Kris is a holistic chef, recipe developer, and food photographer and stylist. On her blog 80twenty, she shares vibrant and delicious food and drinks that aim to healthfully nourish us 80% of the time and satisfy our cravings and wants 20% of the time.
I am so happy to have Kris Osborne of 80twenty joining me here on the show today.
(*All images below are Kris’s.)
On Growing Up in a Family-Owned Restaurant:
My family owned actually a restaurant and a motel, so we lived in an apartment above the motel and the restaurant was in a building adjacent. And so my whole life, up until I was 13 years old, I spent in and out of the kitchen or in and out of the rooms, and my life was always filled with my family feeding people. It was a really common theme. When we weren’t feeding people in the restaurant, I remember my mom and my aunt always having dinner parties and having friends over.
I come from a family of people who shows their love through feeding people and so I was always surrounded by food.
My mom describes me as being a bit mischievous, I guess. She would say that I would, even as a three year-old, I would be wandering around the restaurant and I would go up to customers’ plates and steal french fries from their plates, for example.
I think probably because I was three, people thought it was adorable. But also because I grew up in a small town, people also got to know my family and got to know me and my siblings. I don’t remember necessarily helping out in the back or anything like that, but I was always in the restaurant scene.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved food. I’ve always loved cooking and learning about food and sharing food with people.
I’ve always had an interest in healthy food. So that’s always formed the backdrop of how I wanted to live my life. And I never intended necessarily to work in the restaurant industry, because when I was a teenager, I served. And then eventually when I was old enough, I became a bartender. I had quite an entrenched life in that world and so I wanted to have a professional career.
All of my off time was spent reading cookbooks and visiting whole food producers or local farms or things like that. And so it’s always been integrated into part of my life.
I think probably a lot of bloggers that you interview, I imagine, would have a similar perspective on this. And that is that food is such an integral part of our life. We use it for, obviously, sustenance and nourishment, but we also use it to celebrate and we use it as a reward and we use it to show love. There are so many reasons that we use food in our lives. And I feel so fortunate that I get to somehow do this in a way that also involves my career and my passions. Probably other bloggers feel the same way, where we are hoping to connect people with that same meaning that we get from it.
On Starting Her Blog:
It’s not really that interesting of a story but I wanted to start a food blog for a long time, mostly just as a way to share what I was already doing. My partner kept encouraging me to start it and I kept thinking, “Well, I don’t know how to do anything. I don’t know how to take photos and I don’t know what to write and I don’t know what to post.” So literally I had a URL for a year or two before I even posted anything.
The blog name was something different and I was just talking one day and I said, “You know what? I think what I want to be able to convey to people is this idea of, I want people to eat healthy food, and I want to inspire people to eat healthy food, because I think we get a lot of the other stuff all the time anyway, so why not do what I’m passionate about?” But also if I want to eat pizza on a Friday night, then I want to be able to talk about that and share that with people because that’s also part of life and part of wellness.
And so, I was speaking about that and I said, “It’s kind of like 80/20,” and then the name came out and I was like, “That’s it, that’s the name. It’s 80twenty.” Then it evolved and when I was in naturopathic school I often thought that it was going to be a way for me to get potential patients interested in what I was doing, but then life changes and shifts and here I am today doing something totally different.
On a Kitchen Experiment that Didn’t Turn Out As Planned:
This happens regularly. I don’t know if it’s going to be interesting or not. I can just tell you the thing that comes to mind. So this was somebody else’s recipe actually that I had to modify, and it had already been modified by somebody, which I didn’t realize. I was in the third iteration of it. It didn’t make sense, there’s a lot of mistakes in it, and the ingredients were off and the proportions were off. But of course I didn’t know this until I started working with it, and I made it and it didn’t taste very good. And so then I had to go back to the person and say, “I think there’s a problem with this.” But in the end ultimately I actually had to take that recipe, the original recipe, and make it workable.
One of the components that’s involved in the recipe is, you simmer tofu in a marinade essentially, and I eat tofu pretty regularly, but I’ve never essentially boiled it or simmered it. It sounds not very appealing when you think about it.
You might have tofu in soup and then it takes on the flavor of the broth, but this was actually going into a stir fry so it was going to be simmered in the marinade and then go into the stir fry. I went through this recipe five times. I kept trying to make it work, and I eventually got to a point where I was like, “Yeah, I think this is good now. I think it’s okay. It’s not my favorite.”
If it was up to me I would have pan fried it or done something else, but this is how it’s supposed to be. So I did it and I had a ton of leftovers and I brought them to my sister’s place. My sister and her boyfriend, their reaction was, this is gross. And they actually refused to eat it. They waited for me to bring them dinner, and then when I brought it they didn’t eat it. I feel like that’s a big failure. That has never happened. Of all the years that I’ve been doing this, my family is usually pretty good about eating my creations but they ended up throwing it out.
On Her Studies in Naturopathic Medicine:
I have a passion for health and really all things health-related or wellness-related and I just decided to go to naturopathic school as a way to combine my love of food and nutrition. It seems kind of like an unlikely path and I think if you were to look at it objectively, people might think that I should have gone to nutrition school or to become a dietician, but I really believe in the philosophy that naturopathy offers, which is really a holistic approach to life in general, a holistic approach to eating. That really spoke to me.
I never intended, necessarily, to practice as a doctor. I just wanted to have the knowledge to be able to, essentially, inspire people to eat more vibrantly, I guess.
I learned things all the time that surprised me because you’re studying medicine, so you are constantly learning things that are surprising and interesting. But when it comes to nutrition, I would say that one of the nuggets that has stayed with me the most is . . . we all know that we should eat more vegetables. I don’t think that that’s a piece of information that most people would disagree with or that most people don’t know already. Even if they know little about health, they’ve probably heard that or they’ve probably considered that they should eat more vegetables. But one thing that really stood out to me and stuck with me is how beneficial raw olive oil is, and so when I say raw I just mean uncooked. It’s prescribed naturopathically for a lot of disease prevention, but also actually in disease treatment because fat plays such a critical role in so many of our body processes and, in particular, olive oil just does a lot of good things.
On Misconceptions of Eating Healthy:
I think maybe the biggest one that I see all the time still, that permeates mainstream culture, is that fat is bad for us.
There’s still an idea that we should be eating a low fat diet. And I think the research, to my knowledge, is pretty clear that that’s not really the way to go. Researchers present it in a different way and so we saw, when you look in the past, that if people were eating low fat diets they were typically replacing the fat with things like sugar and more carbs that were not necessarily satiating them and were also just giving them more calories, and not necessarily good things for their body.
It seems so simple but I just really wish people wouldn’t fear fat because fat is so good for you and it’s so critical for bodily processes but also just for feeling satisfied. When we eat a meal, when there’s fat involved or you have a snack and there’s fat involved, it’s so much easier to feel satiated.
I would also say that one thing that I come across pretty regularly is people saying that healthy food doesn’t taste very good. My challenge is always, “Okay, tell me what you want me to make. And I’ll make it taste good because I wholeheartedly disagree.”
In some ways this conversation is a bit scientific, and I want to bring a personal component to it. My opinion is that pleasure is a really important component of wellness and we never think about pleasure as a form of wellness. We talk about sleep and exercise and stress and diet. Those are very simplified but, of course, those are the main things we talk about and we never talk about pleasure. Pleasure brings us so much joy and releases endorphins and allows us to relax. There are so many things that pleasure brings us in terms of wellness.
The Pressure Cooker:
Which food shows or cooking shows do you watch?
I really like watching cooking videos online. I love watching Green Kitchen Stories’ videos and some bloggers who do videos. So I will watch those kinds of things.
There’s a chef here in Canada. Her name is Anna Olson. She’s a pastry chef. So I used to like to watch her show. I can’t even remember what it’s called. I think because she does things that I’m so unfamiliar with. Baking is something that I’m learning now, and I absolutely love baking, but it’s not something that comes naturally to me, and so I loved watching her show back in the day.
What are some food blogs or food websites we have to know about?
Okay, so I’m going to try to pick blogs that you probably haven’t heard about. Well actually, that’s not even true. You’ve probably heard about them.
Another colleague of mine, her name is Ashley Colburn, and she writes a blog called Butterfly Food and she has some of the most stunning photography and she is just a really lovely person. But her photography is, I think, some of the best out there. And she recently had a photo of hers used as a cover photo for a National Geographic Book.
Another blog that I just discovered within the last few months, and she’s now been nominated for a Saveur Award, so I’m sure everybody knows, but Faring Well. Again, really beautiful photography and also a nice peek into her life. She lives in Colorado and I feel like it’s always really nice to be able to see an element of people’s lives beyond that. There are also some nature photos incorporated into her blog and into her Instagram feed, and I really love that.
Kelly from The Gouda Life is one of the bloggers that I first discovered when I was starting to blog myself. And I remember linking to her blog something that I really liked and she wrote me back this really lovely email thanking me for linking to her.
I remember at the time thinking it was so nice of her because really there was nobody reading my blog and she had already had such a big following, I’m sure. But her photography really inspired me when I was starting out, and also she’s always been really supportive of me as a blogger and professionally, and now we work together on this blog called Baked. I think she’s really cool and unique. She’s got a really unique style of moody photography that you should check out.
Who do you follow on Pinterest, Instagram, or Facebook that make you happy?
I don’t really follow people on Pinterest or Facebook really that much but Instagram, I would say . . . I’m sure you’ve heard of this Instagram account called Momma’s Gone City, and it’s typically photos of her children with their cats and typically one child with a dog. But I’m a huge animal lover and so I love seeing photos of the animals and particularly animals and kids. Every time I look through her feed I’m always just so happy.
What is the most unusual or treasured item in your kitchen?
Perhaps not unusual, but treasured for sure is my cast iron skillet. I use it for almost everything. It’s amazing for pancakes. It’s amazing for pan frying anything, for making tortillas. I make fried eggs on it. And I even . . .it’s not maybe the best use of this, but because it’s always out, I always quickly saute spinach or kale or something like that for an easy meal all in the same pan. And that pan was probably $20 and it’s going to last me for my whole life.
I always recommend that if people are wondering if they should get . . . what five or ten things in their kitchen, I think a cast iron skillet is a really awesome thing to have.
Name one ingredient you used to dislike but now you love.
Brussel sprouts and actually asparagus, anything that has a pungent, earthy flavor.
I was not a vegetable fan, ironically. When I was a kid I used to eat them, and my mom would probably put butter and sugar on things or butter and salt, things to make me like or make me eat them more often. But as I’ve gotten older my palate has fully, I think, been trained because I actually recall when I was in university in my undergrad, I would make myself eat vegetables. I was old enough to know that I should eat them. And so then I started making myself just eat more of them and eventually I started liking them.
I figured out that if I ate something three times I tended to like it by the third or fourth time. And now I just love those things. Asparagus, as an example. I just made an asparagus kimchi that I’m going to be posting for a column that I write. And years ago I never would have eaten kimchi or asparagus, so I’m really into things, I guess, with a lot more pungent flavors now.
What are a few cookbooks that make your life better?
Mark Bittman’s, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, is a really good dictionary to have in your kitchen. If you’re in a pinch and you have a vegetable or you have a grain or anything in your life, you can literally open up the book and go to the word millet or to the word broccoli and it will give you several recipes. It also has this great resource of tying things together so there will be a number of sauces and then there will be a table later in the book that says, 10 things you can add to tacos or 15 ways to make a sandwich better and it will incorporate other recipes from the book. Also, it’s showing you how to make simple things, but then it’s also showing you how to incorporate them into different dishes. It’s also a great resource for just basics.
I also love Donna Hay, any Donna Hay books because they’re beautiful to look at, and also her recipes are really simple. Usually using anywhere from between five and ten ingredients, depending, and I would say 10 is rare. So they’re very simple, they’re very straightforward, and they’re really beautiful and really tasty. So those would be my go-tos.
What song or album just makes you want to cook?
I don’t have a particular song or album, but I am notorious for going on to Spotify now that Spotify’s a thing, and searching under the mood section, and finding anything that’s folky or acoustic. My vision of cooking is in this relaxed, airy kitchen, windows open and a breeze coming through, and you’re sipping a glass of wine and you’re laughing with a friend and you’re just casually, slowly easing into whatever meal you’re going to have.
It’s intentional and joyful and thoughtful and all of that stuff and so I feel like that music often brings that vibe to what I’m doing. So it’s not a direct recommendation but certainly Spotify has a lot to offer in that realm.
On Keeping Posted with Kris: