to some but I think that red cabbage has more flavor. You can taste the nutrients! I hope you and the whole crew are doing well.

Dawn Jackson Blatner, Registered Dietician Nutritionist

I swear by my Wellness Shot

Wellness Shot

Fend off your funk by making my Wellness Shot.

Just slam a few simple ingredients (lemon juice, ginger, cayenne, sea salt) and then follow it with a orange-wedge-chaser. It gives you an instant boost & it’s actually fun to do daily until you’re feeling like yourself again.

Here's the magic of the Wellness Shot explained:

LEMON= natural dose of immune-boosting vitamin C
GINGER= blasts bad bacteria & viruses lurking around conspiring to make you sick
CAYENNE= stimulates circulation & warms the body
SEA SALT= draws moisture out of swollen tissues in the throat and cleans away bacteria
ORANGE WEDGE= fun, invigorating chaser that adds to the vitamin C dose

Having a batch of frozen chicken stock at the ready can make for an easy soup base or remedy on its own when you or someone you love is sick. Here's a video on how to make it at home:



Our Autumn Soups and Stews is also a great resource for hearty, seasonal soups like: 

  • Minestrone with Farro, Chickpeas and Kale,
  • Cassoulet (White Bean, Turkey Sausage and Chicken Stew),
  • Tuscan Beef Ragout with Red Wine, Tomatoes and Rosemary, and
  • Tom Kha Gai (Spicy Shrimp, Coconut Milk and Lemongrass Soup).

Topics: soup, chicken stock, soups, chef, Matzo Ball Soup, chicken soup

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