MBG: Why did you start with such a meat-heavy diet?
Danny: The Paleo diet is known as the caveman diet and entails pretty clean eating — nothing processed and no dairy while balancing good grains, nuts and vegetables. This diet goes hand in hand with the crossfit culture, where very intense workout routines zap your body's energy as your body demands more. With my heavy work schedule, it was important for me to keep up my protein intake.
MBG: What made you make the change to a more plant-based diet?
Danny: The decision came to me while I was on the road filming my latest project, Good Food America. When I'm traveling for as long as I am, normally for up to five months at a time, I generally try to make new habits or break old ones. After doing research and meeting so many health-conscious, vegetarian and vegan people during filming, I thought I'd challenge myself to stop eating meat and try to eat cleaner.
Out of a crew of 10, seven were vegan, so by sticking with those guys, I got into some good habits right away. When I went home, my wife and I decided that this way of eating would be a good practice for our family. So, now when I'm at home, I eat vegan. When I am dining out, I do tend to have some sort of meat with my meal.
MBG: Did you notice a big difference in the way you felt when you switched diets?
Danny: Yes! I felt lighter and had more energy and I also haven't been as seasonally ill, nor does my arthritis bother me anymore. I lost 20 pounds in five months by switching diets. It's the first food journey I've actually lost weight on!
MBG: As a chef, has transitioning from paleo to plant-based changed the way you cook, either at home or professionally?
Danny: Just by focusing on a specific diet, both when I was paleo to now that I am plant-based, I have learned so much more about food and the array of ingredients that are out there. Each time I meet a chef or a home cook I am taught something new and my expectations are taken to another level. The rules just change with the diets, not so much the core group of ingredients. That's the fun part for a guy like me, as when I cook, the challenge is to make the dish effortless and fun with what you have in front of you, no matter what the rules are.
MBG: Which diet is easier for eating out?
Danny: Hands down vegetarian! Every restaurant offers something plant-based, knowing or unknowing, and there aren't as many rules as there are around eating meat.
MBG: Which diet is easier to share with family and friends?
Danny: This is a tough one. My parents still can't figure out my new diet. Even when I have made them a meal they'll still look at me in bewilderment as I tell them that it's umami they are tasting and not meat or dairy. It's another food journey for your friends to take an adventure on. Vegan, vegetarian it doesn't matter — for me it's about the ingredients and the story of the food. Recipes tend to follow that.
MBG: Any favorite restaurants you've discovered while filming the show?
I have too many favorites. But if I had to choose my top three, the first be Peche in New Orleans, due to their commitment to open fire cooking, which is so much more natural than using gas or electric. Earth in Kennebunkport, Maine, because everything is fresh and vegetables are the feature of every dish. And last but not least, Dr. Field Good's in Santa Fe, New Mexico because of the amazing twists on classic dishes. Santa Fe is kind of a food desert, but his place finds the best local ingredients, and puts them to good use.
MBG: Do you miss eating meat daily?
Danny: I sometimes slip when turkey bacon is wafting in the air, but 98.9% of the time, no.