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Farmers’ Markets, Gardens, and Eating Fresh

With Chef Ryan Dodge

Season 9, Episode 9  | May 18, 2021

Spring offers new opportunities for embracing fresh, locally grown produce. Chef Ryan Dodge joins us to explore the importance of these whole foods, as well as ways we can get more of them into our diet, whether we grow them ourselves or shop for them at a local farmers’ markets.

Chef Ryan Dodge

Ryan Dodge is the creative force behind Life Time’s LifeCafe’s nationwide. As executive chef he spearheads Life Time’s “if it’s here, it’s healthy” philosophy, which is focused on menu offerings that are based on healthy, wholesome ingredients.

We all know the benefit of eating fresh, whole foods for our health, but locally grown items also offer advantages. Growing your own is a great option, as is shopping at farmers’ markets. If you’re heading to one this spring season, Dodge offers these tips for navigating them:

  • Arrive early. You’ll get your choice of a better yields of crops, as well as have the opportunity to talk with the farmers about their philosophy and growing methods before they get busy with a rush of customers.
  • Come prepared. Not all vendors take credit cards, and many don’t offer bags for your haul. Be sure to bring cash and reusable bags with you.
  • Shop strategically. Be thoughtful about the order things are packed in your bags. Go for firm produce and fast-selling proteins first, then work your way up to delicate items such as greens so nothing gets smashed.
  • Be open-minded. Try something new! Ask farmers about unfamiliar foods that catch your eye. They can teach you what it is and how to best cook with it.

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Transcript: Farmers’ Markets, Gardens, and Eating Fresh

Season 9, Episode 9  | May 18, 2021

Jamie Martin

Welcome to Life Time Talks, the healthy-living podcast that’s aimed at helping you achieve your health, fitness, and life goals. I’m Jamie Martin, editor-in-chief of Experience Life, Life Time’s whole-life health and fitness magazine.

David Freeman

And I’m David Freeman, the national digital performer brand leader for Life Time. We’re all in different places when it comes to our health and fitness, but no matter what we are working toward, there are some essential things we can do to keep moving in the direction of a healthy, purpose-driven life.

Jamie Martin

In each episode, we break down the various elements of healthy living, including fitness and nutrition, mindset and community, health issues, and more. We’ll also share real inspiring stories of transformation.

David Freeman

And we’ll also be talking to experts from Life Time and beyond, who’ll share their insights and knowledge, so you’ll have the tools and information you need to take charge of your next steps. Here we go.

[MUSIC]

David Freeman
Hey, everybody. Welcome back to another episode of Life Time Talks. I’m David Freeman.

Jamie Martin
And I’m Jamie Martin.

David Freeman
And in this episode, we are with Chef, Executive Chef, Ryan Dodge, and we’re talking about whole foods, AKA, yes, real foods, the farmer’s market, and also, some great gardening tips. So, a lot coming at you in this episode. Go ahead and plant a little bit of seed of certain things that stood out to you, Jamie.

Jamie Martin
Oh, man. Well, this was one of those conversations that, I don’t know what you did, but I just like left it feeling like really inspired about food. Not just about eating food, but like, about the connections that food create in our lives, about food traditions and the things that happen when we’re enjoying food together.

A year or so ago, I had written a letter in the magazine called “The Table,” and it was about how like the table is a place where we come together and it’s often where we’re eating food, and it’s like a community feeling, and I feel like this conversation really, like, yes, we talked about real food, we talked about farmer’s markets and how to navigate them, but in the end, it really came down to a sense of community, and like, how it brings us together, and that for me, was really powerful. I love all the tips he shared, but I loved kind of that final message, and I’m really excited for people to hear that from Dodge.

How about you?

David Freeman
Yes. The thing that stood out to me was his passion, and we talk about all the time, when we have all the different guests on, they all emulate certain types of passion within their craft, and I like to piggyback off your message, the relationship with food, and how we can have appositive relationship to what that food is that we’re eating.

So, we touched a little bit about process versus the whole foods, but how it makes you feel, and that’s a real thing. How you feel after you get done eating, and how the food should be fueling you with energy. So, that stood out to me being in the health and fitness industry, and utilizing that as a staple within a lot of the individuals that I work with, I just know how much of a value that this episode is going to be for everyone who listens in.

Jamie Martin
One other thing I just want to add that he said, and I think, David, you and I were both nodding our heads, because we could see each other, is this whole idea of terroir in like food, like where food comes from, and it’s like kind of how we are. Where did we are come from, and so, we all have our food stories. We can sometimes taste where the food is from, and that’s what I think is really powerful about farmer’s markets, and gardening, because like we know where it comes from. We have a chance to get to know the growers, or we are the growers, and so, there’s something really powerful about, again, those connections, those relationships, that happen around food.

So, without further ado, I’m just going to introduce Dodge quick, Ryan Dodge is the creative force behind Life Time’s Life Cafés nationwide, as the Executive Chef, he’s spearheads Life Time’s If It’s here, It’s Healthy philosophy, and is focused on menu offerings that are based on healthy wholesome ingredients. And that’s what you’re going to hear him talk about. You’re going to hear his passion come through, as David mentioned. So, David, anything else, before we move into it?

David Freeman
Let’s not make them wait any longer. Let’s go ahead and get ready to get cooking with Chef Dodge.

Jamie Martin
Alright, everybody, we have Chef Ryan Dodge with us today. Dodge, thanks for being with us. It’s been a while. How have you been?

Chef Ryan Dodge
It’s my pleasure. It’s nice to be here. It’s nice to be able to see you guys virtually, and hear your voices. I’ve been well. I mean, we’ve been all going through this same thing together and everybody’s experience has been different. So, today is an incredible spring day in Minnesota, and it’s raining, so it’s grey and cloudy, but there is potential, seeing that there is some spring buds on the trees and it’s transitioning from grey to green. So, that’s something positive and exciting.

David Freeman
Well, we got that same weather going on down here. It just started storming but what we’re going to do with this episode is bring that sunshine, and you’re the great person to be able to bring that sunshine to life, because being a guy that’s a passionate about food, and everybody that’s listening right now, loves some food, so before we get into the meat of episode, pun definitely intended, tell us a little bit more about what led you into the career, as far as being a chef.

Chef Ryan Dodge
Yes. The meat of the episode, pun intended is funny, being that you’re a plant-based man. The thing that led me into being a chef is, definitely not what led me into being a cook, and I would say that there’s a huge difference between the two.

I wanted to be a good cook, because there was this romantic experience that was happening to me in my youth, of what was happening in kitchens. That environment, and who was . . . it was a very competitive environment. It was very, almost, you know, you look to your left and you look to your right, and there was this group of people moving toward the same thing as a team. It was loud. It was chaotic. It was hot. It was fast. And there was this camaraderie that came with it, and there was this element of that individual who could carry the squad through these extremely busy times, and I think, at the time I didn’t really realize how stressful the environment was, but it wasn’t really the food, initially. It was more the environment and it was more the camaraderie, and it was more that . . . it was a very tangible . . . it felt like you accomplished something every day, all day.

And then, there was the…after that was done, when everything was turned off and everything was cleaned up, that group of people would move to the next place, and it was laughs, and it was music, it was you know, like I said, camaraderie, but celebrations, and it was of accomplishment, and a shared accomplishment. People got paid to do it, and it was like a family.

Wherever you go, in a restaurant, who’s chopping wood is like, that’s a family. Somebody’s over here doing this and somebody’s doing that. And we’re all moving in the same direction, and so, that was initially what got me going into the industry, I would say.

Jamie Martin
I worked in a restaurant for a long time, but on the server side, and I will wholeheartedly, like agree with that. It was a family. It was so fun to be part of that, and to see the way . . . it’s like a well-orchestrated machine, in terms of how things operate, and then to see how people connect and support one another, it’s just a really cool environment.

Chef Ryan Dodge
And then there is the actual food side of it, right, because every restaurant or every place that offers something, has this kind of identity tied to what it is they’re offering, which is interesting, which is just evolution, and not just me as a cook in a restaurant, but me as a chef in the industry.

Jamie Martin
I’d love for you to speak to that a little bit. Can you talk to us about your chef identity and what that means to you?

Chef Ryan Dodge

Yes. Absolutely. You know, when we were just shooting the breeze a second ago, talking about where we’re from, I’m from Lincoln Nebraska, and I’m from the heart of the heartland, and I’m from a place where we grew up and my grandparents had cattle, and my grandparents had gravel, and my grandparents had corn, and soy. So, we grew up farming. We grew up with that in our family.

The restaurant called to me as a young man needing a job, and I had a job at 12. Like, everybody kind of goes into this and has a job. I had a job detasseling. It was like, break of dawn — detasseling, that’s right. Break of dawn. Get to the school bus. Take it to the field. Pack your lunch. You’re out there and it’s like…every morning, there’s all the dew that’s on the corn, and you’re walking the field and you’re getting wet, and you’re pulling tassels and some fields have already been gone through, and some haven’t, so, some are more work than others. But you just walk fields, until the sun comes up, and then you’re like dragging, but you’re like, yeah.

I had two older sisters, and my two older sisters had a job at a pizza place in town, called Valentino’s. Everybody has their pizza place growing up, right. That was ours. And their pizza had the very sweet tomato sauce. They were a little bit older than I was, and they got me a job, because they were both serving. And this was a pizza, but this was buffet. I’m talking about . . . you know what I’m talking about. A pizza buffet.

So, they were like, we’re going to get you this job. It’s going to be, you’re going to be the dishwasher. So, one of the things that I had was a really close family. My sisters were really close, and I wanted to represent. So, they got me a job 14, and honestly, it was really when I got there, the dishwasher was working, he was like, going out to the back, disappearing, smoking cigarettes. He didn’t care. He was a little older, but I just remember going in and being like super . . . my sisters got me this gig. I got to take this serious. Like, they’re awesome gals, and I wanted to represent the fam, represent them, so I just looked at that dish station like an opportunity to keep it clean, keep it organized, but then, I quickly realized, not only was the dish station the place to do that, but when you did, like you got a different reaction from people, coming back. So, it wasn’t just my sisters that were coming back and I was making them proud, but it was these other servers that were coming back, and then they started flirting with you, and you were like, always wanting to make sure that the plates were looking right, and I was looking right. I was looking in them.

One day the manager was like, this guy didn’t show up, Dodge, I need you on pizza. So, I went over to the pizza line, and I remember, easy right? Pizza comes across and you put the sauce down and the cheese down. I was all the dude that was super meticulous. I was thinking about how I wanted the pizza, so I was putting every little piece of something where it needed to be. He’s like, dude, you need to speed up. We got to go.

Anyway, I kind of had it then, and then it just evolved throughout my career, and you know, restaurants just called me. So, when I went to school, they called me. I worked while I was in school, playing football, and they called me, so I worked while I did that. I worked all throughout high school. Through every season. As you guys know, you have football, wrestling, track, and then there’s the summer and you train for football again. But I worked the whole time.

And then, I grew up and I was like, I really wanted to do culinary school, and it wasn’t so much because I knew what it was. At that time . . . this is, remember, this is prior to like Food Network. This is like prior to that. I went to New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier Vermont. So, I took my, like all I knew, heart of the heartland, Lincoln Nebraska, Nebraska, to Montpelier Vermont.

And I don’t know if you all have been to Montpelier Vermont, and I don’t know if you’ve been to Vermont, but Vermont is the most unique and incredible place. The Green Mountain State. And while I was there, I met a man by the name of Dale Conoscenti. Dale Conoscenti was the OG R&D chef for Ben & Jerry’s. I’m talking, yes, chunk monkey, holy cannoli, those flavors. But this boy was the guy who was OG R&D. So, they used to do like, OK, we want to do holy cannoli, so what did they do? They sent him to Italy, right, to figure out how to make cannoli.

I met him. He eventually went from ben & Jerry’s when Unilever bought them, opened up a restaurant. I worked with him. We opened it up in Montpelier. I worked in Big Sky. I worked in Jackson Hole. But I met Madeleine Kamman, and for those who don’t know Madeleine Kamman, Madeleine Kamman came to our restaurant, because at that time, she was retired. She was in Barre Vermont, and we had an open kitchen at Dale Conoscenti’s, and Madeleine came and . . . so if you think of huge iconic chefs, who do you think of? Give me an iconic chef.

Jamie Martin
Julia Child.

Chef Ryan Dodge
Nailed it. Right out of the gates. Julie Child is like the American who went to France to learn how to cook, who came back and got all boozed up on TV and made a chicken dance. Madeleine was a women who grew up on the French countryside, cooking in kitchens, everything from scratch. And she came to America, and she, Madeleine Kamman, if you look her up . . . she made one of the most amazing books of all time, which is The Making of a Cook, illustrations by hand. Encyclopedia for back in the day. Was coming in the restaurant, open kitchen. Took me under her wing. Introduced me to Gary Danko, and really, the rest is history.

So, that’s what got me really charged up about food, was her.

I met Julia Child. Julia Child is great. I was able to meet her before she passed away in an event, but yeah, I mean, Madeleine would . . . her blood would boil, man, when you talked about Julia Child, because, Julie had this acclaim. I mean we loved Julia Child, but Madeleine was the real-life — she was the real deal. Not only that, but Madeleine opened a school and she really was adamant on the brigade of building a career for female chefs. And this is in the 80s and 90s. She didn’t let a lot of men into her school.

She eventually let Gary in, but she built an empire of a lot of the women leaders that are in, I mean, that went into the industry in the 80s and 90s. She was the reason that they were able to have a place to go, and she came out of that place, and anyone who went through Madeleine’s school, went on to become somewhat of a powerhouse.

David Freeman
Well, let’s take a moment right there. Pause for the cause. This is what passion sounds like, ladies and gentlemen. What you’re hearing from Dodge right now, this is straight passion.

Now you can talk about the craft of what it is that might be your job, but you can tell, this is not a job for him. He absolutely loves what he does when it comes to food and sharing that with everybody else, is a beautiful thing.

When you talked about growing up on that farm, that nostalgic vibe that you probably have a connection with now when it comes to the farmer’s market. So, why the farmer’s market. I can guess in my head, but tell the listeners, so you can continue to have this passion ooze through their speakers and their headphones.

Why the farmers’ market?

Chef Ryan Dodge
Again, I used romantic before, so I’ll try to find another word. I’ll go with nostalgia, though. When I was working and growing up, we didn’t really talk a lot about, you know, how the farms impacts so many different things.

We didn’t talk about, you know, in all transparency, praying the beans. We didn’t talk about the government and the subsidies that went into it. So, I learned a lot when I left the farm, because when I went to San Francisco, I learned more about farming. I really learned more about farming and food.

When I was growing up in the heartland, it was a job. It was a lot of work. It wasn’t, for me, I didn’t really understand, and we didn’t talk about it, right . . . so, for me, now, like looking back, when I was growing up, I was just like a caged animal. I was ready to go explore the world, but I was on the farm. Like, I think about Luke in Star Wars, like, I got to go fight the force, man. Right? But you’re like, no, do the farm. No. I’m on the farm thinking I got to go see the world, and I want to see the city lights, and I want to see the Bay, and I want the energy. And so, that called me, and through that process, of course, always home looks good in the rearview mirror. I mean, I would go home and see my family and stuff, and I would look at the grocery stores versus the place that I was at, and I’d look at the commodity that they were buying versus the things that I was buying.

Now, mind you guys, Vermont is, in and of itself, almost like a different country. The reason I say that is because co-ops in communities in farmer’s markets, it never went away. Vermont, that state capital is, I think, the only state capital that doesn’t or didn’t have a McDonald’s or a fast-food chain in the state capital. Montpelier was adamant, not bringing those things in.

They had co-ops. They have local farms. I don’t know if you’ve seen, like made in Vermont, it’s made in Vermont. That’s a real thing. There’s an artist and culture in Vermont, really, going to Vermont from Nebraska was stark, because it didn’t have the same climate you have in the heartland, so, you had to be a lot more creative in how things were built, but to answer your question, you know, I think about being where I’m from now, and I look at the opportunity with the land, and I see how, I mean, last time I talked to you, Jamie, we talked about soil and regenerative farming. We talked about biodiversity. Those are all things that I experienced in Vermont. Those are all things I experienced in Northern California. In the heartland, where I was from? That wasn’t a conversation. There was a lot of farming going on, without a lot of education, there around the environment.

Jamie Martin
Yes. It’s interesting. I actually am from a small farming community, as well, Dodge. We have so much in common. I raise my hand on the screen when you said the word detasseling, just so everybody knows. I did that as well. We’ll have to share a link to what detasseling is for those who may not know. But I think it’s interesting that you call that out, Dodge, because I think I had a very similar experience in terms of what is farming and what can provide beyond . . . you know, a lot of times it was grain for the cattle, and obviously, it was shipped out, but that’s another conversation as well.

I think one of the things that’s interesting to me about farmers’ markets, well, one of my experiences, like I often don’t know where to start when I get there. I’m often so overwhelmed by just the variety and the beauty, and like, what do I do here? Like, where do I start and how do I have these conversations? So, what are your tips for navigating the farmers’ market and getting to know your farmers who are there?

Chef Ryan Dodge
Well, a couple of things that I — well, a couple of things that I think about when I think about going to the farmers’ market. One, this is evolution over time. It’s funny when you go to a farmers’ market, you got to go to the ATM before you go to the farmers’ market. Like, make sure you bring some straight cash, only because not everybody has that payment modernization, but you’d be surprised. A lot of them can take, not just cash, but they’ll take your card as well.

So, first and foremost, just think about that. That’s kind of one of those things. Secondarily, I mean, when you think about a farmers’ market, look around and see if you have like bags, maybe. Some things that you can take with you, so that you don’t have to ask them for . . . because, generally, when you go to the farmers market, they’re not going to have a lot of baggage to bag things up. It’s not like going to the supermarket, would you like paper or plastic.

No, they don’t really offer that. You’re kind of left to kind of figure it out on your own, so make sure you bring your own baggage in bags. And then, I would also urge you to, if you’re planning on going to farmers’ market, it’s really great to get there early. Farmers’ markets are kind of one of those things where . . . you know farmers bringing their crop, the artisan, is bringing their stuff. And they’re putting it out on display, and they take the time and they take the energy to get there and set it up, and that display . . . think of what it takes to put a display on. Right? The display draws people in, right. You see it, and it draws you to it, so I would urge you to get there early as people are kind of setting up, and you can engage in that way, and that’s one of the easier things, too, because when you’re there and there aren’t a lot of people around, you can get to have a conversation with someone, really. That’s a piece of it.

The farmers’ market, the community piece of it and you asking, hey how do you engage, it’s really being able to. If they’re talking to somebody else, they’re trying to have this connection thing happen. And it’s more sincere, like we’re having now, where I’m not trying to talk to you guys and also trying to talk these guys over here, and oh, yeah. Just a second. And then I’m trying to hurry this thing up. And so, I would say get there early. Not only that, but you’re going to get some of the better yields.

Another trick I would have is, I would think about as you’re shopping, there’s some things that are going to be a little bit more if you pack into your bag, a little bit more wilty, so go after the greens later. Go after the firm stuff first, and if they have meat and produce, and stuff like that, maybe go look at this things right out of the gates, to, because those things get scooped up pretty quick. If the farmers’ market has protein and fish, meat, poultry, pork, whatever it may be, hit up those things.

And those are some of my, I guess, farmers’ market tips off the top, that I can think about. As far as the produce is concerned, everybody kind of has their, oh, that’s cool. Right? Like, what’s that. Be open-minded. Be open-minded.

That crop, or whatever it may be, if you don’t know what it is, it’s really fun when you ask what it is. Like, what is that? I’ve never seen that before. People love to talk about the things that they grow, because there’s a reason why they’re growing it. There’s a reason why. If it’s a jalapeño versus a Meyer lemon, you name it. People are like, oh, what is that? It’s interesting. I don’t think that’s for me. Maybe because you haven’t tried it. It’s more so you’re intimidated. Maybe you don’t know how to use it. So not only is there some education around why, but some tips on how to use it, as well.

David Freeman
Nice. So, another thing you’ll find at the farmers’ market is whole foods. Right? When you think of fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and all these things, some benefits that come from that, and I know we can go down a rabbit hole with this, but can you explain some of the benefits at the farmers’ market as far as gathering the whole foods from there, versus going to your everyday store?

Chef Ryan Dodge
Sure. Whole foods is absolutely one of those things. I like to think of whole food now, more as time’s gone one and whole foods has kind of become . . . I think of real food. Whole foods, for me, is like real food, and I think of like the processing of everything that goes into things that aren’t like either whole or real. The amount of processing that goes in or the amount of additives, the amount of sugars, the amount of, just the environmental impact of things that aren’t necessarily whole. Whether it be regenerative farming, destruction of the rain forest, of the land, the increased need for gas and packaging and pesticide, whatever it might be, there’s kind of this domino effect. The dominoes fall when you get away from just food in and of it’s like natural real state.

And it then ties right to the other farm, but the “ph” farm. Right? The pharmacy versus the “F” farm, which is the farm itself, which really lends to the community, or the terroir, and how the community or the terroir is impacted by the pesticides. Like it’s the domino effect of going away from whole foods and going to like, processed foods, but there’s so many attributes that are tied and it really is about mood, right? Like eating whole foods and eating fresh vegetables and those types of things, really, for me and how I feel, I think, is one of . . . if I’m going to take any and all of them, it’s about, how do I feel after I eat it? I want to feel like I want to go. I want to feel like it’s fuel. It’s the calibration, right.

I know, my body tells me if I eat something that it does not, like it will knock me down and it will drag me out, it’ll increase my stress level, or my aggravation. I know immediately, if I eat something, how it affects me, and I think that you only get there by consciously paying attention to those things., and engaging where you spend your money, because there’s like a triple-bottom line everywhere you spend, of what you perpetuate.

Real food makes me feel real good.

Jamie Martin
OK. So, we’re going to keep on, obviously, this path of real food. You know, we’re talking about farmers’ markets today, obviously, and that’s like supporting the farmers in our communities, but also, gardening, and that has seen a huge rise. I know there was a lot of interesting statistics about how many people planted gardens, like last spring and summer, in the early days of the pandemic, and you know, gardening and what it does for us, not just from a providing food standpoint, but from a mental and physical health standpoint.

So, wondering, what are your tips for someone who might want to start a garden, and try to grow some of this real food on their own?

Chef Ryan Dodge
My mom, in her house, had sun dials. Like, she likes clocks. She likes her watches and she likes clocks, and she likes sun dials. And she has little sundials in different parts of the room, in the house, where the sun would come in and it would hit the sundial, and we would always just kind of tease her about her sundials, and whatnot. When I think about gardening, and when I think about that, I think about sunshine. I think about growing, like in a garden, you need the sun, you need the light, I would look at, if you have the opportunity to do a garden, I would look at the space in which you have available to you, because there’s a lot of things that are out there online and other, where you can acquire like a little plot, a little square of land, and it might not be in your direct vicinity, but where you could go and where you can grow a garden.

So, there’s one of those things. I don’t have any off the top of my head, but like . . . then there’s the soil health. Right. Like, once you discover, define what area you have that’s got like awesome sunlight, the health of the soil is extremely important. So, then it comes with soil health, and that’s one that people really want to go after and try to understand. And then you need some tools. So, you don’t need to buy a whole bunch of, you know a box of gardening tools, but you should have a few, right. They go along with tilling and planting. The hoe and the rake, and all of those different things.

And then, I would say, you’ll have an understanding for the amount of time that you have sun. Every single kind of pocket, it’s called a microclimate, and there are certain things that grow better in certain places than others, sand so, every environment, like in Northern California for example, those microclimates have the ability to grow a variety of different things, but not every environment is conducive to growing.

Like I think of avocados in Argentina or someplace barren where they have to bring water, so grow something that’s kind of versatile to the spot that gets the sun, helps the soil, and then, from there, you know, you’re going to have to keep the vermin out. You got to have the ability to like, keep animals . . . because that’s how they survive. It’s a natural thing. Like, there’s food over there. I’m going to go grab it. So, unless you want to support the local wildlife, you’re more than welcome to.

So, you’re going to need to think about a way to fence off and kind of mitigate that. But you don’t need a lot of land. You need a little. You need a little bit of healthy soil. You need the ability to have H2O resource, and you know, because you can’t just rely on the weather system, which would be great if you could, but you can’t, and then, from there, it’s really, the sky’s the limit based off what you want to go after.

And there’s no better way . . . you can watch YouTube videos. You can pull up a Google later and look, there’s no better way than just going out and doing it.

David Freeman
They say it all the time. I mean, you guys have probably heard me say it a million times, experience is always the best teacher, because you’re going to learn from it, whether you fail or succeed in it, it’s always going to teach you something.

So, I’m right there with you. Go out and at least try it. And when we say that, let’s think about it real quick. If you don’t have a green thumb, what are some go-tos. Like, no fail plants that you can recommend right now, off the top?

Chef Ryan Dodge
Well, I would . . . and one of the things you can start how, out of season, would be herbs. Like for me, one of my like deals when it comes to all the things I do, I don’t mind dry herbs. Dry herbs are great, and dry herbs are even better when you have a bunch of them and you can cut them and you can dry them, and you can have them around. They’re great to have. But herbs are something that you can put in your window sill right now, and you can start. They can be a little ornery, because they can take over areas. Like, mint, for example, can take over an entire area, but like sage, you know, parsley, basil, thyme, chives. Those are all things that are awesome to just — they’re so versatile, right. Like you can cut them off the stem, and they regrow. Like, they continue to grow. They’re always available. And that’s where I’d start. And that’s really going to give you a sense for your garden, I think, and then you can take even those out, put them in your garden. You can transplant them, but it’s a good place to start.

It’s a really good thing to have around, too, because it always enhances every dish. Either it’s a garnish, or other. That’s how you do it. That’s the secret. These fresh herbs.

Jamie Martin
I’m going to add to that. So, I started gardening, I don’t know, about eight years ago. I was pregnant with my second child, my husband, like built me this little garden at the side of our house, and it was just a couple of years ago that I put chives in for the first time, and the chives, right now, I mean, we’re in Minnesota, it’s late April, for when we’re recording, they are like a foot and a half high already. Like those babies, they come back no matter what. They’re the first things that come up, and then I have already…my mint is growing already. My thyme. My sage. I am like, start there, and I was telling Dodge before we got started to record the podcast, for whatever reason, my soil really supports jalapeños really well, and I end up with a bumper crop of jalapeños every year, which is super fun, but you got to be careful with those.

David Freeman
Hold tight. A bumper — say that again. What is that?

Jamie Martin
Bumper crop. Like you get a lot of the crop. Isn’t that what it’s called Dodge? Did I say it wrong?

David Freeman
I love it. I want to say it’s a new term that we just started to use starting today. Looks like we need to start using bumper. It must be a Wisconsin thing. I just heard it for the first time.

Chef Ryan Dodge
Bumper car or bumper crop? Now, I got you. I’m looking it up right now, as we talk.

Jamie Martin
Has nobody heard this? Am I wrong?

David Freeman
I’m going with it. I loved it.

Chef Ryan Dodge
Oh we’re going with it for sure.

David Freeman
Yes. I might use that again.

Chef Ryan Dodge
Oh, no. It’s a deal. It’s a thing. In agriculture, bumper crop is a crop that has yielded an unusually productive harvest. Boom, shakalaka.

David Freeman
I knew if it came from her, it was legit, with all the different editorial stuff that she sees, I was like, alright this sis something new. I’m adding it to the vocab. She’s on it.

Chef Ryan Dodge
Straight up.

Jamie Martin
Oh, man. Well, OK. So, we got herbs. Any other gardening tips? What to do with this stuff? So, obviously, herbs you can toss on anything. You can make pestos out of a lot of them. Any other like, favorite uses for this produce that you either bring home from farmers’ market, or you grow?

Chef Ryan Dodge
Absolutely. I definitely, when it comes to the farmer’s market, vegetables, whole foods / real food, there’s a classic way that they do it, and when I travel in my younger days, there was thing that I loved more than anything, and it was when I traveled to France and there was just this basic vinaigrette that was made in these places. So, they took Dijon mustard, a little salt, a little vinegar, a little bit of pepper, a little olive oil, fresh shallot, and it was like the Leonce, just classic famous salad dressing, but that taste and that flavor profile, is just one of my absolute favorites, and I feel like it’s just such a compliment to fresh ingredients, garden ingredients, whether it be in spring, like we are in now, green beans, grilled asparagus, asparagus. A lot of those things that are coming through, I like to eat with avocado, grapefruit. But this dressing goes so nicely with greens. I mean, it’s a tangy dressing. It’s got a great nose, but it’s just such a healthy compliment.

But when I take those ingredients, when I first get them, you know, there’s two things. There’s keeping them out and eating them right away. There’s putting them in your refrigerator and saving them for later, but you know, the things that are picked at the peak of ripeness, that are really carrying the nutrients and the turgor, which is the cellular structure, those types of things are part of the experience. You want to take the nutrients for it, and you want to take the textures for it.

So, I’m not really interested in doing too too much. I like to introduce them heat, and if I’m, again, completely honest, like a grill, and just a little bit of seasoning, a little bit olive oil on to a grill, or avocado oil, because the temperature, the heat, and I’m just introducing them. I call it just a quick, blister kiss, to get that carbon, to open it up a little bit, and then I like to dip it. So, I talked about that vinaigrette, and I talked about that dressing, because you need something it kind of dip them in to emulsify, you know, because they’re not carrying a lot of fat. They’re carrying fiber, they’re not carrying fat, so I like to introduce fat to the party, whether it be homemade hummus, a baba ghanoush that you make from eggplant, but a way to dip that product, introduce it to a little bit of heat, gave it a little char, so it took those natural sugars that are occurring inside of it, and just enhancing the flavor by a little carbon smoke, or a little flame. That’s how I like to go. And it goes so nicely with just a piece of fish, or a piece of . . . if you’re looking for that . . . just introduce those things to the grill. Toss them into a salad or take the salad, in and of itself, with that same vinaigrette or that dressing I just described, and really simply, experience what that vegetable is, because there’s a terroir that comes with ingredients. And terroir really speaks to where these things are from.

And it’s important thing that we don’t get away from, is our terroir. It’s about what we were talking about, David, when you said, you’re from Nebraska, and you’re from Wisconsin. That’s our terroir. That’s us, as people. That’s our land. That’s our earth. That’s where we’re from. Same thing with these crops. Same thing with the soil.

The terroir is everything, and you can taste where it’s from. There’s something very intimate about that experience.

David Freeman
The experience you just gave us, the visual representation of all that you just said, usually we say, it’s mouth-watering, you’re making people’s ears water, right now, and then, we got the words that Jamie hit us with, the bumper crop, and then you just hit us with the blister kiss, I mean, I’m loving every, exactly, every bit of it.

So, we’re coming into the fourth quarter. I started off with a nice little pun intended, with getting into the meat. We’re coming into the fourth quarter, is there anything else, you guys both, want to tackle before we go into this two-minute drill?

Jamie Martin
I think as someone who is kind of a gardener, is just try it. I have failed at certain plants. For whatever reason I can’t reason I can’t get Brussel sprouts to grow. That’s OK. Like, I’m going to keep trying something this year. So, just try something and it can be in a pot on your deck, or just, even if you’re living in an apartment somewhere, like, if you have a little bit of sun, you can try something and it’s been one of those things where I got my kids involved. Like, it’s getting my kids out there with me, and them digging their hands in the dirt with me. And then, also going to the farmer’s market and really meeting the people who are so passionate about providing good quality food. I would echo all those things that you said, Dodge, and I’m going to hand it over to you for the final say, before the two-minute drill.

Chef Ryan Dodge
I love it, and I really think about some of the things that we talked about, and if I’m going to leave anybody with anything, right now, in this moment in time and in life, we have these conversations that we haven’t been having, and we have the opportunity to discuss some of the things in a format that’s not only safe, but it’s diverse, and it’s inclusive, and it’s equitable. It’s all those words that people have been using, but there’s this thing right now, that’s extremely important and it’s that tie to the mind and the body, and the soul in how we feel. There’s a lot of anxiety, and there’s a lot of things going on that can keep us in a place that’s just paralyzing. And with that place, there’s an opportunity to reach for something. There’s an opportunity to reach for something, to try not to feel the weight and the anxiety, and the stress, and all of the other potential things that are really either hard to talk about, hard to feel, and hard to experience, and so, when I think about food, and when I think about community, and when I think about how you feel, or how I feel, I really like to think of real food as an investment.

Not just in myself, but in others. Providing the youth with a way forward and path, providing myself with the best opportunity to be really healthy, in a way, in a sense, and how do I feel? If I feel good, if I feel good and I’m not out of control, you know, chemically in my body and hormones, and all the things that go into it, introducing those things, I just have an opportunity to engage in a different way.

And so, I think that that kind of opportunity with the food chain and the reaction of the food chain, is incredibly profound, and I love to be able to have that conversation, especially with you guys.

David Freeman
I love that. I will call that, the icing on the cake, and we’re about to put the cherry on top here, in a few.

Just to piggyback, before we put the cherry on, I always talk about the universal language being music and movement, and now, when you think about food, that is a constant staple, that brings families together, when you think of reunions, weddings, or whatever it may be, so, it has an emotional connection to a lot of things that we do inside and out. So, it does affect, what you just said, the mental game, and how that relates to the physical output. So, I love how you painted that picture with that icing on the cake, like I just said, before we get into the two-minute drill.

You ready for it?

Chef Ryan Dodge
Yes.

David Freeman
Alright. So, I always try to curate some of these questions to kind of cater to our guests, so, this is going to have a chef-inspired vibe to it. First one, going off. What’s your first memory of your love for cooking?

Chef Ryan Dodge
My dad stoking the charcoal on the grill and the coals, getting them ready. Like I remember, as a kid, don’t get too close, but it was the charcoal of the grill.

David Freeman
Nice. Alright. Here we go. Next one. What do you love most about your job?

Chef Ryan Dodge
The people, because we get so many youthful, exuberant, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed people, and there is just such an opportunity to teach them work that they aren’t used to doing, and how to overcome obstacles and how to be more self-sufficient, grow confidence, and learn new skill and technique that can take them forward.

David Freeman
Love it. Love it. Building up our future. I love it. OK. Describe yourself in three words.

Chef Ryan Dodge
I’m a seeker. I’m an empath. And I am a lover.

David Freeman
Yes. You are. Lover. Lover. Now, lover. Tell us what your favorite dish is that you like to create?

Chef Ryan Dodge
Wow. I ask that question in job interviews and you dirty rascal. Tables have turned. Yes. So, I kind of gave you the answer to that already, when I talked about that vinaigrette, that dressing, and you know, I have an extremely intimate experiences with certain things as I’ve traveled and done this journey, but that one dressing carries over to so many applications in my life, and throughout, that I’m going to go with that. Just this fundamentally sound recipe within that vinaigrette, that has super application across the board.

David Freeman
Nice. OK, here we go. We’re about to be at the half-way point. Where do you draw your creative inspiration from?

Chef Ryan Dodge
It feels a little bit like, there’s a couple of places that I get creative inspiration from, and it’s conversations, it’s traveling, and it is music, as it turns. It’s reading and it’s music. And so, in its form, when I say seeker, I don’t manufacture that inspiration. It’s doesn’t just come. I have to have . . . well, I get to have experiences with people, and as thoughts come, if I keep them inside and I don’t either do it or talk about them, they don’t grow, and so, I get my inspiration from other people, and every recipe in every book that’s ever been written, these origins of food and there’s stories, and those things inspire me.

David Freeman
What four ingredients are necessary in your kitchen?

Chef Ryan Dodge
Salt, a good salt. A fine salt. Like Himalayan pink, and there’s many of them, but salt is like the acid. I need vinegar, whether it’s champagne vinegar, sherry, red wine, white wine. You got to have a vinegar. So, salt, vinegar. Pepper. Again, I’m not like a fine pepper kind of cat. I like the mignonette pepper. So, a cracked-like pepper. Those three, and then a strong oil, avocado, olive. Those four things, I have to have.

David Freeman
Alright. Got to know these. These are the last ones coming in, and it’s going to get real spicy now. What would you want to have as your last meal?

Chef Ryan Dodge
Wow. My last meal, and I think that my last meal would just . . . I really like to go out on a sweet note, and I’d probably do a cheesecake. I’d probably do some kind of cheesecake or tiramisu. Maybe some Ben & Jerry’s.

David Freeman
Alright. Alright.

Chef Ryan Dodge
Take it out on a sweet note.

David Freeman
Alright. Are there any foods that you just don’t like?

Chef Ryan Dodge
I haven’t really acquired a taste . . . you know, iron is one of those things that, for me, gets metallic, so anything that’s too irony, that’s too metallic. Metallic in my palate. I don’t like metal. I don’t like the taste of metal. So, anything too irony, like blood sausage, and some of that stuff, no. I’ll pass.

David Freeman
OK. Alright. Coming into question eight. What do you think is the most challenging ingredient to work with?

Chef Ryan Dodge
The most challenging ingredient that I’ve had in my career to work with is the . . . I would say, it’s tough, because an ingredient can be so specific, but we have had — I don’t know if you’ve ever gone hunting or if you’ve ever had to experience what it’s like to take down an animal, or take an animal and put it into application in its entirely, so that it either doesn’t go to waste, and that is an extremely difficult process, and it’s quite — it was one of the most intense experience I’ve ever had, with a whole animal.

David Freeman
We’re coming into the last two. Alright, here we go. What is the funniest kitchen incident that you’ve ever experienced?

Chef Ryan Dodge
Funniest kitchen incident that I’ve ever experienced is . . .

Jamie Martin
That’s safe for listener’s ears.

Chef Ryan Dodge
. . . yes. That’s an extremely good point. The funniest would be, oh, boy. When I was in culinary, they had just redesigned . . . it wasn’t funny at the time, it’s funny now. They had just redesigned one of the restaurants and we went back in and it was Easter brunch, and it was [inaudible], and I was on the omelet station, a sterno ran out. The chef told me to change to sterno out. I went to change the sterno out and I started the linen of the dessert table on fire, and it went down to the rug. So, the new rug that they had just laid, started on fire, and Easter brunch went south, fast, and that was funny now. Now, even if I tell that story, that guy would probably come after me. But yeah.

David Freeman
So you inspired the Nelly song, “It’s Getting Hot in Here,” with that one?

Chef Ryan Dodge
Yes. It was hot, and I was . . . yes. Sheepish for a moment.

David Freeman
Last question. I end this with all of our guests, the legacy that you want to leave this world with, when Chef Ryan Dodge is out.

Chef Ryan Dodge
Yes, I’d like to have been to influence some folks in a positive manner, and I’d like for there to be laughter and stories, and remember that time that boy, and something like that. Specifically, nothing in general, a lot of love.

Jamie Martin
Well, thank you, Chef Dodge, for coming on again. If people want to follow you, learn more about what you’re doing, where can they find you?

Chef Ryan Dodge
Come see me. I’m generally here, at Life Time. You know what I’m saying. You know, I tend to keep it pretty not technology driven, which is probably an opportunity, but it’s very, for me, it’s very much, I really like moments like this, where I get to see people, talk to them, see their expressions. I can cut through some of the persona and get to the heart of it, and so, I spend time at the Eden Prairie location. I travel around this great land in Life Time. I also work out of the corporate office at Chanhassen, and yeah, that’s where I’m at.

Jamie Martin
Well, thank you, again. Lots of great tips for getting into this kind of summer season with all the good food that’s out there, everywhere, across the country. So, thanks, Dodge.

Chef Ryan Dodge
Thank you.

David Freeman
Thanks, brother.

[MUSIC]

David Freeman

Thanks for joining us for this episode. As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on our conversation today, and how you approach this aspect of healthy living in your own life. What works for you? Where do you run into challenges? Where do you need help?

Jamie Martin

And if you have topics for future episodes, you can share those with us, too. Email us at lttalks@lt.life, or reach out to us on Instagram, @lifetime.life@jamiemartinel, or @freezy30, and use the hashtag #LifeTimeTalks. You can also learn more about the podcast at el.lifetime.life/podcasts.

David Freeman

And if you’re enjoying Life Time Talks, please subscribe on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. Feel free to write a review, and also let others know about it, too. Take a screenshot of the episode, and share it on social, share it with your friends, family, work buddies, life coach, you get the gist.

Jamie Martin

Thanks for listening. We’ll talk to you next time on Life Time Talks. Life Time Talks is a production of Life Time, healthy way of life. It’s produced by Molly Schelper, with audio engineering by Peter Perkins, and sound consulting by Coy Larson. A big thank-you to the team who pulls together each episode, and everyone who provided feedback.

We’d Love to Hear From You

Have thoughts you’d like to share or topic ideas for future episodes? Email us at lttalks@lt.life.

The information in this podcast is intended to provide broad understanding and knowledge of healthcare topics. This information is for educational purposes only and should not be considered complete and should not be used in place of advice from your physician or healthcare provider. We recommend you consult your physician or healthcare professional before beginning or altering your personal exercise, diet or supplementation program.

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