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Chef Asha Gomez on Living Below the Line


Asha Gomez cooking at the Third Space (Brian Feagans)

Think you could feed yourself or the other members of your family on just $1.50 a day?

During the week of April 28th – May 2nd, chef Asha Gomez of Cardamom Hill and the Third Space invited others to join her as she attempted to do just that, essentially living below the extreme poverty line for five days.

Gomez is an ambassador for Atlanta-based CARE and Live Below the Line is an initiative of the Global Poverty Project, a campaign and advocacy organization dedicated to seeing an end to extreme poverty by 2030.

When I talked to Gomez at the start of the week, she’d just launched her personal campaign by cooking a rice and lentil porridge dinner for 30 people, using ingredient that cost just 45 cents per person.

“It tasted pretty good, if you were really hungry,” Gomez said, laughing a little.

Asked how she planned to shop in order to feed herself on a $1.50 a day, Gomez admitted it was a difficult task, especially for a chef accustomed to sourcing some of the freshest and most exotic ingredients.

“You get things like rice, grains and lentils, and really inexpensive foods like ramen noodles that you can buy in a packet,” Gomez said. “Rice-A-Roni was on sale. It’s stuff that can be filling. Fruits and vegetables are out of the question.”

Because she stays so busy Cardamom Hill and the Third Space, Gomez decided she would only eat one meal a day. And she had another little trick she decided to try out.

“I decided to challenge some of my fellow chefs to actually cook me a meal with ingredients under $1.50,” Gomez said. “The reason I wanted to do that was so I could get some recipes and write about the experience.”

Gomez enlisted chefs Anne Quatrano of Bacchanalia, Steven Satterfield of Miller Union, and her gal pal, Jenny Levison of Souper Jenny to try to come up with a $1.50 meal.

You can find those dishes with photos on her Facebook page. Not surprisingly, the chefs cooked some pretty creative dishes. But as Gomez pointed out, it wasn’t easy.

“It’s a very difficult challenge,” Gomez said. “People think maybe it would be really easy for chefs. But it’s more difficult for us in many ways. It’s not about creating something glamorous or pretty. This is about sustenance and it should be satisfying in that way. It should be filling.”

Gomez put the Live Below the Line challenge in perspective this way: “I have a choice. In five days, I go back and I eat and drink to my heart’s content. But that is not the reality of a billion-plus people in the world. They don’t have the choice I have.”

— By Bob Townsend, AJC Food and More blog.

3 comments Add your comment

Moist Joy

May 1st, 2014
4:35 pm

Is it really “living below the line” if James Beard nominated chefs are crafting meals for you though?


May 1st, 2014
5:24 pm

MJ, it doesn’t matter who makes it, if it’s a dish that you can make yourself at home for less than $1 a person.

Not sure what dish she’s making but a dhal is a cheap and simple dish with lentils that you can pour over rice. I don’t agree though about vegetables though. Maybe not fresh vegetables but I like throwing a $1 can of spinach in mine with some chopped onion from the dollar store, again a meal less than $1.

Also got to grab the $1 bags of produce at the grocery stores. Slightly bruised squash, a bag of overripe plum tomatoes, etc.


May 6th, 2014
3:22 am

Can of spinach? Are you Popeye?