Yesterday, we shared the news of our partnership between our 2013 Idea House and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. On the same day, we had the chance to welcome St. Jude Chef Miles McMath to the Test Kitchen for some seriously good eats and conversation. Chef prepared his signature Garden “Farrotto” Late Harvest Squash, Edamame, and Crispy Sage (a recipe he makes for the St. Jude family) then joined us for one of our daily tastings. We met up with Chef Miles for a quick Q&A about his Southern roots and to hear what it’s like impacting the lives of patients and families at this respected hospital.
What exactly are you preparing for us today?
Today I’m cooking up what I call “Farrotto,” which is essentially a nutritious take on Risotto. I substitute toasted Farro because it’s much higher in protein, and I’ll incorporate vitamin-dense ingredients like collard greens. We call it ‘Cosmic Mac n’ Cheese’ around the kids, and it’s one of their favorite dishes.
We’re picking up an accent. Where do you call home?
I grew up in Alabaster, Alabama (just outside of Birmingham), but I’ve lived all over the South. I went to culinary school in Louisville, worked at Brennan’s in New Orleans for a few years, and now I’m in Memphis. I don’t think I’ll ever leave the region.
How would you say your Southern background influences your work at St. Jude’s?
I really value Southern growing and farming practices, and I try to keep everything as local as possible. Growing up on a farm, I fished and hunted for my food, so I always knew where my ingredients came from. I also couldn’t live without Southern comfort food (especially Poke Salad), and neither could the kids. At the hospital, food is one of the only things that can bring them a little piece of home, and I love playing a part in that.
Where do you typically get your produce in Memphis?
We actually have our own, on-site garden at St. Jude’s, complete with 60 raised beds and hoop houses, so all of our produce comes directly from there. Hospital volunteers and I work daily to maintain garden upkeep. Sometimes, as soon as we pick it, we’re using it! Every Friday, we host a farmer’s market where St. Jude’s families and employees can take home our fresh, organic vegetables.
Do you have any takeaway tips or advice on how to sneak in healthy ingredients?
We do a lot of hands-on cooking activities, where the kids can make their own pizzas or parfaits using healthy ingredients. I’ve found that even if a child isn’t hungry, he or she will typically take a few bites if it’s something they played a part in making. We also try to make subtle changes to classics like brownies. If we add raw sugar, flax, and some blueberries to a brownie recipe, the taste doesn’t change, so they never notice the difference.