December 28, 2012 · 3:25 PM

By Jamie Hertz

As a chef I am constantly trying to increase my knowledge in the culinary world.

I think that it is one of my jobs as a chef to be aware of growing trends and popular diets. More importantly I feel I need to be aware of the food that I cook. I want to know as much as possible so I can use my better judgement if it is safe to give to the people I cook for. Where it comes from, how it was grown or raised, how it was treated, and who was involved are just some of the things I try to find out. Now, I am not saying I need to know that Pedro in New Mexico grew my tomatoes, but it helps to know as much as possible.

As I became more involved in the food industry, I found a strong interest in the beauty of cultural food. When someone asks me what my favourite food is or my favourite cultural thing to eat, I don’t have any single answer. There is so much out there to enjoy, and so much out there to appreciate, that picking just one thing doesn’t make any sense. That being said, by learning so much about different cultures I found an appreciation for the little things.

Something that has always been a sensitive subject for me to get involved with is certain diets and eating habits. Like many others out there, I’m cautious of what I say to people who don’t eat the same as I do. I just don’t think that it is right for me or anyone to try to push certain beliefs on others.

I eat just about everything and I am willing to eat most things once, though I have turned down my fair share of things as well. However, just because I eat fish, meat, vegetables and just about every cultural food out there doesn’t mean that I think everyone else out there should. People should make their own choices on their diet because they want to, not because someone is pushing them to.

I was in a conversation not too long ago with a girl who is a vegan. For those of you who are unaware of a vegan diet, it is basically a diet that only consists of produce, grains, seeds and nuts. Nothing from animals or fish, or anything with parents basically.

Now, I am never offended by someone’s diet until they start judging my personality by what I eat. One of her many comments was that anyone who eats meats and fish, or anything with a heartbeat for that matter, is selfish and dumb. This really struck a chord with me and offended me for the first time as a chef.

I tried to ask myself why is it that I got so upset with her over this and it wasn’t the fact that I ate things that she didn’t. It was the accusation that I am stupid as a meat eater because I am not thinking of the animal’s feelings when its life is taken.

Now, this is a super touchy subject and one can argue all day about it, so I will close with this. There are very bad and inhumane ways that animals are raised and treated before they make it to our super markets but at the same time there are very good places where the animals live better lives than we do and are treated with the love and care they need.

At the same time, there are a lot of lovely organic farms producing beautiful produce for us, and there are also labs that are producing large scale produce crops that are full of hormones and other GMOs. There are goods and bads in all areas and it is up to us to judge whether they are good or not.