I’m delighted to connect and have a discussion with James Barry today! James is a private chef who has launched an amazing product called Pluck, an organ-based seasoning I have been using for the last several years. James is also co-author of the recipes in Dr. Alejandro Junger’s book Clean 7.
James has always enjoyed working with food! Recently, he realized that cooking is his way of expressing love! In this episode, we dive into his background and passion for cooking. We discuss dogma, the illusion of health, the psychology of food, farm subsidies, orthorexia, phobias, manifestation, and alignment. We get into food privilege, the lack of transparency in the processed food industry, the health benefits of eating organ meats, and hurdles to consuming organ meats. We also talk about how Pottenger’s Cats and indigenous cultures have influenced him and how Pluck can be a gateway to organ meat consumption.
I hope you will enjoy listening to today’s discussion with James Barry as much as I did recording it! Stay tuned for more!
“I don’t like pre-prepared stuff. I make everything from scratch and I control the ingredients.”
– Chef James Barry
IN THIS EPISODE YOU WILL LEARN:
- James was a picky eater until he went to culinary school in his thirties.
- The wonderful things that happened after James aligned with his mission and purpose in life.
- How to work manifestation into your mindset and methodology.
- How does dogmatism influence people’s food choices?
- How the lack of transparency in the processed food industry influences people’s mindsets and health.
- How to make more intuitive and conscious food choices.
- Some of the food challenges James has experienced with his clients.
- If you are unable to moderate something in your diet, eliminate it.
- Learn to honor yourself.
- Overcoming the hurdles to eating organ meats.
- The benefits of including organ meats in your diet.
- James explains how he makes Pluck and shares his favorite ways of using it.
Connect with Cynthia Thurlow
Connect withChef James Barry
Pottenger’s Cats: A Study in Nutrition by Francis Marion Pottenger Jr.
Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss
Cynthia Thurlow: Welcome to Everyday Wellness Podcast. I’m your host, Nurse Practitioner, Cynthia Thurlow. This podcast is designed to educate, empower, and inspire you to achieve your health and wellness goals. My goal and intent is to provide you with the best content and conversations from leaders in the health and wellness industry each week and impact over a million lives.
Today I had the opportunity to have an amazing discussion with James Barry. He is a private chef and launched amazing product called Pluck, which is an organ-based seasoning and I’ve been using over the last several years. He’s also the co-author of recipes and Dr. Junger’s book CLEAN 7. Today we dove deep into his background and talked at great length about his passion for cooking and how we’ve used food as an expression of love. We chatted about the influences of dogma, the illusion of health and the psychology of food, farm subsidies, orthorexia and phobias, manifestation and alignment, the concept of food privilege and the lack of transparency in the processed food industry. Why organ meats are so beneficial and the influences on him from Pottenger’s Cats, and the role of indigenous cultures, hurdles to eating organ meats, and how Pluck is a concentrated amount of vitamins and amino acids that has tremendous health benefits and can be a gateway to organ meat consumption in your daily life. I hope you will enjoy this discussion as much as I did recording it.
James, it is such a pleasure to have you on today. I’ve been looking forward to our conversation. Welcome.
James Barry: Thank you for having me, Cynthia. I’m in fact excited as well.
Cynthia Thurlow: Yeah. You have such an interesting background. What brought you into the culinary arts? Did you know as a child that you had a strong interest and passion in cooking and being creative? Or is that something that came to you as a young adult?
James Barry: No, I actually, I knew as a child, I loved it. There was just something so fulfilling, but I didn’t really articulate what it was that I loved probably until about a month ago.
James Barry: But I realized, “Oh, cooking for me is how I express love.” I never, you know the love languages, and I never equated that. I learned at the age of seven that I love cooking, but when I was in junior high school, I got to actually experience a culinary class. And I loved it so much that my mom requested from the school that I take it twice in the day. So, I did after school and during school, it was slightly different. We did slightly different things then, but I just loved it so much. And I remember how excited I was to prepare my first recipe for my parents. And I think back to that period, it really was, it was an act of love. And what’s ironic though, is that I was such a picky eater, that I didn’t eat it myself, never ate it. Like half the foods that we cooked in class I never ate unless they were like sweet. I remember we made a fortune cookie which was exciting, because who knows
right? And I was so blown away, but of course I ate that because it was sweet. It’s so fascinating the way psychology around food and how I would easily try anything that was sweet that I had never tried before that was new. But if it was savory, forget about. I was just like, wouldn’t touch it. Honestly until I went to culinary school in my 30s, that is when I truly was like, “Okay, everything that’s put in front of me, I am going to eat and I’m going to change my picky eating.” And I did, and I’m nowhere near as picky as I used to be. I just to expand even how picky just give people a full picture, I didn’t have my first taco until I was in college.
We used to go to Mexican restaurants as a kid and I would get a hamburger. So, yeah, very different. I used to be the kid, if we would stop at fast food when we were traveling, I would have to get a special order because, let’s say we’re at McDonald’s, I couldn’t get the hamburger as they serve it. I had to get the plane patty and then what I would do is I would pretend to pull the meat out of the bread because I was paleo before anyone else was really because I did not like meat and bread. So, I would only eat the meat and then I would pretend that I ate the bread and then just throw that in the garbage, because I was trying to fit in society, I was trying to make sure I can eat hamburgers like everyone. But to this day, I still don’t like meat and bread. I don’t eat hamburgers. I’m so grateful for that kind of paleo keto movement, because now I can eat a patty with lettuce and it’s normal.
Cynthia Thurlow: Yeah, it’s interesting. I was at a restaurant on Saturday, there were two friends that were in town and we went to this restaurant and so I said to the waitress, I was like, “I’m gluten and dairy free. So, I’m just going to have a burger and get me a side of Brussels sprouts.” And she was like, “We can give you a gluten free bread,” and I was like, “No, I don’t feel good when I eat those things. So I’ll just get the protein and some vegetables. And I’m all good.” And I love that you encouraged yourself as you made this transition into your culinary training to be more experimental. And I would imagine most people listening had episodes of being picky as, children or young adults. There’s definitely things that my mother encouraged us to eat growing up. My mom’s Italian, and so organ meats, were something that my mother would prepare. And my mom would make liver and bacon. The joke of my mom was that we would eat the bacon and not eat the liver, because it was just so– when you fry up a piece of liver, as a child can be a little bit metallic tasty, may not really appeal to you. But yet, now we’re starting to see and we’ll get to this later that organ meats are becoming very in vogue. And there’s lots of creative ways to get the benefits of organ meats without per se sitting down and getting pancreas and spleen on your plate. But you touched on the fact that during your training, you made this pivot and this decision that you were going to be more open minded. And then it’s my understanding that you had some very interesting jobs after finishing your culinary training.
James Barry: I did. I used to be in the entertainment business. I always pursuing acting, and anyone that is ever pursued acting or anything in the arts knows that you have to put out 200%, you’re lucky if you get back 25. You’re really lucky. It’s truly one of those things where you just prepare your whole life and keep your fingers crossed that someone eventually discovers you. I worked hard, I am not ashamed to say I am a hard worker. And yet something amazing happened. It was 9/11, that made me reevaluate my life. Which is ironic, since it was what we’re filming this when it was just yesterday, I think the 9/11 happen, I reevaluated, audit my life. I said, “Okay, I want to only be doing things that my heart is involved in, like that have heart.” I was substitute teaching at the time in the LA Unified. And then I was acting and I did love entertainment business. But I just reevaluate, and I was like, “What have I always loved?” It was cooking. And then and there decided to go to culinary school. And it was so fascinating, because it was really a spiritual moment. I think when you align with what you’re here to do with your mission, things just skyrocket. And I think even you could attest to that from your trajectory.
I went to culinary school, I got out of culinary school, I did internship at a rehab center in Malibu. I can’t even remember how many hours I had to do, but afterwards, they said, “We’ll offer you a job,” and I’m in my early 30s. And they said it’s $9 an hour, and I literally started crying. I was like, “I can’t believe that I’m in my 30s, I just changed careers, and I’m being offered a job for $9 an hour like, how am I going to survive on this? What am I going to do?” And I was so scared, because there is no blueprint when you’re a chef. I mean, yes, you can go get a job at a restaurant, but those are also $9. I mean, those are cheap, cheap jobs. That’s why the industry is struggling right now. But I knew I wanted to be a private chef. But there is no blueprint for being a private chef, particularly back when I did this. There was no established wage, there was no place you could go that would tell you what to do. And so, I felt desperate. And then fortunately, two days later, I got a random call from the assistant of newscaster said, “Hey, we’re looking for a private chef.” They had gotten my number from the school that I went to in New York. And they then said, “What we’re looking for a chef that can cook low fat, this, that,” and I was like, “Oh, that’s not me.”
So here I was desperate, and I still held to what I believed, and I said, “That’s not me, I’m sorry. I’m not the right fit for you guys.” And she was so intrigued. She said, “Well, what do you do? Why?” And so I started to tell her. I said, “Look, I’m all about real food. I use whole real foods. I make sauces with real foods. I don’t buy preprepared stuff. I make everything from scratch, and I control the ingredients. And I don’t use sugar. If I’m sweetening something, I use dates or I caramelize onions. I’d work with the food, I bring the flavors out of the food to get what I want.” And she said, “Okay, we’ll do what you do.” And I got my first job, and that held me down for two years. I helped her achieve her goals just by cooking real food. And then it kind of took off from there. But it really was a spiritual moment of like, work came to me. I think for the first four years, I literally would just think something, I’d be like, I want to cook for a band while traveling around the US. And no joke, a couple of days later, a week later, I would get a call and like, “Hey, do you want to be the chef for the Vans Warped Tour, which is like a 50 band, 50 state like over– maybe it’s closer to 100 bands, like tons of bands. And I got to do it, and I was like yes, I’ll do it.
It was a beautiful, beautiful period of manifestation. I tapped what I was here to do. And the interesting jobs, I think you’re even referring to is I worked for very big celebrities like Tom Cruise, who’s, of course got like the number one movie in the world right now. But I cooked for him, I got to cook for George Clooney. I had some time with Barbra Streisand, Gerard Butler, Mariska Hargitay from that TV show, she was one of my first celebrity clients, and she was just wonderful. And then it inspired me to start a business where I could serve more people. So, I actually left working for Tom Cruise, a very nice job, very stressful, but nice job to start my own business, so I could serve more people, because that’s really ultimately what I want to do. I want to try to help as many people as possible.
Cynthia Thurlow: For the benefit of listeners when you talk about manifestation, and that’s really what you’re talking about, as you have evolved in the trajectory of your career. What do you think are important components of that? I find for myself that I have to be careful what I manifest. I may think I want something but really I want something else. But let’s talk a little bit about that, because in the context of doing my due diligence for this interview, I always like to have a different spin, or at least different questions that I’ve heard on other podcasts when you’ve been asked. I know this has been very impactful in your life, personally and professionally. But how does manifestation, like how do you work that into your mindset, your methodology?
James Barry: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think that the alignment is really key. And I think that to your point, to think that we can stay in alignment is the challenge because we’re human, we’re fallible, we are inconsistent. And I think that’s really important, even when we continue our talk around food, we are inconsistent. And that is the most consistent of us is that we are inconsistent. And I think that for me, that moment of what of auditing, I use that word a lot, I audited my life. And I went all the way back to my childhood, which is really key. I think, when you’re thinking about why am I here on this planet. Let’s say you’re in your 30s, you can’t just go to your 20s. I think you have to go to a pure, cleaner period in your life where you were really more essence. And you weren’t necessarily premeditated thought, like we are as adults. I acknowledged that, okay, from a very young age, there was something about cooking that I gravitated toward. I don’t think I even needed to understand what it was. Like I said, I didn’t understand what cooking meant to me until a month ago. So, it’s not about figuring it out. But I think it is about tapping the energy. So, for me manifestation is more energy. It’s not as tangible. And I think the minute you try to make it tangible, it’s the minute that it kind of stops, you stop the flow.
Tapping into that thing that how I labeled it was that had heart. I followed the path with heart. And to me, the heart represents that energy. I think it means a lot of different things for people. But for me, it represents energy. And you could also say heart, you could say gut, your instincts. But sometimes even gut or instincts feels a little bit more cerebral, heart feels more emotional and energetic, but I tapped into that. And then from there, it’s a lot of listening. I think manifestation requires lots of listening, because I do believe that we all have the ability to manifest all the time. But I think the majority of us are not listening. And I’m a work in progress too. There are moments where I’m not listening still too. But I think I’m always striving towards trying to listen. And maybe that’s where that kind of balance comes from, or you get that moment of manifestation when you finally align with the heart and the listening.
Cynthia Thurlow: That’s such a good point. I think a lot of it’s leaning into what we’re genuinely interested in, what feels good. And I don’t mean just tangibly physically feels good. But one thing that the last several years has really demonstrated for me is that when I’ve really leaned in to something I’m interested in, then there’s usually a cascade of other things that will come from that. I may not fully understand intellectually why, but for me, that has been a really powerful thing. And my grumpy 14-year-old who I love dearly, I say grumpy because he’s a 14-year-old boy jokingly talked to, “Mom, are you just going manifest that?” And I said, “You should be openminded enough to understanding that there are things beyond just tangible. It doesn’t necessarily have to be something you can touch, maybe something you sense or that intuition, all of which are very important.”
Now, I’d love to pivot and talk about one of our shared favorite things, but also the influences of dogma. So you and I have been around long enough that we’ve seen a lot of dogma around nutrition. I trained at a time when we bastardize fats and told everyone that saturated fat was bad and protein was bad and eat your heart healthy grains, the food guide pyramid, and which is now evolved into MyPlate. What are your thoughts about prevailing dogma as it pertains to where we are right now? I feel like we’ve gotten so dogmatic to a fault almost to the point like, we have to label ourselves like, “This is the camp you fall under.” And you’re not allowed to change your mind. And I see a lot of this on Twitter as a good example, that seems to be a stomping ground of dogmatism, sometimes good, sometimes bad. But I would love to get your sense of where we are nutritionally in terms of dogmatic principles. What are some of the changes that you’ve been witnessing over the last several years?
James Barry: Yeah, I love this question, because the way I described it as the illusion of health. Health to me is whatever– really this planet– I mean, it’s a blank slate. Our societal norms, everything we do everything we choose, everything we think, it’s all just perspective. It’s mindset. It’s what you’re saying it is. I mean, we’re saying that this dollar bill has worth, but technically from another– if we go to an indigenous culture, they’ll be like, “What is this? It’s paper. This doesn’t have any meaning to us.” Your environment, your mindset, how you were raised, all these things play into that dogma. But I ultimately believe that, and it connects to the food, the of picky eating. We can look at the picky eating and just go, “Okay, that person’s a picky eater.” But we can also look at it like, “Well, they’re being controlling.” And you might even go a little deeper and be like, “Well, maybe their life is chaotic. And this is the one thing that they can control.”
We can always look at things from a deeper, peel the onion, look little deeper, but I believe that– I mean similar even to what we were just talking about, regarding the manifestation is that the minute you label yourself something, and you get dogmatic about it, I believe you’re digging a hole, because you name one diet– I’ve been around for 17 years, I have not seen one diet prevail, except real food. We always keep coming back to real food. And to me, that is what ultimately– like if you’re peeling the onion at the core, that’s what it is. But even now, we’re questioning, what is the real food? Because even now we’re questioning vegetables. And it all gets really, really heady. And it gets really, I think dangerous, because then you start these food issues can creep up like people don’t know what to eat. So, you start to have food phobias, you stop eating, you have anorexia. Anything that will contribute to you thinking you have control over your emotions and over your world. And that creeps into I think the dogma is ultimately, it just plays out that control. And then what you’re left with is that mindset, which is food is no fun anymore. They’re basically it’s fuel. It’s just getting from one place to another.
I think that life is too short to always be in one place. And I say that too, because I used to get even frustrated when I was around, people that were always just positive. I get frustrated when someone is all in on one thing, because it doesn’t feel human to me. I really go back to that we are very fallible. I am work in progress, I imagine you are as well. We need to give ourselves a wiggle room because we are always the hardest person on our own lives. And if that extends to food to the point where you’re like– so we’re talking organ meats. One thing I hear a lot is like, “Oh, well, it needs to be 100% grass-fed grass finished,” I’m like, “Okay, but what if you don’t have access to that? So, do you just skip eating organs? If the fish is a larger fish, you just skip eating fish because you’re worried about the mercury? So now you’re not eating fish at all?” Are we going to that place, we’re so dogmatic about something that we’re not even eating those things that are probably the most important foods for us to eat.
Cynthia Thurlow: I think it’s really important on a lot of different levels, and you bring up many good points. So, the rigidity piece, and this could apply to nutritional dogma, this can apply to fasting, this can apply to so many issues that we see societally. And certainly, as someone who wrote a book earlier this year, although a lot of the questions that my team and I field on social media or get in our inboxes, I just remind people that whatever you do, it should be sustainable, because if it’s not sustainable, then it’s too rigid. It’s not allowing you to have fun with your food. As you said, I think, on a lot of levels that many people feel, if they’re keto, they always have to be keto, if they’re low carb, they always have to be low carb, if they’re carnivore, they can never eat a vegetable. If they’re vegan, God forbid their body is craving eggs or craving steak, and if they eat that that per se is bad. And I think this reductionism, this very black and white thinking can be hugely problematic. It doesn’t take into account as you said, we’re all a work in progress.
I very openly talk about the fact that three years ago when I was hospitalized, I was carnivore for nine months, not because I wanted to just be eating meat, but because I had been hospitalized and my digestive system was such a wreck. That was the only thing I tolerated but I craved vegetables desperately. And I now really appreciate the fact that I can eat a wide variety in my diet. One of the things that I think it’s important is to be in a position where you share the things you’re experimenting with. I definitely have been experimenting with more proteins, different types, wildatarian meats. To your point, if we get so dogmatic that we can only eat grass-fed, grass finished meat, it’s going to be nearly impossible to go to a restaurant. It’s going to be hard to eat at your friend’s house. And I try to tell people, like when I go to a restaurant, I’m assuming that most of what I’m eating is not the same level of quality. I may have at home, but the process of enjoying being around other people, celebrations, etc. You just can’t have so many rules. I think that many rules then takes away the joy of the experience of sitting down and eating, because I was raised by Italian parent, my mom and stepfather–
James Barry: Right.
Cynthia Thurlow: Food is love. That’s why I love that you said it’s an expression of love, my husband actually loves to cook. That’s part of how he demonstrates his love to all of us. Since I’ve been an entrepreneur, he does a lot more cooking. But getting back to the original intent of heading down this path of talking about dogmatism. The other thing that I think many people probably don’t realize, and I know you certainly do, is the subsidized foods that are in our processed food industry. And for those that aren’t familiar, the most subsidized products in the processed food industry are corn, soy, wheat and rice. And there was an interesting study in JAMA that said, “The more subsidized food an individual eats, the more likely they are to be obese, have abnormal cholesterol and lipids and insulin resistance.” Let’s unpack that a little bit. As we’re positioning ourselves to talk about organ meats, I love to touch on the fact that the processed food industry has tremendous influence over our waistline, our taste buds, our discretionary income, and the way that most Americans, most westernized people are eating.
James Barry: Yes, they do. It’s so interesting, because on one level, we’re talking about the energy. The energy of your state while you’re eating. Are you in a stress state? Are you in a relaxed state? Parasympathetic state? But then we’re also talking about, well, what you are eating? What were they eating? What was their state? What was their energy around them? And I think that’s a whole level, like I mentioned, the illusion of health. I think that’s a whole other level of health that most people do not look at, they can’t look at, they can’t afford to look at. It’s a very privileged way of looking at food. I think we have to honor that, for you to actually think about not just what you’re buying, but what you’re buying, how was it treated? How was it fed? Where was its environment where it lived? That’s just whole other level. But I get it, we’re in circles where that is what matters, because we’re dissecting, we’re trying to get deeper and deeper into health and understanding what works and doesn’t work.
Where I do get nervous is that these industrial businesses, that industry is not transparent, like the flavor industry, for example, natural flavors, artificial flavors, completely not transparent, completely. They actually oversee themselves. When you see natural flavors, artificial flavors on there, you really do not know what it is. And it’s interesting, because I’ll talk to– when I was making Pluck, I had called many different copackers, many different labs to when I was trying to formulate it. I remember, I had this one call with someone and they were like, “Why are you putting an organ meat in there?” I could just add flavors, I could add a mommy flavor and make it taste like organ meat? And I’m like, “Why would I do that? The whole point is the nutrition.” I just thought that that was so interesting, because from his perspective, he’s like, “Well, this is my job, this is what I do.” This makes sense to me. And from my perspective, I’m like, “What you’re suggesting makes zero sense.” But who’s right? It’s all perspective.
I’m not happy with this. I think that it’s a fine line, because we can get really, really obsessive, and to your point, there is no way you can eat out, if you’re getting obsessive around. How things are fed, what they’re injected with, whatnot, what’s in it because most restaurants they’re trying to save money, they’re trying to make money. And they need to get cheaper ingredients when they can, and what are the most expensive ingredients? It’s going to be animal meats, it’s going to be oils, fats, and then it’s going to be time, so training. Anytime that they can purchase a sauce that’s already made, that they don’t have to train someone to make because a cook can follow recipe, but a chef is going to be the one that really understands the flavor behind the recipe.
So, that’s a whole different paygrade right there. A chef versus a cook or a line cook. I was always shocked when I lived in LA and I would go to the restaurant depot to get, for my business, I would get like the containers there for our to-go stuff. I would see cart upon cart of all these restaurants that I thought were like farm to table, that were like really good restaurants, and they’d have these carts just filled with premade products. Anyone that’s never been in a restaurant depot kind of place, it’s like the most generic popular brands out there. There’s nothing good about the food there. I mean, they have a tiny bit of organic, that’s it. There’s no prepackaged food, that is probably the kind that you were I would want to buy, it’s all this stuff that you’re going to find that’s from Kraft, that’s the general kind of like, “don’t care about ingredients stuff,” and they were packed full of stuff. And that was eye opening.
Here’s the other thing, every restaurant, almost probably like 99% of them are getting their food from there. We are all getting our food from the same seven sources. That’s the other thing that you have to think about. So that when you see all these allergies and issues coming up around food, it’s like we’re all drinking from the same well, you can’t escape that because supply chain is what it is. And if you want to go outside of the established supply chain, you’re going to be paying. And that’s the other thing is people, your and I are willing to pay more for these foods. But I can’t even tell you how many people come to even Pluck site. And they’re like, “I don’t want to pay this much for a seasoning.” I’m like, “But do you understand that there’s five organs in it?” We have five organs. Most of them you’re not even eating. You’re not eating pretty much all of them for most people, but even those that are eating organs, I guarantee they’re not getting spleen and pancreas. So, it’s like, you have to understand if you want healthy food, truly healthy food, clean food, you’re going to have to pay for it. And you have to shift that mindset.
Cynthia Thurlow: I think it’s such an important point. There’s always a couple books that completely shift our perspectives. And there’s a book called Salt Sugar Fat. Yes. And I was stunned to understand there are food scientists that make these hyper palatable, highly processed foods. There are bliss points, they make them as addictive and intoxicating as possible. And trying to have conversations with my teenagers who now recognize we eat very differently than most of their peers, trying to find a clean or option for some of the things that they want, and having to have conversations about. There’s a reason why if you go to your friend’s house and eat Dorito, you can’t just eat one. Versus if you have a clean ship at our house, maybe you can have a couple or a serving, and you’re completely fine with that, but helping to educate them. But I think the average person assumes when they go to the grocery store, or they go to Costco that everything that’s there is clean and healthy for them. And I have to remind my followers, I’ll do videos about Costco or Trader Joe’s clean finds. And I’ll tell them, it’s challenging. If you really read the food labels, just to avoid seed oils. If you do nothing else, just trying to avoid seed oils can be quite challenging.
James Barry: I love that you’re pointing this out, by the way, because you can continue going down the rabbit hole, because I agree, I go around all these stores, I look at the ingredients. Even the ones that are selling themselves as the healthy, once again, it’s the illusion of health. They’re actually not healthy. I mean using Costco as an example. So, they have two main butters, that are really popular. They have the Kerrygold, and then they have the Costco brand, that’s like a green label. Well, the Costco brand states 95% grass-fed. Why do they state that, you wonder? I remember when they came out, I was like, “That’s weird. If you’re not 100%, why would you state that?” It’s like saying I’m almost 100%. Why would you be doing that? Well, then you learn like, “Oh, it’s because Kerrygold is not 100% grass-fed. There’s nowhere on their label that it says 100% grass-fed,” but everyone just assumes they’re 100% grass-fed because it says grass-fed on there. It’s like the human psychology is that we want it to be healthy. Everyone’s talking about it. Dave Asprey is recommending we get Kerrygold, we should all be eating it and then you don’t actually read the label, you don’t actually look into it, because we’re all desperately looking for, “Just give us the pill, just give us that answer.”
The reality is, is it’s even when you think you have it, you don’t have it because there will be companies that are really clean that are doing it all right, and then they get sold to a bigger company and then that company changes their ingredients, but doesn’t tell you, so now that product that you thought was so clean, isn’t so clean anymore. And that carries over to so many other things, like think about all the medicine things, all the medical procedures that back in the day we thought this is the answer. They think actually George Washington died from his doctor’s hand because they blood let him, that was the healing, then they would blood let, release your blood, cut you to release blood thinking that that would help you. And they think that they actually did it too much on him and he died from that. But that was the science of the day., I’m always very, like, “You know what? We think we know everything in this moment and we really don’t.” I really do believe in it feeds the dogma questions, like you have to just take a breath and realize that we cannot control everything. But what you can work on and control is your own state. And you can take a breath, and you can listen to your body, and you can feel out, “Okay, do I really need this ice cream? Or is it just because I’m having a hard day? Or is it because I’m needing more fat in my diet? Or is it because I just ate a really salty meal and now it’s pushing me into needing something sweet.” Just ask the questions.
Ask those questions and try to get more and more intuitive with what feels right in your body, but at the same time, you can’t fully go to feed into those emotions, because the emotions will play with you too. So, it’s got to be a balance of the physical and the emotional. The energy and the tangible. It’s got to be that balance. But I will absolutely be the first person to contradict my own self because I sometimes make these choices because they’re easier. Sometimes I’ll know Kerrygold is not as necessarily good as the Costco brand. Honestly, it tastes better. The Costco brand is really bland, and Kerrygold has flavor. And I’m just like, “Okay, I think I’m going to go back to Kerrygold, even though it’s probably only about 80% grass-fed or 85% whatever it is, but I’m going to do it because it tastes better, and I like it. So, I’m just going to trust that.”
Cynthia Thurlow: Well, I think there’s also nothing wrong with that. I think, if you came into my pantry, again, I have teenagers, so we do have some prepared foods. I have bone broth, because I don’t always per se have some ready to go. I’ve right now I’ve got dogs who don’t like their dog food. And the only way we’re going to get through this bag of very expensive dog food is I’ve been putting bone broth on top of it and my husband just rolls his eyes. There are plenty of examples, I’ve got Hu brand crackers in our house because it’s a clean cracker. And we’ve got fairly clean potato chips, no seed oils, and we do a protein-bars because I have kids who are very athletic, and sometimes they need something they can tuck into a backpack or take to a practice because they can’t handle having a big meal, and that’s okay. As I always tell them, it’s trying to find the cleanest options of what is available, which let’s be clear, there’s not a lot– I mean, I stood in Wegmans, which is one of our big local grocery stores and I said to my husband, “All I wanted was to have no nonnutritive sweeteners,” so no sucralose, aspartame, etc. In a bar.
James Barry: Good luck. [chuckles]
Cynthia Thurlow: Yeah, exactly, that, and seed oils. And I said those two things alone 98% of what was in the grocery store, I could not bring home with good conscience. And my husband knows every time I go, I try to look for a new bar, “Okay, can I find a bar that I could conceivably recommend or suggest?” And I always go back to beef jerky. I’ll talk about Paleovalley beef jerky or some of the other beef jerkies that people can throw in a bag and it’s not going to get squashed. And there’s no junky seed oils, but it is definitely challenging. And I know for most people listening, they’re just trying to navigate doing the very best for themselves and their families. But it becomes very, very challenging. The processed food industry does a really good job of a little bit of smoke and mirrors. Like as an example, ice cream is a big deal in my house. So, we buy organic ice cream. I don’t eat ice cream, but my boys and my husband do and that’s their treat. And they were looking at gelato one night in the frozen food section at Whole Foods. At the time, my son was a little bit younger. And so, he said, “Oh, look, mom, there’s no sugar in this.” And I said, “Oh, dextrose is another name for sugar.” There’s still sugar in this. And so what has been your experience when you are working directly with your clients, for all these people that are dopamine addicts, it feels good when you get these dopamine hits in your brains, whether it’s stuff that you’re doing online, looking at social media, buying something or even consuming sugary beverages and foods that whether it’s to feed a need, you’ve got an emotional need, a physical need, you feel uncomfortable, you have feelings you don’t want to deal with or you’re physically hungry. What have been some of the challenges you’ve seen in your business?
James Barry: Yeah. Well, it’s interesting. When I was starting out as a private chef, I had to really explore every popular trend, because everyone thinks like, “Oh, the actors are these wealthy people. They know what’s up,” but actually they don’t, they’re just following whatever’s the big trend or the one that’s about to come because they get access sometimes to early editions of books. So, they are just following those things. And hoping that the person that there is monitoring their health is on top of it, but they’re all stabbing in the dark as well. Some of them aren’t at all. Some of them are like they’ll go a few weeks where they’re eating really clean and then they’ll just binge on just horrible, horrible food. And I’m talking about big, big actors, the ones that really do look great. I used to work with an Olympic athlete. When he was training his fuel were brownies.
Cynthia Thurlow: No.
James Barry: No, seriously. His fuel that he would eat, like instead of a protein bar or whatever, he was eating brownies when he wasn’t doing his– I don’t want to say what sport it is in case anyone knows. But when he wasn’t doing his sport. And that was my job, as I was trying to get him off brownies. I was trying to get him to start burning fat instead of sugar, glucose. So, it’s funny, I mean, this illusion of that is out there, it’s just not accurate. I have to share this a little bit going back to that dogmatic view is here I am saying like, “Oh, I think it can be dangerous being dogmatic.” However, there is a caveat to that, and that’s that you need to figure out what works for you, because I am dogmatic around certain things. So, I’ve found over– I’m in my late 40s. So, in my 48-ish years that I’ve been on this planet, I have learned that if it’s in the house, I will eat it, that I don’t have an off switch when it comes to some of this junky food, particularly if I’m having a hard day, I just don’t.
I can either pretend that I have an off switch, or I can just own the fact I don’t have an off switch. I’m just not going to bring it into the house. And it works really well now. I don’t eat ice cream. I don’t do any sugar. I think the only thing I do is sometimes some stevia, and even that I’m over, I’m sick of. But I don’t bring any stuff in. It’s not because I’m trying to go without, it’s not because I’m trying to be mean to myself or try to be rigid. It’s because I’ve learned that it doesn’t work for me. I think it is, when dogma is supported by like, “Hey, I actually feel better not drinking,” or, “I feel better not eating these souped-up protein bars that are actually you can’t–” expensive candy bars. When you get off the train, and you start to realize, “Oh, I don’t have to succumb to all these pressures, the societal pressures and eat the way everyone else is eating.”
I go to Costco, there’s literally five things I can get, and toilet paper is one of them. [laughs] It’s not even a food item. There’s not much there that is truly good. And if you go to every grocery store out there, what has become the most prevalent grocery item in every store out there. It’s snacks, chips. The chip aisle is as big as the cereal aisle. Remember that, when we were kids, it wasn’t that way. You go to [unintelligible [00:37:40] their chip aisle takes up an entire aisle. That’s unprecedented. So, like, yes, it is not just food in us. No. We are up against an industry that is trying to take our money, that is trying to take our health and you have to be cunning, you have to figure out what does work for me. And sometimes that is a dogmatic, like, you know what? I’m just not going to buy the stuff. We’re gluten free in our household, and we’re primarily gluten free because my wife has an autoimmune disease. And we as a family, we are gluten free for her, but also for ourselves because it’s questionable whether we need gluten.
What’s amazing about being gluten free, though, for me, and this is a part of the dogmatic thing is now when I go into a grocery store, I’m not snacking all the time, you know how they all have like samples? I can’t eat any of them, because none of them are gluten free. Actually, me cutting off something actually made it easier for me. Now not having the option actually makes it so easy, because now I can just someone’s offering a cookie at a hotel, because that’s what they do. And it’s like, “Oh, I can’t eat it. It has gluten. Sorry. Thank you, though. Smells really good. But thank you.”
Cynthia Thurlow: I think it’s an important point to be able to distinguish. If you can’t moderate, it’s easier to eliminate. And that’s something like I’ve been dedicated gluten free for 11 years, because I have a couple autoimmune issues, which are all in remission, because I’m gluten free. And I remind people that my only last vice in life is dark chocolate. And that’s like, I’m okay with that. But it’s also with the understanding that if I have a gluten free cookie, or a brownie or there’s a celebration, I will enjoy it. But I don’t take leftovers. They usually go in the garbage, which my husband scratches his head, and I said, “Well, if you can’t moderate eating those gluten free cookies, it’s much easier just not to have them anywhere around.”
James Barry: To me that’s intelligence. That’s emotional intelligence. And that’s part of, I think, that we’re talking about intuition and getting in touch with your body. And you have to also take ownership of yourself. If you know what works for you, then that’s what works. It doesn’t matter what Joe Schmo over there or what works for them. Doesn’t matter, because you are different people, you are bioindividuality, and bioindividualistically different that you need to honor yourself. You could take that even further. It’s like honor, that’s such an interesting word. Honor thyself. Well, let’s take it even further. Let’s honor ourselves by the food we put in our body. Let’s honor ourselves by the people that we surround ourselves with, by the people we choose to fall in love, or be involved with. It’s honoring thyself is such an interesting concept to me, because it took me many, many years to understand that.
Even when I was single, I remember I was dating a lot of different people. There was this guy in my life, and he said that. He’s like, “What would it be like if you actually were even honored yourself more and chose who you were going to be intimate with, instead of just blanketly being intimate with whatever is around you?” I didn’t even understand it when he said, “I was like, “Uh-huh. Okay.” It took me literally, I think, five years until it really sank in. And I’m like, “Oh. What I put in my body is an act of honoring myself.” “Oh, who I have in my life is an act of honor myself.” And that’s one thing I’m constantly now trying to impart to my kids, is that you really can choose– if you are around someone, you being around them results in you feeling bad about yourself, or angry at yourself that you don’t have to– you get to choose your friends. Like you get to choose who is in your life, you get to choose what goes into your body. And I swear, if we even just put a little bit of energy towards that alone, those two things, it’s amazing how much better we can feel because that’s a whole other topic, which is most people don’t realize that where they’re at right now is less than, they are not thriving. They think their norm is actually below average, and they don’t realize that. And I’m talking health wise, of course, I’m not talking about anything other than that.
Cynthia Thurlow: Yeah, just the concept where most people are just surviving. They’re getting day to day, they’re not thriving. And that is certainly a really, really important point. Now, I’d love to pivot and talk about foods that are really healthy for us. And this is our segue into organ meats. And obviously, I think for many listeners, they may have tried liver, maybe they like me when they were growing up, it was served with bacon. But let’s unpack how did you get so interested and passionate about organ meats and helping to educate people about why these are such nutrient dense foods to include in our diets?
James Barry: I wish I could say that, “Oh, I was raised on it. And this is what I’ve known,” but I actually wasn’t. And similar to you, my mother was and she used to eat liver and onions all the time as a kid and she loved it. But she wasn’t much of a cook and didn’t really translate it to my childhood much. I think the most we ate was when you got a whole chicken, you had some of the organs were in there with a neck. So, it’s like, that was about all I got. And I didn’t really eat it much, but when I was in culinary school, I learned about Weston A. Price. And it was the act of learning about Weston A. Price and pot and Pottenger’s Cats. Those two books really brought it home like, “Oh, it’s similar to they’re saying if you’re trying to find what you’re best at to look at your childhood.” Well, I think food wise, it’s good to look back at what were indigenous cultures eating before they were eating the standard American diet, and all these health issues came into play. What were they eating when they were not having the health issues? So, I love that Weston A. Price talked a lot about organ meats, proper preparation, and yet I still didn’t incorporate it.
When I was a private chef for all those different clients, I still did not incorporate organ meats. It wasn’t until I was a father that I started to go, “I really want to get these nutrient dense foods to my kids, but I want to do it with just effortlessly. I don’t want to work so hard at trying to overcome.” The hurdles. These are the organ meat hurdles. The associated ick taste, because I know people they’ve never even tried organs, and they think they’re icky. And I was definitely that way as a kid. I wouldn’t touch it.
So that picky, and tap some kind of picky eater in all of us. There’s the sourcing, a lot of people don’t know where to source it. And then there’s the culinary prepper. Like a lot of people, we’ve lost the art of how to cook them. So, we have three major hurdles, huge hurdles. And then I guess you could say the fourth is like touching the tangible parts, you touch them, you get this huge piece of harder tongue or liver and you’re like, “What do I do with it? Am I going to actually make an entire meal with this.” And if you don’t, then you feel wasteful. So, there’s more hurdles, and even when I’m mentioning but I wanted to overcome those hurdles. And really, that’s what got me on the path is my kids, and then wanting to overcome any hurdles around getting these nutrient dense foods into them because as a parent, we already work hard enough. I just want to make thing– like for me, I think that’s really my sweet spot is for me, I want health to be easy for people because if it’s hard, then you don’t do it. That’s just it. Like I don’t care how great it is. But there’s basically two reasons why most people won’t do something that’s healthy or good for them. It’s because it’s hard like it takes more time and habit than they want to give.
The other one is because they don’t have their why. They don’t have a real reason of why to do it. Maybe they’ve never had gotten sick, like you have. Or I even, I got a kidney stone. So, I’ve experienced some health issues as well from what I ate. So, they’ve either gotten sick themselves or had someone close to them die from something food related or health wise. I don’t find the needle moves unless those two things move. I think COVID was a perfect example of that too. What happened when COVID hit? Everyone went back to their comfort foods, alcohol sales, pastries, baking. Just in my neighborhood, the amount of recycling the bottles and the recycling bins, they were overflowing with alcohol bottles. I’ve never seen that. Except in during those two years.
Cynthia Thurlow: Yeah, it’s interesting. At the time, the beginning of the pandemic, we lived in the Washington DC suburbs and dealing with uncomfortable feelings. I mean, let’s be real, some of us exercise. We don’t have to process our feelings, some of the strengths, some of us eat hyper palatable foods. And I would agree with you that I do recall that many recycling garbage cans in our neighborhood were literally overflowing during that time period. And it’s interesting when you look at the research about, just the mental health impact, the impact on metabolic health of the pandemic. I think the 2018 study that I quote quite a bit was from UNC Chapel Hill and it was talking about 88.2% of Americans are metabolically healthy then. Then we have the pandemic and now it is anywhere from 92% to 93% of Americans are metabolically unhealthy. So certainly, the pandemic has had a huge impact on our health overall and not for the better. But when it comes to organ meats, what are some of the unique properties that would be helpful for listeners to understand? This nutrient density is very, very important. But what’s so unique about these organ meats that they need to know more about it?
James Barry: Well, organ meats are nature’s most concentrated source, so virtually every important vitamin, mineral, amino acid of fat you need in your body. And I think it’s important, like so I can break down. So, Pluck, for example, has liver, kidney, heart, pancreas and spleen. So that’s five organs. I can break down those and just tell you right away what you’re getting from those. Liver, for example, nutritional power, that’s like the one you always hear about that is one of nature’s most concentrated sources of vitamin A, which is also retinol. But why is that important? Well, vitamin A is important for maintaining reproductive health, your eyesight, your immune system, it supports your skin health. It’s got just a multitude of bioavailable vitamins that combat numerous diseases like heart disease, Alzheimer’s, so liver is a really good one, but then it doesn’t stop there. Then you have kidney which is rich in vitamin B12. Most organs are really rich in B12. But kidney also has selenium, which is key for immunity. It’s also really good for fertility, and it’s got an amino acid and I’m going to screw up the name but it’s like ergothioneine. Does that sound right? Ergothioneine, [chuckles] the endings throwing me off, but it’s an amino acid base that provides and promotes kidney health and fertility. And it’s in kidneys.
What’s interesting about, you’re going to keep hearing this but there’s this ancestral concept of like, supports like, so the organ that you’re eating is going to support, it’s going to have the nutrients that are going to support your own organs. So, that’s really key too. Heart is a perfect example of that. It’s twice as rich in B12, riboflavin as muscle made twice as rich, but it’s also a great source of CoQ10, Coenzyme Q10, which is anti-fatigue, anti-aging nutrient. It protects against cardiovascular disease and fertility and even mitochondrial dysfunction. So, I mean, hopefully anyone that is eating organ meats is starting to get their mind blown about how amazing these are. Pancreas contains B12 once again, but it’s also high in selenium. And it’s got enzymes, which is really key. It’s got these amazing natural enzymes, lipase, protease, trypsin. And then spleen even higher than liver. It’s rich and vitamin C and vitamin B5, so it’s immunity booster. And it may even help with your skin and your muscles because the higher the iron, the iron is helping to carry oxygen from your lungs to the various parts of your body.
In general, the tenants to me of organ meat of why we should be eating organ meats is, so you have as I mentioned, excellent source of heme iron, which is absorbable iron, which is key. That’s why you hear with organ meats bioavailable, that’s where that word comes from a lot. It helps retain muscle mass because it contains basically all nine essential amino acids. And it’s a high-quality source of protein, great source of choline, which is an essential nutrient that benefits the brain and muscles in the liver. It’s rich in peptides. Sure, I know you talk a lot about peptides. So, everyone’s talking about peptides now. So, it’s rich in peptides, like thymosin alpha 1, tuftsin, I’m messing up some of these words, I know. It’s rich and fat-soluble vitamins, really important, because I always think about all these people that are supplementing with these pills, these isolated vitamins, these synthetic vitamins, they’re not realizing some of them are fat soluble and some are water soluble.
What’s beautiful is when you get these vitamins from food, it’s already in the container that it needs to be in, it’s already in the fat. So, you’re not only just getting that vitamin, but you’re getting the co-vitamins that go with it, or minerals that go with it. And you’re getting in in a vessel, that box will allow you to absorb it the most-easiest and efficiently, most efficient. And then I would say lastly, it’s more affordable than muscle meat. So, we were talking earlier about, “Oh, well 100% grass-fed, and it’s very expensive. It’s a very perverse way of looking at food.” Well, guess what? You can get the exact same quality in organ meats, and it’s going to be cheaper. So, it hits all the points for me, all of them.
Cynthia Thurlow: And what’s your favorite way to use Pluck? Or favorite ways, I’m sure it’s more than just a few.
James Barry: What we’re dealing with Pluck for anyone that doesn’t know is, we’re taking those organs, there’s five organs I mentioned, the liver, kidney, heart, spleen, and pancreas. And I’m basically using the exact same resources that the supplement companies use. So, I’m using a freeze dried, powdered, 100% grass-fed New Zealand product, that’s where a lot of the supplement companies get their products because New Zealand just has a really great meat industry. And it’s very nose to tail, they’ve already established the supply chain. We have not so much in the US, and that’s definitely something I’m working on. But you can pretty much get almost every part of the animal in New Zealand and it’s really clean. So, I take that freeze dried powder product, and I combined it with organic spices and herbs to offset that icky case, you know that everyone associates with it. So what you get is a shelf stable seasoning, no different than like old [unintelligible [00:52:13]. It’s really no different than any seasoning, you could keep it in your drawer. But yet what it has, it’s different from all those is it has organ meats in it. And so, it’s not only increasing the flavor, it’s making other foods tastes better, but it’s nutrient boosting every food you put it on.
I use it like salt and pepper. Honestly, I put it on everything. I would say I fluctuated when I first created Pluck, I would say our favorite was eggs and popcorn. When we had popcorn, like it’s so good on popcorn. It’s mind blowing, like to the point where I cannot have popcorn without it. Popcorn without Pluck feels plain to me. And then you’ll probably find that once you start using it on everything that things just start to taste plain without it. But I would say then my next favorite was putting on salads, because I was eating lots of salads. But now I’d say I’m probably eating more protein now. So, I just sprinkle it on whatever protein I’m eating. I usually use it as a finishing sauce. So, I put it on after I’ve cooked the meal just for maximum nutrition because heat destroys the vitamin. So, yeah, we really do put it on everything. My kids asked for it, they put it on, I haven’t met a kid yet that doesn’t like it. It’s pretty crazy.
Cynthia Thurlow: No, it’s really good. It’s funny, I’ve been going through a deviled eggs phase. And I’ve been using it on that. And then as a finishing, I’m glad to know that you definitely don’t want to cook with it. You use it as a finishing product. I’ve been putting it on like steaks and things like that. Actually, last night, I had some barramundi, and I used it on that.
James Barry: Oh, that’s delicious. Yeah, I mean, you can cook with it. But I would just also finish with it. When you put it in like ground meats, that’s ideal because it’s protected inside the meat and whatnot. But if you’re just sprinkling on any season, you sprinkle on top of something, yeah, you’re getting flavor. But the heat is destroying, most of the nutritional benefits of it. And you sometimes do unless you’re doing a dry rub, or you’re really allowing it to marinate in the food, you don’t get a lot of flavors, when you just sprinkle something unless it’s like salt right on the top, and you only get it on the very top layer. So that’s why I like to finish with it anyway, because you’re maximizing the flavor.
Cynthia Thurlow: I love it. It’s actually one of my favorite gifts to give people is to give them Pluck. And what I’ve come to find out is there’s the initial as you said, people don’t quite know what to expect. And I always say, “Be open minded,” because it really is delicious. And it’s an easy way for those of us that perhaps having a plate of organ meats would not be appealing to our family members. This is a really easy way to continue to provide ways to increase the nutrient density of your meals and get in those organ meats without the visceral reactions. I certainly did when my mother served the liver years ago. Now obviously I could talk to you for hours about a variety of different things. But please let my listeners know how to connect with you, how to purchase pluck, where are you on social media, etc.
James Barry: The website is called eatpluck.com. And we have actually new flavors out now, I don’t even know if you know about this, but we have Zesty Garlic which is an AIP blend. So, it’s got no nightshades, no seeds. We have a spicy version. We have the tried and true All-Purpose. It’s that’s the product we launched with. And then we also have for those that want maximum nutrition, we have 100% organ blend called Pluck Pure. And that’s for people that don’t care as much about the taste that just want– I just want 100% organs. And you’re going to add it to things that already have lots of flavors. So, you could add it to sauces or chocolate smoothies or whatever it is you do. But in general, when you’re ordering Pluck, I do stress like treat it like salt, pepper, because it’s all about that micro dosing. It’s not meant to be one of those things that you just pull out of the cabinet like nutmeg once a year. I mean, use it on everything, because the whole point is, yes, you’re getting good flavor. But I really do believe that organ meat health will support the world in being a better place. We need to feel better in our bodies, we need to up that kind of threshold of where our average is now, not below average, but is actually thriving is above average. And even really optimal. Like that’s where we need to all get there.
I believe that we all can get there with organ meats. I’ve seen no reason why we couldn’t. But we just need to incorporate them daily, and Pluck is definitely the gateway, it’s so easy. It’s effortless, but don’t stop there. I hope look at our website, we have recipes. I encourage you to experiment with other organs as well. And we have lots of recipes on the site of eatpluck.com, and you can follow us on Instagram @eatpluck. And you can follow me at @ChefJamesBarry, that’s Barry with an “A” and we’d love to hear from you because this is not just about selling a product. I’m trying to get a movement going.
Cynthia Thurlow: Well, thank you so much for your wonderful insights and wisdom, and for making organ meats much more accessible for the general population. I think for a lot of us, myself included, it allows me to perceive that I’m doing good things for my body, and slowly dipping my toe into that organ meat pond.
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