Meet the chef whos debunking detox, diets and wellness

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Anthony Warner alias blogger turned author the Angry Chef is on a mission to confront the alternative realities surrounding nutritional fads and myths

A few minutes into my encounter with the Angry Chef, I begin to wonder if his moniker might be ironic, like the big guy whose pals call him Tiny. On the basis of his excoriating blog which discloses lies, pretensions and idiocy in the world of meat I had been expecting a bilious, splenetic boy with wild eyes, his skin contained within tattoos. Instead, Im sat across from a mild-mannered nerdy character with a straighten beard and black-framed sights. Unlike his writing, which is rained with profanities, he hasnt sworn once. In reality, he picks his terms very deliberately, as if theres a legal and fact-checking team working overtime in his brain.

I expected you to be a bit more furious, I eventually tell. Do you have a temper?

The Angry Chef, aka 44 -year-old Anthony Warner, considers this, shakes his head. Not at all, he says. People who know me and appreciate the blog mention, Youre not angry at all! No, I was never one of the shouty, scary cooks. Perhaps somewhat intimidating sometimes, but merely in a quiet, I-dont-know-what-hes-going-to-do sort of way.

What about the swearing? I ask.

I can if you crave, Warner responds. But no, I dont rant, I dont swear almost as much in real life as I do on my blog.

The Angry Chefs first post on 30 December 2015 consisted of a few pointed reckons on running sugar-free. He was anonymous back then and there were a couple of reasons for that. Warner liked the idea of writing in character: while he stands by everything he writes, the Angry Chef persona allows him to be more confrontational and unhinged. The other reason was that he wasnt sure what his foremen would think of his new creation. After a decade as a decent but unremarkable chef in professional kitchens, Warner became a development cook for Premier Foods, a large commercial food manufacturer. He has spent the last 10 times making recipes for the likes of Oxo, Mr Kipling, Loyd Grossman and Ambrosia.

This anonymity did not last long. The Angry Chefs railing against the trend for clean-eating and wellness bloggers, his frustration at the miraculous properties assigned to kale and coconut oil promptly found an audience. The Sun asked Warner aimed at contributing to an article about Insta-gurus diet advice, and Ben Goldacre, one of his anti-pseudoscience heroes, tweeted his approval. New Scientist commissioned Warner to write for them, a indulge nod for a self-described science geek who has a degree in biochemistry from Manchester University.

Now a volume, The Angry Chef: Bad Science and the Fact About Healthy Eating , is out next month. It is a systematic, densely footnoted, and often really funny takedown of pretty much every meat fad that has taken hold in recent years: detox, alkaline, ash and paleo diets among them. If you believe superfoods exist, then Warner will have some strong words to stimulate you reconsider. Likewise, if youre persuaded theres no possible defense for sugar or processed food, then he wants you to take another look at the evidence.

Hemsley
Melissa and Jasmine Hemsley: Id be fascinated to debate them, tells Warner. Photograph: Publicity Image

In an age of Gwyneth Paltrows Goop, of Deliciously Ella Mills, and Hemsley and Hemsley, these somehow seem quite radical suggestions. A lot of the clean-eating people, I just think they have a broken relationship with the truth, tells Warner. Theyre selling something that is impossible to justify in the context of evidence-based medicine.

I dont reckon any of them are lying, he goes on, they are just stuck in this strange world of false belief, which is fascinating. How are you able look at NHS guidelines on how to eat healthily and go, Well, I know better than that? Maybe if you were a prof of dietetics or nutrition, you might does not agree with some stuff. But how as a 19 -year-old blogger you can look at it and move, No, thats wrong. This is right, I dont know.

How did we arrive at a place where avocados outsell oranges, where coconut oil, a once-cheap saturated fat, is reborn as a super-ingredient with miraculous, health-giving properties?( Paltrows website Goop likewise proposes employing it as a mouthwash and sexual lubricant, prompting Warner to joke, Separately, I hope .)

For Warner, part of the reason is adapted of psychologist Daniel Kahnemans assumption that people are brilliant at creating a narrative from minimal proof. Kahneman calls the brain a machine for jumping to conclusions.

We actually struggle with uncertainty, explains Warner. We genuinely want to be able to say: Is coffee good or bad for us? Well, its not good or bad for you, it only is. And we have to accept that; thats what science tells. So your brain runs, I dont like that level of uncertainty. Certainty is actually appealing for a lot of people and thats what a lot of these people are selling certainly at the darker end.

Warner accepts he faces a tough challenge persuading people with his boring message. We live in the so-called post-truth world: a day of Brexit, Trump and alternative facts. Guardian columnist Hadley Freeman has even written that Deliciously Ella is the precursor to Donald Trump. In the book, Warner admits that he sometimes feel like a drunk in a pub car park, raging and swaying at the world.

When you go back 20 times it was Gillian McKeith, says Warner. Now its harder to fight. Theres not specific people, theres a swarm of them in so many different places, on Instagram, on social media, things I dont even understand as a middle-aged man.

Facts are important, he continues. The rhetoric of a lot of politics at the moment is that there was this once-great world we need to return to. And its actually not true. In almost every single measuring, were better off than we were 100 years ago, or even 50 years ago. Weve wiped out smallpox and throw someone on the moon with science, if you start spurning that

Warner trails off, the most significant hes come to living up to his angry tag. Would he be interested in debating this topic with Ella Mills or the Hemsleys?

From what I understand theyll avoid me at all costs, tells Warner. Id find it fascinating, but people will perhaps be surprised. If Im asked, Is a specific food good or bad for you? Im not going to give an answer. I dont feeling I have superior knowledge, I actually had recognized that I dont. Thats discrepancies between me and them. So it might be a strange debate.

This is true. Warners advice, boiled down, amounts to: eat a sensible and differed diet , not too much nor too little. If you have junk food every so often, dont feel guilty; if youre going full Morgan Spurlock, youre probably overdoing it. Eat fish, specially oily ones such as salmon and mackerel, when you are able to. Dont consume too much sugar, but equally dont believe people who tell you its toxic and has no nutritional value.

Chef
Chef Anthony Warner alias blogger became author the Angry Chef. Photograph: Phil Fisk for the Observer

The rhetoric that sugar is poison, its killing us, has become entirely accepted, tells Warner. Were told its just empty calories. Well, we kind of need calories to live. But a lot of people will read that and tell, He would say that. He works for a big cake manufacturer.

How would he respond to that then?

Well, prove me incorrect then you cant! Warner killed back. Im always going to be accused of being a shill for the meat manufacturing industry. Within the job I do, you get very exposed to prejudice that people have against the producers of meat. And also you get very exposed to whats involved in constructing fabricated food, and what you can and cant say about something in terms of its health benefits. If I made a food product and I wanted to say it detoxes you, I perfectly couldnt. There are really clear laws: I cant say it in the advertising, I cant say it on the pack, I cant make any kind of assert that isnt enormously backed in evidence.

But if I wrote a recipe volume, I can say what I crave, Warner continues. If I went on telly, I could mention, This recipe is genuinely detoxing. You can induce stuff up, it doesnt matter. But then you get to the ad violate, people advertising cant say those things because theyre covered by law. So why arent the people building the programme of activities covered by law?

To be fair, Warner is pretty angry now. And hes not exactly optimistic that what he tells will induce much change to acolytes of clean eating. I guess fads will continue, often simply a recycling of the low-carb Atkins-style dieting under different names like those ketogenic diets, high-fat diets, he sighs.

Theyll only change the epithet and the pseudoscientific justifications for it. So yeah, there will probably always be something to write about. Warner smiles, And that they are able to attain me angry.

The Angry Chef on five meat myths


Detoxing
When “theyre saying”, Im detoxing, what theyre saying is, Im not eating for two days. Its simply an extreme weight-loss diet, but you make up toxins that arent there and mention, Im doing this to get rid of these toxins which your body will do naturally anyway. It creates dread around food.

Eat like a caveman
The paleo diet is just a low-carb diet given a pseudoscientific justification.Weve been eating carbohydrates for a very long time, but theyll just go, Well, a caveman consume meat. They have this idea from The Flintstones , but anyone who works in anthropology “re just saying”, No, theyre obviously wrong.

Home-cooked meat is always best
Its linked to wanting wives to get back into the kitchen: Natural home-cooked dinners are the only route to be healthy Things were better before wives went to work. Underlying the demonisation of convenience food, there is a lot of misogyny. Things were better in our grandmothers day were they?

Sugar is toxic
Sugar has an enormous amount of energy and is one of the biggest building blocks for life. But they say, It has no nutritional value. That makes absolutely no sense.

Dont feed processed food
People will have a ready-meal from Waitrose and mention, Im busy. Then theyll mention poor people should just stop buying fishfingers: But I can go to M& S and buy my haddock goujons, thats not bad for me, is it?

Angry-chef.com

The Angry Chef: Bad Science and the Fact About Healthy Eating( Oneworld, 12.99) is published on 6 July. To ordering a photocopy for 11.04, going to see bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846 . Free UK p& p over 10, online orders merely. Phone orders min. p& p of 1.99.

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