Tag Archives: Chef Larry

The Buzz About Healthy Foods

Today we are hearing from Chef Larry Washington, and how he uses his incredible talent as a chef to teach about the importance of healthy foods and the pollinators that make it all possible!

In 2008, when the economy was on the financial downturn I was forced to close my family restaurant. In a state of depression, my family discovered the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge. The wildlife refuge became our sanctuary. It represented an escape from my daily tasks. We ran here every chance we could.  We were often greeted by the wild turkeys, the sweet call of the frogs and the nonchalant ease of the turtles. It became a place that we talked about our plans for the future and created family memories.  It was our place right in the middle of the city that was magical, raw and a living laboratory of what was and what should remain.


The view of the Philadelphia skyline from John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge.

Fast forward to October 1, 2016 also known as the Philly Fall Nature Fest at Tinicum. It was a great honor to be invited back for the second year to do a cooking demonstration as my alter ego the Grill Sergeant Tabasco.  Grill Sergeant Tabasco is who I dreamed about during those long walks at the wildlife refuge. He represents a series of workshops and a healthy cooking demonstration that uses a disciplined approach to attack the problem of childhood obesity.

Philadelphia has the second-highest rate of obesity among the 10 counties containing the nation’s largest cities, according to a 2009 report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 68 percent of adults — and 41 percent of children between the ages of 6 and 17 — are overweight or obese. Read more at this Philly Magazine article.

For the Philly Fall Nature Fest, I did a cooking demonstration which discussed the importance of and connection between pollinators and healthy foods.


Grill Sergeant Tabasco and his team prepare wild rice!

Pollinators are small animals or insects that are necessary in the production of many fruits, vegetables, and nuts! Hummingbirds, bees, bats, butterflies, flies, beetles, and moths can all help pollinate different plants. About 75 percent of the healthy foods we cook up every day require pollination!


Monarch butterflies were also displayed at the Philly Fall Nature Fest!

Now for the fun part. If you missed it, I’m sharing the wild rice recipe we cooked below. Items with an asterisk require pollination!  Serves 4-6 people. Enjoy!
1/3 cup sweet peas *
1/3 cup zucchini *
1/3 cup yellow squash *
1/3 cup red onion *
1/3 cup red peppers *
1/3 cup green peppers *
1/3 cup carrots  *
2 cups cooked diced chicken, optional
4 cups pre-cooked wild rice
2 tablespoons canola oil *
1/2 cup Grill Sergeant Pad Sauce

Grill Sergeant Pad Thai sauce
1 cup soy oil
1/2 cup sesame oil *
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup fresh chopped garlic
1/4 cup fresh chopped ginger
1/2 cup honey *
1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes *
1/2 cup scallions
Mix all ingredients together
Store in refrigerator
P.S.- Don’t use all of this tasty sauce in one sitting! A small amount will do and the remainder should last about a month.

Place canola oil in pan and heat oil
Add all veggies and quick cook
Add chicken
Add rice
Slowly add Pad Thai sauce and Chicken.

Click here to learn more about how you can protect pollinators like the monarch butterfly!

What foods do you cook that require pollination? Sound off in the comments!

Cooking up something great!

Thanksgiving is almost here and before we know it, we will be gathered around the dinner table surrounded by friends, family and neighbors, sharing what we are all most thankful for. While we can all agree on being thankful for loved ones and pumpkin pie, most of us just can’t wait to dig into the delicious Thanksgiving feast! When you pass the cranberry sauce down the table, take a moment to notice just how much of our Thanksgiving foods are the product of successful pollination. It’s just about everything but the turkey and cornbread! Hard-working animals like hummingbirds, bats, bees and butterflies pollinate over 75 percent of our flowering plants and nearly 75 percent of our crops. What better way to share this powerful message with others than by cooking and eating, something we all love!

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to work with Williams-Sonoma to present a Thanksgiving cooking class dedicated to our pollinator friends. As our talented Chef Melissa prepared a delicious turkey dinner, we took a good look at what was going into our food. Everything including the pumpkin pie, the onions and celery in the stuffing, broccoli and cauliflower, the rub on the turkey, even the glaze on the cornbread was the product of pollination. This doesn’t even count the dozens of spices we used either or the after-dinner coffee! During dessert, I explained the importance of the monarch butterfly’s survival as an indicator of our environment’s health and how the species pilots the movement to protect other pollinators like bees, moths, and flies.

Chef Melissa preparing dinner

Chef Melissa preparing dinner

Less than a week later, John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge hosted a kid-friendly cooking event geared towards a pollinator’s role in eating healthy foods. Chef Larry, known as Sergeant Tabasco to some, prepared a chicken fried rice with countless fruits and vegetables, mostly all of which require pollination and can be incorporated into your Thanksgiving dinner. Chef Larry explained in depth where our food comes from and how pollinators are responsible for a majority of the food we eat. His colorful presentation and wide varieties of food was so appetizing, it kept the guests coming up for seconds! Even the kids didn’t mind eating their veggies!

Chef Larry and I

Chef Larry and I

With preparations for Thanksgiving well underway, take a moment to thank a pollinator this season. The video below shows how different our Thanksgiving would look if it were not for these powerful insects. To help support monarch and pollinator populations, plant flowers that are native to your area and reduce your use of pesticides.