The Angry Chef

My threshold for risk in attempting a new book is pretty high. If any part of it catches my attention I’m in. Especially when I’m in a physical bookstore like Powell’s in Portland and they have books on sale. Oftentimes this leads me to books I will quickly forget about. But sometimes you find a gem.

Such was the scenario that recently caused me to buy a book called The Angry Chef by Anthony Warner (see: Amazon link). One of the negative side-effects of reading a lot is that it gets harder for books to impress you. I’ve often heard of the ideas in them before. But it also means I’m truly grateful when a book blows me away and exceeds my expectations. This was the case with reading Warner’s book.

Anthony Warner is a chef who likes food and science and takes issue with much of the way we think about food today. He especially takes issue with the diets that popularize the ways in which we eat or don’t eat food. Personally, I’ve spent much of this year changing the way I eat and work out and I want to understand both better. Warner’s book is a gift in this regard.

I think his argument can be succinctly summarized in this quote: “The more you learn about diet the less interesting the final message is. Eat everything in moderation and move around more. That may not be the most interesting hot take on eating, but dang if it’s not a good perspective to live by.

Here are a few more quotes that paint a great picture of what a healthy view of food looks like:

Eating well is about pleasure, balance and the creation of memories. It is a fine way to embellish the most important moments of our lives, adding richness and texture to precious times and enhancing moments of joy. The more we break food down, the more we try to define it by the chemicals it contains, the more we label items as clean, good, immoral, contaminated or pure, and the more we attach guilt or shame to our choices, the further away we get from the sensible, balanced relationship that we need.

Our relationship with the food we eat is extremely important, in many ways defining what it means to be human, and I have always had a burning desire for people to have as much of a joyous relationship with food as I do. If you can derive great joy from something you have to do several times a day, then it will add a lot of richness and fulfillment to your life.

Of course we are not what we eat. Having evolved as omnivores, our bodies have a remarkable adaptability to a variety of different diets and we can consume a wide spectrum of different foods with very little impact on our body composition. Vegans are quite clearly made of meat, and contain a remarkably similar mix of proteins, carbohydrates and fats to the rest of us.

A healthy diet is one of joy, not one of rejection and denial. If you want to eat for health, you should have nothing to do with the creation of arbitrary, senseless rules and certainly never feel the slightest guilt over an occasional indulgence.

One of his most intriguing arguments is how much our discussion on health is actually just covering our obsession with being thin. This is the awkward elephant in the room when it comes to weight loss, and I’ve wondered how much this plays into our concept of health in general. As I’ve spent more time ‘eating in moderation and moving around more’ this past year—and have lost almost 40 pounds doing it—I’ve been told I look skinny far more than I’ve been told I look healthy. But healthy is a far better goal than skinny.

Weight has become a moral issue, riven with deeply embedded class prejudice. As weight increasingly correlates with lower socio-economic groups, a rich and skinny elite moralize at the obese, feckless poor, offering them pearls of wisdom to cure their dietary ills.

The writer Malcolm Gladwell recently described prejudice against the overweight as ‘the justifiable prejudice of our age, in the way that gender was once. Those kinds of physical characteristics—what are felt to be the physical correlates of character traits—that’s the next wave of discrimination.’

As clean eating has grown in power, the weight-loss goals that lie at its heart have all but disappeared from show. But make no mistake, it is aspirations of thinness, not wellness, that drive its success. The new breed of clean-eating bloggers talk about a ‘lifestyle not a diet’ and rarely if ever mention weight loss, but that is what is underlying an outward concern for our holistic well-being. Clean eating hides a desire for thinness and sculpted, self-conscious beauty, all to be achieved seemingly without effort.

Beyond discussing food, the book provides some great life perspective in general. Many of these quotes can be applied to theological conversations too. For example,

Although certainty sells, only doubt can change the world.

The easiest way to spot false prophets is that they will always be a hundred percent sure of themselves. A true scientist is not defined by any measure of qualification, cited research or history of groundbreaking discovery. A true scientist is someone who is aware of the limitations of their own knowledge. They will always doubt, they will always question, they will always be bothered by just one more thing. Anyone who tells you that they know, that they are sure, that they have no doubt—they are either ignorant or dishonest. The moment that doubt stops, science and progress end.

The energy required to refute bullshit is many times the energy required to produce it…

A common battle cry among people who rail against pseudoscience is that ‘the plural of anecdote is not data’. Anecdotes are by their nature selective, especially in the sort of limited social media groupings we all exist in…

This is a book about food, but also about so much more. And it’s also a really entertaining read, as you’ll see with his obsession with Gwyneth Paltrow. Click here to get your own copy on Amazon.

The more you learn about diet the less interesting the final message is. Eat everything in moderation and move around more. @One_Angry_Chef Click To Tweet

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Jeremy Jernigan

Speaker | Author | Founder of Communion Wine Co.