Whenever you're able to connect with a celebrity chef you haven't chatted with in a few years, naturally the first question that comes to mind is, "What's cooking lately?"
For celeb chef , a fellow type 1 since age 12, there's a lot on the metaphorical stove these days.
Yes, Sam is probably most well-known for being a fan-fave semi-finalist on the second season of Bravo'sTop Chef TV series and being named one of People's "Sexiest Men Alive." But he's also known in our community for his diabetes advocacy work through the years. It's been almost four years since Sam first made his way around the D-advocacy circuit, attending conferences with rockstar status on the eve of being published. A lot has changed since then, and these days Sam has been busy making headlines once again.
Not only has he opened up two new eating establishments in recent months -- a specialty coffee shop and cafe in New York City called , and an upscale restaurant in Camden, Maine called -- that both both feature Sam's special culinary touch of healthy and clean eating, he's also working with Insulet and in New Jersey on a new "Life Is Better Healthy” cooking video series.
On top of that, the 37-year-old has also teamed up with two D-Moms to launch a new organization called , aimed at encouraging and supporting people with diabetes, fighting misconceptions and raising money for research. The org was founded a few months ago and is officially launching in the coming days, when its new online home at is expected to go live.
Here's the pitch:
"Beyond Type1 seeks to bring a new level of respect and a true sense of community to those living wit Type 1 while working to ensure a cure is on its way. By establishing a supportive community through powerful social media campaigns, like a "Living Beyond" Instagram campaign, people are connected in a new way on a global scale. High profile collaborations and carefully curated special events will provide education and awareness, affording a greater capacity for strategic fundraising. Monies raised will support global efforts and programs in research, technology, education and advocacy.
"Our goal is to be provocative, inclusive and disruptive -- putting a face on this disease, clearing up misunderstandings about who is affected by Type 1 and eradicate the stigma that comes from living with a chronic disease. We highlight what it means to live a powerful life beyond the diagnosis. Our motto is , and we intend to do just that!"
Sweet DiaBadass hashtag, btw!
Sam was gracious enough to take some time out of his busy schedule the other day to chat about all he's been up to lately. Or to answer, as you might also have been tempted to ask: "What's Cooking?"
DM) Congrats on the new restaurant in Maine and coffee shop in New York... how exciting! And, is your culinary talent the kitchen "poetry" behind the restaurant's name?
ST) We just had opening weekend at Pig+Poet, and I think it came off really strong. I'm actually not the inspiration for the name though. It pays homage to , a vivacious, proactive, naughty poet in the early 1900s who wrote most of the poetry displayed at the 113-year-old Whitehall where the restaurant's located. With pig in the name, you can imagine that we offer a lot of great, succulent dishes.
Last we talked, you were in New York... so now you're in Maine?
I've actually only been here in Maine for about 90 days off and on, relocating for the Pig+Poet. It's not a permanent residence. It's a little two-bedroom place we're renting, and we don't even need a car because it's all within walking distance. We're right by the ocean where I can walk my dog. There's something really special about Maine, where the mountains meet the sea. I can look out the window and see the mountains and beauty all around. It's reminiscent of my upbringing in North Carolina.
What about your new place in New York City?
The Elk is in the West Village of Manhattan. It's a specialty coffee shop with curated breakfast and a clean, simple focus. It's all local and fresh, and everything comes straight from the Farmer's Market nearby.
Sounds like you really embrace the notion of whole, clean food in your cooking -- something that's a huge topic of conversation in our Diabetes Size now, isn't it?
Definitely, it's a part of all of our worlds when we're living with it. Diabetes, in my humble opinion, is like a cancer and so much of it is about eating right. That's our mantra, right? There is so much we can do in the kitchen with what we're eating.
Where we are with our generation is that people want to eat healthier. I eat the best food around, and go to bed every night happy with my food choices, and don't miss out on a beat in life. And I'm a type 1. That's so true for so many people, who just aren't missing out even though they're living with diabetes.
Natural food, healthy living and not being limited by diabetes -- those were all themes of your 2011 book. What about this new book you're writing?
I'm in the early process of conceptualizing the new book with Time, Inc. It's just about clean foods that make sense. There isn't a health or diabetes focus specifically; it's just about eating... so, maybe it is diabetes-related!
Outside of the restaurants, what are your priorities?
A lot of my work outside the kitchen is about being as loud as possible, disrupting the system as much as I can. Raising awareness about diabetes, type 1 and ensuring a path to a cure is important to me. So I wrote that first book, and the four to five-year period since then... has been a very exciting time. And now we’re launching Beyond Type 1.
In your own words, what exaclty is Beyond Type 1 all about?
We have three main goals: 1) To educate on T1 and the diabetes differences, 2) to advocate and push for people who are living beyond the limits and achieving everything they can, and 3) to maintain the task of working to find a cure. A lot of organizations and foundations out there are focused on trying to find a cure and adocate, but the three of us co-founders expect things to be done differently, with more style, and we have very high expectations.
Tell us about the team and how this all came about?
Both my co-founders are moms who have kids living with type 1.
is a fundraising guru, a powerhouse event planner, salt-of-the-earth woman. She’s a mom to four beautiful children, one of whom (Mary) was diagnosed at age 7 back in 1998. Sarah’s in the San Francisco Bay Area Bay Area and did fundraising for JDRF for many years and was a huge success. We got connected through that. My manager and I went out there and fell in love with Sarah, her smile and attitude on life: to not ever succumb. is a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley and her son, Nicolas, was diagnosed at 5 in 2012, and she has that same passion and drive.
When I met them I had just finished a tired advocacy campaign, where I would show up at galas and talk about my story, without making what I felt was a true difference. I was hungry for something more. I like getting my hands dirty and making a ruckus, and that's how Sarah and Juliette are. The fact that these two women found me, and saw that shared spark, is how we teamed up.
It's funny, we're kind of like the that's known for its success despite never being in the same room together. That’s how we are, and together we now have an amazing foundation for something great.
What are the concrete goals for Beyond Type 1?
We have 25,000 followers on Instragram so far, but we’re going worldwide and the website will give us so much more exposure. People are showing how diabetes isn't stopping them. We're using 2015 to build a presence. Our plan is to raise $1 million, and 100% of every dollar will go to one of four areas:
- Cure Research
- Technology and Therapies
- Education and Awareness
- Size now Outreach
We're about to do some serious things with globally acclaimed brand ambassadors and diabetes advocates.
So, you’re going to raise a lot of money… where does that money go?
We have a list of organizations and foundations and so on, so when we gather our capital, the board and founders will divide the money. A portion will go to JDRF, and others for local community outreach, including efforts such as Dr. Jason Baker and what he's doing globally with . There are a lot of great initiatives and groups doing incredible things, and we are about helping them.
That's a creative spin on fundraising and advocacy -- with a blood drop logo and awesome hashtag. Very cool!
That logo means everything to us: the little blood drip. We want to see that get dropped everywhere, whether it’s a celebrity or a local swim captain in a local community.
And the hashtag is all about the mantra of disrupting. There’s something more coming on that, too, that has to do with why we chose that as our hashtag. So stay tuned on that!
Wow, sounds like there's a lot to look forward to. What about your D-advocacy efforts outside of Beyond Type 1?
Right, I am also doing two other healthy living campaigns -- one with OmniPod, because that's been a huge player in making my life better since I’ve been using it, and a healthy life series of videos for Barnabas Health, the largest non-profit healthcare provider in New Jersey. That’s coming out in a couple weeks, as part of a that are about trying to "knock down the doors" of healthcare. They are quick, awesome videos with some tips about favorable, accessible recipes for snacks or things you can make up quickly in the oven.
Both of these campaigns are really about living life successfully, with some tips and tricks for eating healthy -- and that's important for those of us living with type 1. Whether I am writing a book, running a restaurant, or being a part of an advocacy organization, I am living beyond my type 1. That's the idea! Not that I’m doing it perfectly, but these are some ways that I can do it successfully.
Thanks for your time, Sam! We look forward to seeing how Beyond Type 1 materializes, and will certainly keep an eye out for your new book. Hopefully before long, we'll be able to connect in person for a meal, too!