Columbia's Nourish Café & Market is all about serving nutrient-rich food free of gluten, soy, corn, refined sugar and preservatives, and much of that idea comes from chef and co-owner Kimber Dean. After struggling with addiction after high school, she got clean in culinary school. After some research, she learned that sugar can release some of the same chemicals in the brain as drugs like cocaine and decided to cut sugar out of her diet. Slowly, she gradually worked to remove dairy, soy, corn and gluten – the only of the list she's actually allergic to – from her diet.
Since then, she's used that same method in her cooking to help other people use food to promote their own health. The ingredients used in the restaurant are 90 percent organic, thanks in part to co-owner Kalle LeMone's high standards. The restaurant also composts 100 percent of its waste, to-go containers are compostable and everything that can be is recycled. For Dean, it's cool how much you can change your life with food.
We caught up with Dean about her secret weapon, fresh foods and sneaking bites of raw cookie dough.
What is your favorite ingredient to cook with and why? Avocado. Keeps me full with the high fat content. It has a lot of health benefits from omega 3's to regulating hormones. It is a neutral tasting fruit, and is very versatile from cooking, baking or topping dishes with it.
Do you have a secret weapon spice/ingredient/technique? My hands are my secret technique. They are the best, and most practiced tool I have. I love being able to feel, shape and connect with my food through my hands. Using local produce is my secret ingredient. It is always the freshest, mostly picked day of delivery, and food has the most nutrients within the first 24 to 48 hours of being harvested.
What's your perfect day of eating in Columbia? Staying at home with my family, and cooking all day with my 4-year-old. My family has a lot of different food restrictions so we don't eat out much. My favorite stores are Clover's Natural Market, Natural Grocers and Lucky's Market.
How has the local food scene evolved over the past year? I believe the Columbia Farmers Market has blessed this community with a wide variety of local and organic food. I think a lot more restaurants are using local more, and the relationships within the community are stronger.
Who are some Columbia chefs you admire at the moment? Amanda Elliott and Ben Hamrah. They have a drive and passion about food that is contagious.
What concepts or styles of cooking do you hope to see added or expanded in Columbia? I hope all styles of cooking expand in CoMo! Whenever people are cooking more, they are getting fresher foods (for the most part) than processed convenience foods, and expanding their culinary/nutrition knowledge.
What do you like to cook at home or on your day off? We are always making muffins, rolls and chicken and veggie soup at our house lately. That's my 4-year-old's favorite right now.
What’s your favorite comfort food? Fresh bread.
If you could tell home cooks one thing, what would it be? We all fail at recipes sometimes. Never give up, and learn from your mistakes.
What is your first food memory? My mom making Nestle chocolate chip cookies, and my three siblings and I always sneaking spoonfuls of raw dough to eat.
What’s the most intriguing dish you’ve made recently, and why? For Restaurant Week this week we are making a bagel recipe from my cookbook, Happy Baking and Desserts, topped with a vegan cashew cheese and herb spread, tomatoes, cilantro and avocado.
What inspires your cooking? How do you approach R&D at your restaurant, and what inspires that process? My children, my husband and my overall wellbeing. Feeling good all the time because of being mindful of what we are consuming. Watching others heal themselves with food has been the best part of my career.
What are your future plans? Open a Nourish franchise, write and publish my third cookbook, teach yoga and enjoy time with my loved ones.
Nourish Café & Market, 1201 E. Broadway, Suite B, Columbia, Missouri, nourishcafemarket.com