Culinary Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic combines evidence-based science of food, nutrition, and medicine with the joy and art of cooking developed by our team of physicians, dietitians, and chefs.

Whether you’re trying to lose weight or are newly diagnosed, we offer Culinary Medicine education so you won’t compromise the taste of your meals or your health. The right foods, prepared correctly, can help to improve and/or reverse common chronic diseases. These include diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension) and obesity.

Helpful tips to get you started

In Culinary Medicine, our goal is to help you reach your food and cooking goals so that you won’t compromise the taste of your meals and your health. Here are tips that can assist in mealtime and learning to love the foods that love you back!

  • Choose to eat foods that promote good health.
  • Don’t think about what you can’t have – Instead, think about all the things you can have.
  • Know the foods you like that may also boost immunity, fight inflammation and are compatible with any dietary restriction(s) you may have. Then build your meals from those foods.

Teach to fish vs. giving a fish. Knowing the techniques, such as how to make something moist without added fats, sweet without added sugars, and savory without added sodium, can be applied to almost any dietary pattern.

Good in will help you achieve good out. Starting with fresh quality ingredients and handling them appropriately increases chances of getting healthy and delicious outcomes.

Consistent size means even cooking. Practice knife skills to create similar sized pieces for even cooking and doneness.

Increase surface size to increase area to flavor. Cutting the foods into small pieces increases the surface to volume ratio and thus boosts the area you can flavor. For example: It would be difficult to caramelize a whole onion but it’s easy to caramelize an onion that is diced. 

Satisfaction and knowledge encourage positive dietary choices. Enjoying and “Loving the Foods that Love YOU Back” will help you with long-term adherence with healthy choices you are making.

Begin with mis en place – the French term meaning “to put in place.” Gather, measure, and prepare all of your ingredients and equipment prior to starting to cook.

Make mealtime eventful. 

  • Practice mindfulness and hospitality by creating an attractive plate presentation. Arranging foods on a plate or serving a platter makes the act of creating meal more enjoyable. It is the essence of hospitality and caring.
  • Positive mealtimes, and cooking with family members, creates “food memories” that are carried for life! Take three deep breaths before beginning to eat to be more present and enjoy your food.
  • Chew your food slowly and mindfully to improve digestion and satiety. Try to only eat to 80% full or just satisfied / no longer hungry.
  • Whenever possible try to eat most of your foods early in the day and ideally before 6 pm.

Gain practical physical activity and efficiency. The entire process of making a meal is a source of functional exercise. The shopping, cutting, chopping, cooking and cleaning are all forms of physical activity.

The safety and importance of knife skills.

  • Use the right tool for the right job. A big knife (an 8” French knife) for a big job, like cutting through a butternut squash, and a little knife for a little job, such as a paring knife for cutting strawberries. Place a damp paper towel or dish towel underneath the cutting board to prevent it from slipping.
  • Always point the knife away from you.
  • See the Knife Skills flyer for how to hold and cut with a chef’s knife.

Sweeten dishes without adding sugars. 

  • Sweeten dressing or vinaigrette with fresh fruits like berries or unsweetened dried fruits as health-promoting natural sugars to avoid adding simple sugars such as agave, honey or maple syrup. This will sweeten, add dietary fiber, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients – see recipe Raisin Reduction.
  • Flavor and sweeten greens, like swiss chard, with vegetables like butternut squash. 
  • Cook onions separately, and until transparent, to release the strong sulfur flavor - especially before adding broth. Continued cooking will caramelize the naturally occurring sugars and create delicious sweetness, like in grilled onions. 

Moisten foods with less “added” fat.

  • Moisten grains with a variety of plant foods. Use mushrooms and vegetables like zucchini, green beans, peppers and leafy greens to moisten whole grains like farro, bulgur, whole grain brown rice, quinoa, millet, 100% whole grain pasta or 100% brown rice gluten-free pasta  – see recipes for Vegetable Rice and One Pot Quinoa.
  • Prepare a vinaigrette or salad dressing by using a 1:1 ratio of acid to oil instead of 3 parts oil to 1 part acid, as usually done in classic cooking – see recipes for Broccoli Bean Salad, Quinoa Tabbouleh and Edamame Salad).
  • Make a salad dressing with NO added oil, sugar or sodium – see recipe for Blueberry, Fig and Balsamic Dressing.
  • Use small amounts of oil when making rubs to roast potatoes, carrots and other vegetables. A little bit of oil goes a long way. Make it work for you!

Increase flavor while reducing added sodium.

  • Using acids, like lemon juice, lime juice and vinegar, will create flavor profiles that reduce the desire for sodium. Consider this: wine is an acid and no one adds salt to their wine!
  • Hot chilies, like jalapenos, can lessen the desire for added sodium.
  • Using toasted spices and nuts in recipes creates more flavor and lessens the craving to add sodium.

Substitutions to consider for those with dietary restrictions.

  • Nut allergies – use seeds like sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds instead.
  • Dairy allergies – use alternative milks such as soy, almond, hemp, oat, and cashew.
  • Gluten allergies – replace 100% whole wheat pasta with 100% brown rice pasta or bean pastas like chickpea pasta. Substitute 100% whole wheat flour for gluten-free flours made from brown rice, almonds, chickpeas or buckwheat.

Follow “Cleveland Clinic Go! Foods” guidelines.

  • Saturated fats: Less than 4 grams for main dishes; less than 2 grams for side dishes, soups and desserts. 
  • No hydrogenated or trans fats.
  • Added sugars and syrups: Less than 4 grams for main dishes and desserts; less than 2 grams for side dishes and soups.
  • 100% Whole Grain.
  • Sodium: No more than 600 mg in entrees; 480 mg in side dishes and desserts.

Professional Associations related to Culinary Medicine

What to Expect

What to Expect

The Culinary Medicine Consult is a one-on-one appointment with Executive Chef Jim Perko, Sr., CEC, AAC. Chef Perko is a Certified Executive Chef from the American Culinary Federation.

Culinary Medicine combines nutrition and cooking knowledge to help you achieve and maintain good health.  During the initial 60-minute consultation, we will work with you to create a personalized culinary medicine plan based on:

  • Your food preferences
  • Your current knowledge about recipes and techniques
  • Your ability to cook and prepare meals
  • What is available in your kitchen
  • What family support you have
  • Your dietary restrictions

Our goal is to work with you to create a food and cooking plan that won’t compromise the taste of your meals or your health.  We want to leave you with knowledge about culinary medicine techniques you can easily perform, maintain and share with your family.

Insurance Coverage

Insurance Coverage

Culinary Medicine is available as an out of pocket expense and is not currently covered by insurance.

The initial or first time appointment is $75 per person. Follow-up visits are recommended for further education, innovation of meal preparations and reinforcement of skills and goals. Available for $49.

Call 216.448.4325 to schedule.

Our Team

Our Team

Jim Perko, CEC, AAC
Jim Perko Sr. CEC, AAC, Executive Chef, for Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine

Chef Jim Perko has been a part of Cleveland Clinic for over 36 years. During his time at Cleveland Clinic, Chef Jim has collaborated with numerous physicians to develop the first evidence-based, technique-driven culinary medicine initiatives for the Cleveland Clinic. He has developed culinary curricula and recipes for six patient programs including Culinary Medicine for Chronic Disease. He is the creator and provider of the first Cleveland Clinic Culinary Medicine patient consult program to help patients execute prescribed nutritional plans and find true enjoyment in their new and tailored culinary plan. Chef Jim provides culinary medicine education for physicians, residents, medical students, nurses, patients, caregivers and numerous community initiatives. Chef Jim has participated in studies on Cooking and Nutrition Education for Health among Adults with Diabetes at Cleveland Clinic’s Stephanie Tubbs- Jones Health Center, Blending Lifestyle Education & Nutrition Demonstration for senior citizens in the Warrensville Heights Ohio Community and is also currently involved in a large ground breaking Cleveland Clinic patient study on reducing seizures in patients with Epilepsy through integrative approaches.

He has also presented numerous times during his career which includes speaking at conferences such as the National Society of Integrative Oncology, American Culinary Federation (ACF) national conferences, dietetic and medical conferences and the first Culinary Medicine workshop for a Cleveland Clinic Medical Conference. He has given lectures and demonstrations to four other Cleveland Clinic system hospitals, the Ohio cities of Medina, Brecksville, Broadview Heights, Strongsville, Lyndhurst, Independence and fire departments of Seven Hills, Brunswick and University Heights. Chef Jim has appeared on local television networks, numerous Facebook Live sessions and has partnered with Emeritus Chief Wellness Officer Dr. Michael Roizen recording over 54 episodes of “In the Kitchen with Chef Jim and Dr. Mike” that are on-going

Jim is a 1977 graduate of The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park NY and one of four apprentices to the American Culinary Federation (ACF) 1976 US Culinary Olympic Team. Jim was selected as a member of the 1977/78 US Antarctic Expedition cooking for scientists in Antarctica. Returning from the Antarctic, Jim was selected as the executive sous chef for Marriott Hotels and three years later at age 26 he became the executive chef for the 489 room Bond Court Hotel in downtown Cleveland Ohio. In 1985 Jim started his healthcare career as executive chef of Lakewood Hospital in Lakewood, Ohio overseeing all food production for patients, employees and hospital events. He was the presenter for ten consecutive Women’s Fairs, Diabetes Day, Children’s Fairs and numerous community events.

In 1988, Jim founded the National award-winning Food is Knowledge program that integrates food and nutrition with required academic subjects that eventually became a signature part of the Cleveland Clinic community outreach wellness programs.

In 1990 Jim became a member of the ACF 1992 US Culinary Olympic Team winning five gold medals from the United States tryouts, and competitions in England, Ireland and Germany. Jim and his teammates finished third out of 52 teams from 30 countries in the 1992 Culinary Olympics in Frankfurt, Germany.

In 1998 Chef Jim was appointed as Executive Chef of Cleveland Clinic’s Foundation House, overseeing all food production servicing the Board of Governors and senior leadership.

He is one of 114 current ACF certified Judges and the recipient of the 1991 ACF National Chef and Child Award, 1991 ACF Cleveland Chapter Chef of The Year, 2002 and 2012 ACF Cleveland Educator of The Year and 2006 ACF National True Spirit Award along with numerous others.

Chef Jim Perko was Drs. Oz & Roizen’s YouBeauty.com’s culinary expert columnist for 4 years, creator of hundreds of delicious and healthy recipes, and is a co-author with Michael F. Roizen. M.D., and Michael Crupain M.D., M.P.H., in the groundbreaking lifestyle guide What To Eat When Cookbook.

Jim’s passion is to implement culinary medicine that’s evidence-based in both clinical and culinary disciplines to educate how foods can be powerful medicine without compromising the flavor of your meals or your health.

He is married 43+ years to his wife Debbie; they have two married children and four grandsons.

Gabrielle Shipta
Gabrielle Shipta, Sous Chef

Gabrielle Shipta is the Sous Chef for the Cleveland Clinic's Center for Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine. Gabrielle graduated from Ohio University in 2017 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Applied Nutrition and is a Delta Zeta Sorority alumna. Beginning in high school and throughout her college years, she realized her passion for wellness through working in different retail and food service jobs and seeing the food choices people were making. Gabrielle wanted to make an impact in educating others through food and nutrition and improving people’s health.

Currently, she is enrolled at Cuyahoga Community College pursuing an Associate’s Degree in the Hospitality Management Program with a focus in Culinary Arts. This further schooling is to improve and enhance her knowledge and skill level in classical culinary training so that she may serve others better. Gabrielle is the 2020 scholarship winner of the Les Dames d’Escoffier Cleveland Chapter, which is an organization dedicated to professional women in the food and beverage field.

She believes food is medicine and that you should love the foods that love you back! Gabrielle is grateful to work in wellness at the Cleveland Clinic every day to improve the lives of others through the art and hospitality of cooking by working with Chef Jim Perko and the Centers for Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine physicians in developing technique-driven, evidence-based Culinary Medicine curricula. She assists patients and guests during Shared Medical Appointments and special events ensuring they are able to learn about Culinary Medicine efficiently and joyfully.

Appointments & Locations

Appointments & Locations

Culinary Medicine appointments are offered at our Lyndhurst campus, please call 216.448.4325 to schedule an appointment with our team.

Virtual Visits

Select patients can now see our providers online using their smartphone or computer. Please call 216.448.4325, option 4 to schedule your virtual visit with our culinary medicine team.


Lyndhurst Campus
1950 Richmond Road
Lyndhurst, OH 44124