New Year's Reset: 49 Chefs Share Their Best Food Tips and Rituals for a Fresh Start
We spoke to our fave food pros about how they start the New Year.
1. Cook up some khichri: “Holidays are full of abundance, and khichri takes me back to the basics, to get back in balance after indulging.” —Chef-owner Anita Jaisinghani, Pondicheri, NYC and Houston
Jaisinghani’s khichri couldn’t be simpler. Simmer 6 cups water, 1 cup rice, 1/2 cup lentils, and 1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger to a thick, soup-like consistency. Add a pinch of black pepper, salt, and ground cloves or cinnamon. Finish with a little ghee.
2. Put that juicer to good use: “I indulge in treats made with real ingredients; I use my juicer to make fruit fillings and glazes for my doughnuts.”—Co-owner and Pastry Chef Anna Gatti, Doughnut Dollies, Atlanta
Gatti uses an Omega Low Speed Masticating Juicer. Its auger-style mechanism is the best for retaining the nutritional quality of fruits and vegetables.
3. Consider a cleanse: “I usually take a few weeks off from coffee and alcohol to reset and cleanse with lots of wintergreens and probiotics.” —Owner and Executive Chef William Dissen, Haymaker, Charlotte, NC
Dissen takes Renew Life Ultimate Flora Probiotic every day during his cleanse.
4. Fermentation is your friend: “I go to a place of culinary minimalism using restorative foods. I begin the year with a new batch of vinegars and fermented foods like kimchi.”—Chef-owner Daniel Asher, Ash’kara, Denver
Asher says it’s easy to make your own vinegar with leftover wine. Simply use an existing mother from the bottom of a bottle of Bragg vinegar. Combine wine and mother in a wide-mouth mason jar, cover with cheesecloth, store in a dark place, and be patient. Within two or three months, you’ll have a delightful vinegar.
5. Sign up for your local CSA: “We reset by subscribing to a great CSA. It starts the first Thursday after the New Year. We use our dehydrator to make veggie chips with different flavors: chile pepper with lime, or olive oil with sea salt.”—Chef-owner Linton Hopkins, Restaurant Eugene and Holeman and Finch Public House, Atlanta
Hopkins uses an Excalibur 9-Tray Food Dehydrator (excaliburdehydrator.com) to turn his winter CSA bounty into tasty, ready-to-eat chips.
6. Get organized: “January is when the pastry team deep cleans the entire kitchen and reorganizes all the recipes. The new year is a great time to reorganize because it’s generally slower after the insanity of the holidays, so there is time to dedicate to starting fresh.”—Pastry Chef Leigh Omilinsky, Nico Osteria, Chicago
Omilinsky suggests re-potting your most used ingredients into clear air-tight, stackable storage containers so you can see what you have in your pantry. Neatly label it with the date, and you’re good to go.
7. Start from the ground up: “In January, I reset and start the year by looking through seed catalogs and meeting with farmers to plan out what they will grow for me in the coming season.”— Executive Chef Matt McClure, The Hive, Bentonville, AR
McClure works with Row 7 Seed Company (row7seeds.com) in a unique collaboration with Cobblestone Farm to develop seeds that grow food for better flavor.
8. Swap out sugar: “Fundamentally, I like to think that using more spices at the beginning of the year might allow for smaller portions of everything. If you are looking to cut down on something like salt, try ground celery seeds and cumin while cooking--this will add a similar flavor profile without all the increased sodium.” —Chef & Spice Blender Lior Lev Sercarz, La Boite, NYC
Sercarz’s favorite way to substitute sugar for spices includes using licorice in pancakes or waffles, or anise seeds in oatmeal. They naturally add sweetness. Find whole spices at laboiteny.com.
9. Set boundaries: "I pick a dietary restriction and live it for a month just to understand what it’s like. Vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, pescatarian, etc. 24/7 for a month. It helps in writing menus for the dietary restriction. I’ll research about it in depth, live it, go to other restaurants and say it’s my dietary restriction. Just to see how people with those restrictions live so I can better cook for them. It’s also a bonus diet for a month." —Cassidee Dabney, Barn at Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN
10. Ramp up your soup intake: "The best way to combat the holiday over indulgence is to simplify dinner with hearty yet healthy vegetables soups. Among my favorites are carrot, peanut, & coconut milk soup and sweet potato soup with labna yogurt & za'atar. The creaminess in these soups comes from pureeing the vegetables instead of relying on cream to create a velvety texture." —Annie Pettry, Decca, Louisville
11. Luxuriate in breakfast: "I reset for the new year by still continuing the celebration, normally with a fancy breakfast like soft scrambled eggs with brioche and caviar. I add cream salt and pepper to the eggs, cook on low heat with butter, my grandmother taught me to use a wooden spoon and never stop stirring. I add a little crème fraîche at the end and top with caviar and chives. A little Champagne never hurt either both while cooking and eating!" —Nina Compton, Chef/Owner of Compère Lapin and Bywater American Bistro in New Orleans.
12. Tune up your tools: "After what’s always a very busy holiday season I usually like to start off the New Year with a few rituals that get me straight and focused for the year to come. Always on New Year’s Day I’ll take out all of my knives and fine tune them with a three-stone sharpening and polish and scrub all of the handles to be sure there are no remnants left from the year before. I am no control freak, but I do strongly adhere to 'controlling the controllables,' especially within an industry that could be best described as controlled chaos; your core has to be tight. With that said, keep your tools finely tuned.” — Travis Swikard, Café Boulud, DANIEL, Boulud Sud, Bar Boulud, Epicerie Boulud
13. Shabu-shabu at home: "At home after the holidays, we like to stick to pretty clean, fresh flavors and ingredients. Often, we’ll do a shabu-shabu, with a sliced fillet of beef, and raw vegetables including carrots, bok choy, broccoli, snow peas and mushrooms—with lemon ponzu and sweet miso ginger sauce dipping sauces. Rice is on the side—to eat with all the meat and veg—and when you finish what's in the hot pot, you can dump in the remaining rice, reduce the mixture down to a congee with some miso and pickled plums. The final bowl is called Zosui, and common at the Japanese dinner table. Its like a healthy fondue for the whole family." —Chef Tyson Cole, Executive chef and owner Uchi, Uchiko, UchiBa, Loro
14. Try a ginger drink: “The Holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve is very intense for chefs—it's the busiest time of the year. To kick start the year I drink a mix of fresh ginger, lemon and hot water before having breakfast. It helps boost my immune system. I also try to sleep more.”—Executive Chef Laetitia Rouabah, Benoit, NYC
15. Invest in a food dehydrator: "Each year we reset by subscribing to a great CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). It starts the first Thursday after the new year and supplies greens galore. We use our dehydrator to make kale and sweet potato chips. The process is easy and so rewarding. The dehydrator has multiple shelves, so we can experiment with different flavors: chili pepper with lime or classic olive oil with sea salt." —Linton Hopkins, Restaurant Eugene, Holeman & Finch, Atlanta
16. Check out your local farmer's market: "I head to the farmers market and buy fibrous vegetables and make raw vegetable salads with vinaigrettes that always include ginger and cayenne for their cleansing properties. I take several shots of cider vinegar throughout the day and consume fresh green juices and make sure to stay away from dairy and starches." —Sean Olnowich, Executive Chef Bounce Sporting Club (Chicago)
17. Restorative tonics: "Whenever I feel run-down or overwhelmed, I make a restorative tonic/tea infusion with the adaptogenic herb Rhodiola Rosea. It's been used in folk medicine all over the world for thousands of years—the Soviet Union also sent it along with Olympians and Cosmonauts. Scientists have linked it to improving stamina, mood and the body's ability to fight off colds and flus—all in all, it helps restore balance to anything that is feeling out of whack. It tastes a little sweet, but mostly bitter. I happen to like it, but after the holidays I like drinking it hot, 50/50 with the wonderful apple cider available from upstate NY." —Joya Carlton, Chef, Joya Loves Louie
18. Take a trip: "What I always look forward to right after New Years Eve in early January is travel. It’s the one time of year where there’s a small window that I can take a trip with my family to a new city where we haven’t been yet to check out restaurants and get inspired. In the past, we’ve visited Chicago, Paris, Budapest, Tokyo, Cambodia and Taiwan. I always feel recharged after traveling to a new place." —Erik Bruner-Yang of Maketto, Brothers and Sisters, and Spoken English
19. Citrus! "Citrus is a great, bracing ingredient for helping to pay penance for all of the rich holiday foods settling around our midriffs. Think thinly shaved fennel, raw celery root and sliced blood oranges and grapefruit with a fruity olive oil, coarse sea salt and a bit of basil. Crunch, crunch, sweet, tart!" —Chef Katy Sparks, F&W Ten Best New Chefs in America class of 1996
20. Lighten up comfort foods: "I focus on preparing richer and heartier dishes with a lighter and brighter approach. For example as opposed to preparing your traditional braises with heavier stocks, I opt for fresh root vegetable juices as well as opting whey. The new year is also about reflecting upon the past 12 months and how I evolved as a cook through my menus, staff development and overall food & beverage programming. I use that as a starting point to create a growth and evolution plan for the upcoming year. Never stand still in the kitchen." —Bryan Moscatello, The Oval Room, Washington, DC
21. The classic Dry January: “Personally, I’m a fan of ‘Dry January’ to sort of hit the reset button, especially being around barbecue full time. We try to put a few more healthy options on the menu and it’s our chance to purchase some new equipment and take care of any maintenance issues. We try to take advantage of a slower season to button up things that may have lagged in the busy.” —Evan LeRoy, Pitmaster & Co-Owner of LeRoy & Lewis, Austin
22. Make lentils for luck: "As a tradition in Italy, I make lentils for good luck! Then, I take two weeks of vacation. After all of the holiday events, parties, and a very busy restaurant, I really need it. My wife, friends, and I like our house in Trinidad and Tobago, or we head to Miami during this time of year."—Loris Navone, Bibiana in Washington, DC
23. Focus on lean proteins: "After the heavy and decadent foods of the holidays, I like to focus on lighter fare come January. I tend to look at leaner meats, seafood, and vegetables. The grill becomes my main tool to cook with and I can use alternative seasonings to help eliminate salt. It’s the height of Louisiana citrus season so I use the peels from our lemons, limes, and oranges, dehydrate and powder them, and use as a salt substitute. Also dried herbs as a crust for grilled fish and lamb—lots of flavor with little sodium." —Mike Brewer, Executive Chef of Copper Vine and Fulton Alley in New Orleans
24. Honoring tradition: "My New Year’s traditions are based around taking traditional ingredients such as Kuromame (Japanese black beans), Renkon (Lotus Root), and Soba Noodles which all have a history and symbolism to them and making them accessible to our guests so I can share the idea of people bringing on the new year with a bright outlook. Many times they don’t even know the significance of the ingredients or dishes but I still feel like I have helped them usher in a good new year. The work load at that time of year is pretty heavy so my traditions at home are very low key and nourishing for the soul. My wife and I take our children to the beach and watch the sun come up on the first and set our intentions for the year and our meals for the 31st and the first are very much traditional Japanese with Ozoni soup with mocha, soba noodles, kuromame, and a few other traditional items. I was raised in Georgia so I like to add in some black eyed peas and collard greens."—Alex Q. Becker, Creative Culinary Director, Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Hollywood, Florida
25. An annual deep clean: "First is a deep clean of the kitchen and interdepartmental pizza party. We need to regroup and refresh after the busy holidays and in order to do this we need a clean mind. A messy work area/desk equals a messy and less-organized mind. The pizza party is to reward the team for their hard work and to ensure everyone is having fun at work. It is always good to have a few non-stressful work days."—Executive Pastry Chef Ryan Witcher, The Woodlands Resort, Houston
26. Vegetable-based cooking: “Making my family’s traditional German dish called Flaedlesuppe. It’s part of my wife and my attempt to reset with vegetable-based soups. We do the typical green chili with kale and white beans or Italian wedding, but our default is the Flaudlesuppe. It’s essentially just a consommé, (we usually had beef) with the addition of rolled up and thinly sliced crepes added to the broth. It’s so simple, but delicious. Just broth, crepes and parsley and chives for garnish.” —Mark Steuer, Funkenhausen, Chicago
27. Getting back to your roots: "On New Year’s Day, I like to eat black eyed peas and greens. Growing up in the South I was always told the peas represent good luck and the greens stand for money. In the kitchen, it is time to change direction and move away from the heavier foods of the holiday season. I like to utilize some of the citrus fruits that come into season around this time to lighten things up a bit. Blood oranges, clementines and grapefruit are nice additions to the menu and can provide healthy options for those trying to drop a few pounds and fulfill their new year’s resolution." —Chef Dustin Willett, The Brown Hotel, Louisville, KY
28. Indulge in a celebratory brunch: "It's a great time to take stock, reset, reflect and set goals... right after we do our annual ritual, the Bossa Nova brunch. To be honest, as service industry professionals it's the last night of the year we would want to be out and about, we indulge New Year's day with a decadent Brazilian feast before resetting. Caipirinhas, moqueca, feijoada and pao de quejio all help to warm up the frozen tundra that is Chicago in January." —John Manion, Chef Partner of South American Hot Spots, El Che & La Sirena Clandestina in Chicago
29. Eat seasonally: "I cook a lot of winter greens such as collared greens, kale, chard and mustard greens. I mix them with other high-alkaline vegetables like bell peppers and broccoli, as well as tubers—purple potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams. Fresh salmon is a great protein source when the ocean waters are cold. The beginning of the year is a good time to quit gluten and lactose, too—I know it’s so hard to live without good artisan cheeses or your favorite breads, but it’s a big help to boost energy and lose holiday weight." —Emmanuel Piqueras, Chef/Partner of Pisco Rotisserie & Cevicheria (San Diego), consulting chef for Baby Brasa, Panca, La Cevicheria, Beach Bistro (New York), Celeste (Boston)
30. The Grape Ritual: "As a chef you usually spend new year's eve working. It’s one of the busiest nights of the year and you want to profit from that. The one thing I always do is break away from the kitchen a couple of minutes before twelve for the “grape ritual”. I have been doing this all my life, ideally you do it among family and friends. It literally is eating 12 grapes at midnight. It sounds easy but it requires quite a bit of dexterity and preparation. You need 6 red grapes and 6 green, seedless grapes aren’t mandatory but encouraged since you will be devouring the grapes at an atrocious speed. You must be standing in order to receive the New Year with energy, and with every strike of the bell you need to eat one grape, alternating the red and green grapes. Each grape represents a month of the year and it is said you need to do this for good fortune." —Owner/Executive Chef Hilda Ysusi, Broken Barrel Houston
31. Hit the books: "My New Year’s kitchen ritual is organizing my cookbook shelves. After the busy holiday season, it’s nice to reflect on the past year’s meals with family and friends, and now with our teachers and students at the cooking school. I notice books I haven’t seen in a while & it sparks ideas for recipes and gatherings. It’s like catching up with old friends - by the time I’m done, I feel inspired and ready to take on the new year." —Chef Jen Nurse, owner and lead instructor at San Francisco’s Civic Kitchen cooking school
32. Double down on cleansing herbs and spices: "I usually cook with more spices such as Tumeric, curry, ginger or some roots. Those ingredients are good for liver detox and cleanse, I had those ingredients in salad or dressing in part of our dishes."—Raphael Francois of Le DeSales, Washington, DC
33. Kick the booze and caffeine: "I usually take a few weeks off from coffee and alcohol to reset at the beginning of the year and cleanse after a busy holiday season. Living in Asheville with such a large holistic health community, I have learned a lot about "gut health" and like to cleanse with lots of winter greens and probiotics. My wife is from Ahmedabad in India and we eat a lot of Gujarati food at home which consists of lots of spices like turmeric, ginger, cayenne, and cumin." —Chef William Dissen, Haymaker Restaurant, Charlotte, NC
34. Travel with a side of salsa: "My wife and business partner Estella and I usually travel to St. Maarten every year for a few weeks after the holidays. As a chef, in addition to the citrus dust and David's salt I can't leave home without, I always make certain we have access to a Cuisinart with a grading blade. I like to make an apple salsa, laced with mild chilies, that when combined with confit tomatoes, it creates a very light, but flavorful vegetable compote for my entrees. It’s also delicious just to snack on. It's extremely refreshing, healthy, and low calorie in the hot humid island climate (without the deterrent to enjoyment of the too-frequent masochistic inclusion of habaneros or other high-Scoville peppers)."—Dennis Foy, d’floret and Café Loret, Red Bank, NJ
35. Go to Hawaii: "In January, I go to Hawaii. I separate myself from my team for ten days. Then I focus on individual tasks and goals for all my management leadership. Focuses are anything from developing staff, recipes and cost controls to promotions, driving revenue and community outreach." —John Mooney of Bell, Book and Candle, Bidwell and Kakele Farm
36. Eat more beets: “After the holidays, there are some great root vegetables in season in the South. Beets are in peak season, and they provide some great health benefits. From juicing to poaching, your options are unlimited—I've even sous vide them and used them in salads. I'm also a fan of parsnips—I make a great puree with them when they are in season. These are all great ways to detox, and methods I use each year to get back on track.”—Jason Stern, Colletta (Atlanta)
37. Home-cooked one-pot meals: "One of the best ways to be healthy and very satisfying at the same time is to break out your immersion circulator or crock pot and start doing some down home one pot meals. The aromas of slow cooked and braised foods are extremely satisfying and remind the body of being full and nourished so you actually eat less. By using less meat and amplifying your vegetables with umami flavors like mushrooms, miso paste and aged parmesan, you are eating well and tricking the brain. It's also so nice to have quick leftovers in the fridge for a couple days so you can eat better and not give into instant cravings because of convenience." —Tory McPhail, Commander’s Palace in New Orleans
38. Fasting and meditation: "Each January, before I reset, I first rewind. I spend time in meditation over my accomplishments, lessons and misalignments of the past year and then I set goals to move forward. The outline of the journey changes each year but the goal remains the same—to be simply better than the year before. I like to begin the journey of each new year with a simple two day fast and cleansing. I like to follow a regimen of fresh lemon juice, fresh orange juice and fresh grapefruit juice mixed with lots of purified water and follow that with 30 days of a clean vegetable-based diet, with occasional small amounts of lean protein such as chicken or fish. I completely cut out alcohol because I always over-indulge during the holiday season. My next ritual is to create lots of healthy soups. It's one of my favorite dishes, this time of year. Starting with a nice stock or broth, soups always make me feel warm and complete." —Deborah VanTrece, Executive Chef and Owner of Twisted Soul Cookhouse and Pours, Atlanta, GA
39. Ceviche everything: "Right after the holidays, we ceviche everything to reset. Ceviche is so light and fresh, which is a nice contrast to heavier meals around the holidays. We also drink chicha morada to help balance. The purple corn in the chicha morada has so many vitamins and antioxidants, helps with kidney and eye health, and lowers blood pressure. Chicha morada has been around forever, prior to the Inca Empire." —Bruno Macchiavello of Viva Chicken
40. Light soups: "After indulging over the holidays, I like to eat light soup. Rice noodles, beef broth, fresh ginger, bean sprouts and either beef, chicken or meatballs depending on my mood." —Ny Vongsaly, Executive Chef Billie-Jean, Bar Les Freres and I Fratellini (St. Louis)
41. Zoodling: "After all of the heavy, carb-laden holiday foods, I love using a vegetable turner to make zoodles. A handful of fresh zucchini noodles (one medium zucchini), one or two crushed garlic cloves, cherry tomatoes, basil, nice olive oil and salt is all you need for a fresh and easy meal." —Jess Benefield & Trey Burnette, chef/partners Two Ten Jack (Nashville, Chattanooga) & forthcoming The Green Pheasant, Nashville
42. Stock the freezer: "I always spend a few afternoons in early Jan cooking up various broths and stocks that I freeze for easier usage on weeknights or days when I need to whip up something healthy & nutritious for the family. I stock the freezer with chicken, rabbit and mushroom stocks and use them to fortify pastas, dried beans, or even an old-fashioned packet of Top Ramen (I replace the seasoning packet w/my own broth and add in onions, carrots, meat, etc with the noodles, add some soy or hoison, and voila – you have a quick and yummy meal)." —Kyle Mendenhall, Arcana Restaurant, Boulder
43. Go to Florida, eat beach food: "As soon as the holidays are over, I like to actually get out of town. Going to Florida for the week and living off 'beach cuisine'— fresh seafood, high protein breakfasts and lots of surf and sand, is what balances and resets me for the coming year." —Paul C Reilly, chef/owner, beast + bottle, Coperta, Denver
44. The good ole Cabbage Soup Detox: "Every year to reset, I do a cabbage soup regimen that's a really deep three-day detox. I eat the soup for three days for lunch a dinner and I get creative with enhancements and garnishes like adding shaved apple, coconut milk, or smoked paprika." —Jose Garces, Head Chef at Ortzi
45. Probiotics and supplements: "After the New Year I try and cut out coffee and other stimulants and add in some healthy additives/probiotics. I like to brew a Yerba Mate Kombucha by using a scoby that’s going on 2.5 years old I received from a chef friend of mine. Yerba mate helps to provide a caffeine kick, but not the jolty buzz you get from espresso or coffee." —Derek Simcik, Scout PNW at Thompson Seattle
46. Get back to basics: “Wellness begins with being centered and mindful, and this is the perfect time of year to embrace the beauty of ritual and sacredness. I love going to a place of culinary minimalism using restorative and rejuvenating foods. Inevitably this involves beginning the year with a new batch of vinegars, simple fermented foods like kimchi or kombucha, sourdough starter, and pickles. It’s a great time to plan the year to come, and these things create anticipation of flavors and healthy microorganisms that need time to reach their full potential. I enjoy drinking tea, whole leaf in a French press, like Teatulia's incredible Neem Nectar or Tulsi tea. This is a time of vintage glass jars, cheesecloth, old ceramic crocks found at yard sales, cast iron, and mortar & pestle.” —Daniel Asher, Ash’ Kara, Denver, CO
47. The great outdoors: "My way of clearing my head and resetting ready for another busy week is by heading out into the hills hunting wild deer and pigs. Being out in the peace and serenity of our local wilderness areas is the perfect way to clear my thoughts and focus on harvesting 100 percent free-range, organic meat for my family. It’s also a great way for me to re-connect with where our food comes from and gives me a much greater respect towards our produce, therefore ensuring when I come back to work I put my best into each dish." —Head Chef Sam Webb, The Marlborough Lodge
48. Poach everything: "Poaching. In the new year I like to make a large batch of mixed meat broth and then use it to poach everything from vegetables to fish. It’s so restorative." —Jody Adams, Porto, Trade & Saloniki, Boston
49. Ginseng: "What I really like to do after the gourmet and hearty seasons is to help my body—and that of my guests’—to reset kindly. No diet. Just a beloved ingredient: Ginseng. I use it everywhere like in soups or infused in fresh water in order to let all the antioxidant and tonic aspects to spread. I used this ginseng roots a lot when I worked as a Chef in China.”—Benjamin Brial, Executive Chef Hotel Lutetia, Paris