Chef Andrew Zimmern shares why holidays need to focus on gratitude

(Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images for NYCWFF)
(Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images for NYCWFF) /

As the holiday season begins, Chef Andrew Zimmern reflects on the importance of gratitude.

For many people the holiday season is a time to reflect. As Chef Andrew Zimmern prepares his holiday celebrations, the annual event is more than a bountiful feast filling a table. While the celebrated chef is known for his culinary expertise, this year is more than just favorite food recipes and family traditions. It is a time to reflect, honor and appreciate all the people in our lives.

Recently. Zimmern partnered with AARP on a special demo to help people better adapt to this year’s holiday celebrations. While the family table might be more intimate and friends might be connecting virtually, the reality is that this time gathered around a table is more vital than ever.

During my recent conversation with Zimmern, he reflected on what this year has meant to him, shared his impassioned plea for honoring older family members and conveyed why chefs have a unique voice to stand up for social justice.

Since many people are not celebrating in a traditional manner, Zimmern commented that it is time to re-focus on the purpose of the holiday season. While food might be the center of the holiday table, gratitude is the sentiment that makes the moments endearing. As food might bring people together, it is the gift of togetherness that holds the most value.

Zimmern commented that caregivers have been the silent strength for many people during the year. As families come together to care for the older generations, those caregivers need support.

Having been in that position himself, Zimmern commented that AARP and its community has looked to bolster the caregiver community. The value that caregivers provide the older generation is vital and their mental health should be a priority. The services that AARP offer as well as the advocacy that the organization provides are a resource for all caregivers.

Since the holiday season is about gratitude, Zimmern shared that the smaller sized meal doesn’t mean that the celebration is tarnished. In some ways, this year’s celebration is even more important. It is a time to reflect on where we have been and where we can go.

Through this partnership with AARP, Zimmern shared recipes and other ideas during a video event. From cooking a turkey breast to simple sides to even his gravy recipe, the video was more than just another cooking demo, it was a time to show that food can spark that conversation to push the community forward.

During our conversation, Zimmern mentioned that change only comes during times of hardship. When everything is calm, people do not step into the uncomfortable that is needed for change. For him, this year has been the catalyst to spark that change and move conversations forward.

From being drawn to a mission of honoring our older generation to learning from the older generation’s wisdom, Zimmern believes that it is time to turn the corner than bolster those vital connections. Even if this year’s holiday celebrations are virtual, the connection can and should expand.

As a chef, Zimmern understands that he is in a unique position to be a voice for social justice. He believes that the kitchens and restaurants are the nexus of big issues. It is why chefs can be strong advocates for many issues that impact everyone.

With more people looking to recast their role in society, Zimmern believes that now is the time to embrace that change. Whether it is sending a handwritten note to friends and family or just picking up the phone to have a conversation, the bountiful holiday table isn’t the only place where people can foster than connection. It is time to make the effort beyond a single day celebration.

Of course, a chef is in a unique position where a beautifully prepared meal can be that expression of gratitude, but that concept isn’t just limited to a professional chef. Even though this year’s holiday celebrations are focused on micro-sized meals instead of the gigantic feast, food can easily be adapted to any situation.

As seen in Zimmern’s video demo, the traditional flavors can and should be on the table. Recipes can be adapted to a small scale, a turkey breast can be just as flavorful as a full turkey, and food can be re-purposed into several meals after the feast.

Additionally, Zimmern mentioned people can still share food. While he might not be opening the door and giving guests a bowl of his classic oyster chowder, he can drop food at friends and neighbors homes. Food fosters that human connection even if the tables are a distanced far apart.

In the end, the biggest takeaway from my conversation with Andrew Zimmern is more than how to make a delicious meal. His encouragement to make a connection with others, even beyond the holiday season, will make future celebrations even more special.

For more information on Andrew Zimmern and his partnership with AARP, please visit the AARP website. The entire cooking demo is available on demand.

Additionally, Andrew Zimmern has his own website which offers a plethora of recipes and cooking demos.

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What are you grateful for this year?