Written by Staff Writer
Far away from the glitz and glamour of the culinary industry’s red carpets, New York chef Ivan Orkin has traveled the length and breadth of the planet, with extraordinary results.
The 48-year-old, formerly of Il Pastaio and Joe Allen restaurants, has emerged as a leading force in the healthy and sustainable food movement through his “flying pasta” and “flying artichokes” products.
Contemporary chef Ivan Orkin. Credit: Courtesy of Ivan Orkin
Known for his realistic take on Western cuisine, Orkin crafts eggplant and mushroom-based pasta dishes, rather than dishes that are intended to be cheesy and oily. In other words, he focuses on what’s good for you.
“We’ve got rid of technology and the distractions of Instagram and Facebook and Twitter. We’re there to eat good food,” he says.
While chefs have been focusing on diet for decades, Orkin says this has only been in response to the health concerns that have plagued us in recent times.
“As a nation, we’ve had a lot of negative things happen to us in terms of health…our weight and our stress levels,” Orkin says.
“Now you can have a really great quality of life just by eating good food — and we have to start doing it.”
To raise awareness of the effects of processed foods, Orkin produces a crop of “flying artichokes” which his employees throw away in outer space.
“The artichokes are treated with so much heat and so much heat is so detrimental to their health. It’ll age them and smell different, and its not the healthy artichoke you’d be eating,” Orkin says.
He and his team used to collect 1,500 artichokes to get the right size and shape for various flavors. Nowadays, they harvest an enormous crop and throw it away before it becomes tough and decaying.
“To become flyable they had to be like 430 degrees Fahrenheit and they can’t come within 8 feet of the rocket,” Orkin says.
The study has already made the artichokes insect-free and Orkin says people who wish to experience this kind of healthy food should just “buy one, fly it into space and bring it back.”
“All the demand in the world couldn’t fill a food desert or the need for better dietary advice — and we’re happy to take on this responsibility.”
Orkin is also working to help safe-fly resistant insects, which he believes could help tackle the threat of the dengue fever virus.
His restaurant, Ivan, was one of just 300 establishments in the world to get a “Double Star” Michelin award last year.
His new book, “The Next Food Revolution: A Delicious Journey from an Earth So Hungry We Can’t Eat,” explores his vision of a fast-growing, healthy, sustainable food scene that puts nutrition and the environment above all else.
He hopes that being featured in the new Netflix series “Chef’s Table,” which premiered earlier this month, will push his message further with the public.
“If you look at our country and, for the most part, the rest of the world, we’re loving fast food and fast food is not healthy. It’s not eating healthy.
“If you go into any old McDonald’s anywhere in the world and they’re cooking with a low-tech method, that’s not healthy either.”