Chicago Chef Shares Journey Toward Anti-Inflammatory FoodsFeb 27, 2023 ● By Sheila Julson
William Beau Blackburn. Photo credit Ron Hume.
Chef Beau, William Beau Blackburn, has experienced firsthand the healing power of food. After resolving his own neurological issues by changing his diet, Blackburn was inspired to train as a chef, serving craft menus of clean foods with ingredients that lower inflammation. At Chef Beau’s Klean Kitchen, he offers convenient weekly meal plans that use food as medicine.
Blackburn was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1993, and a psychiatrist friend advised that he could stabilize his mood by eliminating gluten from his diet. Blackburn was skeptical, but went gluten-free, eliminating bread, pasta, beer, cookies and muffins from his diet. “Five days later, I woke up with no racing thoughts,” he relates. “My brain actually turned off and I was able to focus.”
Blackburn holds a bachelor’s degree from DePaul University and worked in advertising at the time, but his personal experience inspired him to take a different path and help others through anti-inflammatory foods. He earned a culinary degree from Kendall College School of Culinary Arts and has master-level certifications in homeopathic wellness.
“It all has to do with understanding the types of food that gives us gut issues,” he says. “I’ve learned to make recipes by substituting ingredients. Instead of butter and cream, I use olive oil and coconut cream, which are flavorful and good for you.” In 2010, he launched Chef Beau’s Klean Kitchen in a centrally located commercial kitchen serving the Chicagoland area.
Thinking Beyond Fruits and Vegetables
Eating an anti-inflammatory diet has to do with putting the right nutrients into the body at the right time and staying away from government-subsidized wheat, cow’s milk and genetically modified organisms (GMOs), Blackburn says. While many chefs can prepare gluten-free meals, Blackburn states that actually having to live in the gluten-free world gives him an edge when crafting true anti-inflammatory dishes. “When I became a chef, I was going to make sure my food tastes good—and it does,” he shares.
All meats used in Blackburn’s dishes are pasture-raised and certified humane. He only uses seafood that is wild caught or farmed via open water, meaning that the bay is netted off and the fish are fed pure feed pellets, with no grain fillers. He says this make a big difference in healthy omega-3 fatty acid content versus omega-6, which is unhealthy in large quantities. “We can tell how fish has been raised by how much fat it gives off while cooking,” Blackburn remarks.
For baked goods, Blackburn uses sorghum and brown rice flours. In soups, he uses organic chicken stock or vegetable stock. Kids’ meals include gluten-free pasta made with brown rice flour. He cooks with olive oil and keeps seasonings pure—salt, pepper, fresh herbs and spices—to let the food do the talking. Sauces are thickened with sorghum flour rather than white flour. “Gluten is everywhere,” Blackburn advises. “Many restaurants that make sauces almost always thicken the sauce with white flour.”
The meal plans change weekly, and feature more than 500 rotating menu items. Entrées include lasagna that’s dairy- and gluten-free, along with smothered roasted garlic pork chops, lamb and Bulgarian sheep feta burgers, plus plant-based options. Blackburn uses European-sourced cheeses made from goat’s or sheep’s milk such as manchego and feta, which tend to be lactose-free.
Goodness to Go
Chef Beau’s Klean Kitchen’s weekly meal service delivers as far north as Highland Park, west to Naperville and south to Interstate 55. The farther away from their location, the larger the order is needed to be delivered. Customers may also pick up their orders each Monday and Thursday at the kitchen, which must be placed by noon each Thursday for the following week. Blackburn offers senior citizen and military discounts.
“Food is medicine, and medicine is food here at ChefBeau’s Kitchen,” Blackburn says. “The more people I help, the more I know this business is needed throughout the entire country. All of this food is made by a chef that has walked the walk and talked the talk. How you eat affects you physically and mentally.”
Sheila Julson is a freelance writer and contributor to Natural Awakenings magazines throughout the country.