06/18/2013 08:29 am ET Updated Aug 18, 2013

Cooking for Inspiration: When Recipes Just Aren't Enough

Cooking, quite simply, saved my life! A piece of chicken. A handful of onions. And FIRE! Fire changes the chemistry of what's cooking, and surprisingly, it ignited a positive flame of change in me. I have overcome my own personal struggles by tapping into the invigorating energy of cooking. Food intervened in my own crushing life struggles as a World Trade Center survivor and recovered addict (I've been clean for 18 years).

For me, the answer to many of life's negative outcomes is quite simple: cooking! Recipes and learning secret cooking techniques, after two decades of chasing them as a Master Chef, just aren't enough anymore. I would like to crank the burners up with my "Inspirational Cooking" philosophy that will teach everyone to literally "get cooking" anytime life hands you rotten tomatoes.

The very first time I caught a whiff of good food was when I was 19, and it awakened something deep inside of me. My second week at a part-time job at the most unlikely of places -- a deli counter -- gave me an insatiable appetite to learn more. It was the impetus that drove me to change all that had been wrong in my life. Cooking gave me a focus and a direction, something I greatly needed.

I'm not talking about Michelin-starred cooking; I am simply talking about the act of cooking. The healing that can be derived by cooking even the simplest of foods can be monumentally comforting and nourishing. One of the numerous therapeutic aspects of cooking is that it requires focus. While standing in front of a hot stove with boiling water to cook pasta or melted hot butter for sautéing vegetables, you must not think of anything else as competing thoughts can turn pasta soggy, burn grilled cheese, or worse, cause a painful injury. Focus is mandatory.

As a culinary professional, I have learned that a constant mental determination to stay focused on the task at hand drives away the debilitating thoughts that dominate your mind during that time. And this, my friends, is the recipe to change your thought patterns from any of the all-consuming mind missiles of your inner battle, to fresh delicious ones. A newfound vitality is born when the steps are followed to create a nourishing end result, which replaces the war zone that is going off between your ears with a beautiful culinary garden.

While engaged in the act of sautéing, roasting, poaching, reducing, baking, grilling, or frying for just five minutes, any and all negative thoughts can be put on the back burner. This will excite the mind and stimulate a form of inspiration. A flame of change can be ignited within you!

My wish for you is that the sheer excitement from cooking will take over, thus thrusting you forward and ultimately enabling you to feel good again. Cooking will pull you up and out of your personal sand trap, and you will be on your way to new beginnings. Yes, it works!

Making my way to the stove is how I take on life's many difficult challenges. Now, I want to guide you to the stove to receive a big embrace when life serves up a disappointing dish. The aromas filling the air, the sounds of chopping or sizzling, the heat of the stove, the sight of the gorgeous ingredients, and most exciting of all, the scrumptious taste of your meal add up to a sensory experience that will take you to a happier place where you will feel good about cooking and yourself. By designing our dish, we can also design our lives.