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A Moment With Megan Huylo

Megan Huylo wants to nourish you.

The chef, cooking instructor and culinary consultant first discovered the link between food and health during a childhood health crisis. That experience would later catapult her into the world of plant-based cuisine and nutrient-dense farming.

Ultimately, Huylo graduated from the Natural Gourmet Institute’s Chefs Training Program and began working as a chef everywhere from organic farms to popular cleanse company kitchens. Recognized for her contributions in this category, she has been featured in publications from Food & Wine to Glamour and was a finalist on HLN’s Cook Your Ass Off.

Today, Huylo—the chef at Bhumi Farms in Amangansett—spreads the good word on healthy, organic, seasonal food throughout the Hamptons and New York City. Here, she discusses how magical it can be when your work and passion collide:

Live The Process: To what do you attribute your passion for food and health?

Megan Huylo: My upbringing revolved around growing and cooking food with my family, but my interest in food and health really began with a cancer diagnosis when I was eight. We opted for chemotherapy bolstered by holistic medicine that focused on nutrition. Even so, the drugs were aggressive and, by the time chemo ended, I was 30 pounds overweight and terribly out of shape. It was a difficult time, but it opened my eyes to the concept of food as medicine at a very early age.

LTP: What makes plant-based cooking different than other cooking? Do you personally stick to that type of diet?

MH: Anyone can butter-baste a prime cut of beef or coat fresh pasta in cheese and create something delicious. It doesn't require much thought or creativity. But, to create well-rounded, satisfying dishes with plant-based ingredients, you have to think outside of the box. As a result, what chefs are coming up with now is so inventive, flavorful and elevated. We’ve come a long way from the days of meat-substitutes, flavorless steamed vegetables and highly-processed vegan cheese. Chefs are using whole, real foods and skilled techniques to create balanced and delicious plant-based dishes. It's an incredible time to be in this arena.

I eat a primarily plant-based diet, rich in whole foods. What started as an ethical decision about ten years ago quickly became a complete lifestyle overhaul once I began to see the health benefits—and they're plentiful. That's not to say that I don’t allow myself to indulge every now and then, though. I'll dabble, except for meat and poultry.

LTP: Can you offer a simple plant-based recipe—with an hero ingredient that you currently love—for the fall/holidays?

MH: I work on an organic farm that practices nutrient-dense farming methods. The produce that comes out of those fields is unlike anything I have ever tasted. It gets me all sorts of giddy. As in fashion, there are always dish or ingredient trends that come and go on the culinary scene, but high-quality, flavorful produce will always be in demand. I’m looking forward to watching this method of farming become more mainstream, improving our food systems and, ultimately, our collective health.

That being said, we had a glorious crop of black futsu squash come out of the fields this fall:

Instructions:

  • Cut the black futsu in half (kabocha, red kuri or delicata squash are also great options).
  • Clean out the seeds and coat the squash lightly in olive oil and salt.
  • Roast at 425 for about 20 minutes.
  • While it’s roasting, finely mince 1/2 of a whole lemon (remove the seeds!), a small shallot and a dash of salt.
  • Place in a mixing bowl. Combine with 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts and 1 cup of freshly chopped herbs like parsley, mint and chives.
  • Stir in about a 1/2 cup of olive oil and more salt to taste.
  • Scoop a few tablespoons into the cavity of each half of squash and enjoy!

LTP: Aside from your diet, what do you do to keep yourself feeling happy, healthy and balanced?

MH: Most importantly, I do my best to keep my mind free and unattached. Happiness and balance can't exist, no matter how many sun salutations I do or green juices I drink, if my mind isn’t free. That’s the priority and I have a great teacher with whom I work to strengthen that practice. I also enjoy running outside and the occasional spin class. I’m very lucky that my profession is something that brings me so much joy and doesn't feel like work. I get a real kick out of the whole process of growing food and feeding people. Food impacts us on a level unlike anything else.

LTP: What does happiness look like to you?

MH: Happiness is an inside job. It’s everywhere and in everything. It’s taken me three decades and some extreme lows along the way to truly grasp this, but it’s just being.

LTP: What does it mean to you to “Live The Process” and how can we all do that more each day?

MH: To “Live The Process” means to let go and trust in the workings of the universe. Whenever I feel challenged, I look for the wisdom in the situation. It can always be found and it never fails to greatly contribute to my growth and evolution.