Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious. ― Ruth Reichl
As you’ve noticed, I like to start my posts with some quote. I even have a quotes journal. I think it is such a great way to be inspired by others and reminded of many things, thoughts and ideas that we might all share. I consider Ruth Reichl’s books amazing. Reading her books is like joining her on her tasting and cooking adventures. After college, I worked at a fine dining restaurant. It was at that time in my life that I discovered how much I loved food. Real. Good. Food. The experience of working hand by hand with so many talented chefs is a highlight of my life. I also learned first-hand that chefs and sailors go neck to neck when it comes to language. I decided not to edit most of those words from this post so you can experience it too. Just beware. Ha!
The experience inspired me to study food. The kitchen became my new lab. Experiencing a great meal has the power to bring us back to our youth, a specific taste can spark a memory. Food to me is about nourishing my body and sharing special times.
Today I have the pleasure to have the collaboration of a one of those dear chefs and friend. Justin Baldwin, AKA Gus. Gus has been a friend for years. We met working at the Ritz Carlton in Amelia Island, FL. Despite the distance and the time, our friendship has continued and grown. Gus is also a fellow blogger. On his Gus Baldwin-Pastryology website, he shares life adventures along with some his own recipes. Until recently, he worked as a pastry chef in NYC, and currently he is pursuing other entrepreneurial dreams. Today, he shares his creativity and curiosity and zest for life that inspires some of his own creations.
Enjoy this “interview style” post and discover the life through the eyes of a pastry chef. He gives us some tips and insights into baking too. And check out the recipe that Justin shared with us at the end of the post.
First- tell me something you might want to share about yourself.
-Born and raised in Toledo Ohio and always having aspirations of seeing the world decided culinary school was my ticket. Growing up in the Midwest everything focused around food. I loved it. My mom is a talented artist who would make cakes out of the home and my dad is a carpenter/can fix or make anything. Both, two of the most amazing people I have ever met even to this day. My hobbies are and still are eating. I would include passion with hobbies because I do all these things with passion and love them all or I wouldn’t do them – writing, reading, learning new things, laughing, traveling, meeting new people, finding the good and happy in this crazy world-that’s who I am.
When did you discover an appreciation and passion for food?
-My Mom is an amazing artist and cook. Growing up in a small Midwest town and seeing her make cakes out of the home for so many friends and family, watching her in action was mesmerizing to me. Pastry seemed like a perfect suit. It’s artistic, building, inventive and very visual.
Being around food and delicious meals everyday must be hard for your weight. What do you do to try to stay fit and healthy while being around food?
-When I’m in my kitchen it’s pretty easy because I’ve tried all my own food and I’m familiar with the flavor. If I’m in a new environment with stuff I’ve never seen, then I’m out of control. If it’s just one day to explore, I give myself that freedom. After that I have to have a talk with myself. I do work out and to have all that go to waste would make me depressed and I’m not buying new clothes. No time or money for that.
What is your go to food or dessert?
-Trail mix and coffee. Sounds weird but it’s true. A good trail mix and a good cup of coffee are dynamic together.
What are three ingredients that everyone should have at home to create a simple and delicious dessert?
-Whatever fruit is in season everyone should have at home. You can’t go wrong with in season, fresh fruit. Also, eggs and cream. I went from healthy to not, but eggs and cream for pastry are a base that can create a lot of simple and surprisingly light desserts.
What inspires you to create new recipes?
-So much! It could be anything from architecture to culture to talking to someone that is telling me what they like to eat. Hearing someone talk about flavors that I never thought to put together really intrigues me. Travel is a big one and discovering new cultures. I love that! Finding an ingredient that I had never heard of and pushing myself to learn about it and explore in order to make something I would have never done truly inspires me.
Please share a healthy cooking or baking tip.
-Citrus. Citrus zest in a recipe will help cut down on using so much sugar. We have become so accustomed to everything being so overly sweet. Also, I like to use alternative flours in my baking to cut down on all the white flour. Like chick pea, almond, hazelnut, lentil, black bean. Plus, it gives your baked goods a whole new flavor profile that can be quite appetizing.
What do you enjoy more; discovering recipes firsthand in your kitchen or traveling to find new discoveries?
-Both really. I love nothing more than working on a recipe and seeing what happens. I worked with a chef that always said “It’s a spring board to a new idea.” Exactly. There is never a fail in the kitchen. You learned something. Some of the best recipes come from a screw up. I also love being outdoors. I love hiking. I think being inside when it’s sunny and beautiful is a sin. I used to walk to satellite parking at Amelia Island. We share those days… People from work would see me and pull over and ask me if I needed a ride. Ha! Sometimes the answer you’re seeking isn’t in front of you. You have to go find it.
What was your diet like growing up? Do you think this affected your long term health?
-I was a fat fat fatty. When I graduated high school, I was over 300 pounds. I ate garbage, fast food of course, my portion size was out of control which didn’t help matters. Changing my diet and losing weight shocked me as to how good I felt. All those years I was accustomed to feeling like shit that I didn’t realize how healthy and good felt. I was fortunate enough to lose the weight at a young age that it didn’t affect my long-term health. When I eat processed, sugar, fast foods I feel like hell and that’s how I felt and lived growing up.
Do you think it is possible to heal illnesses through nutrition?
-Totally! I’ve seen how much proper nutrition has done for me and I’m totally convinced nutrition plays a big part in our countries and now our worlds health and wellness epidemic.
What is your favorite food that you can’t live without?
-I don’t really have anything that I can’t do without. If I’m on the road or an airport I always look for trail mix. Seriously. I love it that much. But I adapt easily to anything. I’ve never traveled and said I missed something from back home. If I had to say a food I can’t live without is that when I am traveling I do tend to not eat the best. So, I would say then I miss actually cooking in my own kitchen with good ingredients. Fruits, vegetables, garlic, onion. When you eat out you don’t see much fruit and veggies as an option. I feel and hope this is changing.
What’s something you want to be remembered by? A legacy you want to leave for future generations
-In this day and age I think things and even people are easily forgotten. It’s life and the future and things press on. I get it. I don’t think things should stay the same. How would we grow? Everyone has a different opinion about someone and that’s fine. But if someone were to mention me. Even if they hated me or thought I was an asshole, I would want them to say “That guy was a dick but you know what? He was honest and fair. Even if he hated you back. He was a good guy that did the right thing.”
This conversation with Justin reminds me how everyone we meet has an impact in our lives. How wonderful it is to be able to learn from each other and share life experiences in order to grow as an individual, as a friend and as a member of our communities. Just as you should look both ways before crossing a street, we should pay attention to who is around us. You could be surprise of how many things we can share and many ways we could help each other to cross the busy streets of life. Justin has been one of those friends to me. And for that I can say that he is remembered as an honest and caring man. Not hated. Loved for it! Thank you Justin for sharing your perspective, your time and recipe. Can’t wait to see what amazing things you create in the future!
Thank you Gus Baldwin. Pastry Chef-New York, NY
Gluten Free Banana Bread
Healthier version of the traditional Banana Bread. Easy and No sugar added.
- 4 Banana (Very Ripe)
- 1/2 Cup Water
- 1 1/2 Cup Almond Flour
- 1 Tbsp Baking Powder
- 1 Tsp Cinnamon
- 4 Eggs (For vegan version read notes)
Preheat oven at 350 degrees
Mix all the liquid ingredients in the blender first.
Add the dry ingredients.
Blend until smooth
Pour mix on loaf pan.
Bake 350 for 30-40 minutes until golden, springs back when pressed on or knife inserted comes out clean. The usual cake thing.
For a Vegan version you could substitute the egg with at least 6 flax eggs (1 Flax egg equals 1 Tbsp of flax seed and 2 Tbsp of water). The consistency of the vegan version is softer but it’s as delicious.