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Fresh Flavors for Former Smokers: Interview with Chef Robbie Cox
By the Quitter's Circle Staff
October 10, 2017

Fresh Flavors for Former Smokers: Interview with Chef Robbie Cox

Whether you’re cooking up a spicy stir-fry, creamy soup or hearty pasta dish, the flavors in your food make up a delicious meal. With a recovered sense of taste and smell, the number of tasty dishes for quitters to try are endless. After some time from smoking your last cigarette, your sense of taste and smell may improve - that’s one yummy benefit of quitting smoking!

Don’t just take it from us - we talked to Robbie Cox, a chef from Boston who is currently living and working in France, about some great flavors you can enjoy after quitting smoking. Robbie’s not just a chef, he’s a former smoker who knows firsthand what it is like to enjoy food after becoming smokefree.

Read on for Robbie’s insights about cooking and quitting and prepare to let your inner chef take over!

Q: When did you start cooking, and how did you learn about being a chef?

A: I got my first cooking job when I was 15, so I’ve been in the industry a long time. I left cooking for a little while after high school to work for my father’s business, but it didn’t take long to come back. I basically learned everything I know about food from working in the industry and teaching myself.  

Q: How did getting back into the kitchen help you quit smoking?

A: When I went back to cooking, I was probably smoking close to two packs a day. I made a New Year’s resolution to quit. I think being back in the kitchen helped a lot because I was busy and didn’t have the time to smoke. As I started quitting, I also saw how much smoking was affecting my ability to taste and smell the food I was cooking. After a time, I stopped having urges to smoke, and I felt so much happier and healthier. I could move fast in the kitchen again, and I could taste and think more clearly. 

Q: Seems like you experienced some great benefits of quitting smoking! Now that you can taste and smell your food better, what are some flavors that you enjoy eating and cooking with?

A: Cooking with the season is so important. We have amazing tomatoes in France during the summer. The flavor is almost indescribable – I feel like I never actually knew what a tomato tasted like until I moved here. I’m still amazed to see that even just a simple salad with tomato basil puree, grilled eggplant, and buratta (an Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream) can have so much flavor. The acidity of the tomatoes works well with the milky flavor of the cheese. I add some baguette croutons and fleur de sel (a type of salt) for a textured finish and it's just perfect. 

Q: That sounds mouth-watering. Do you have one dish that is your favorite to make?

For me, cooking with seasonal vegetables and local products creates the perfect dish. When you start with something good, it's easy to have a beautiful finished product. Head to your local Farmer’s Market and talk to the staff about what’s good in season right now and what they would cook with all the fresh produce.

Q: What is a dish you like to make that our readers can try to recreate at home?

A: One dish I think anyone can make that's perfect for warm weather is gazpacho. It's a cold vegetable soup dish that originates from central southern Spain. The best part is that it usually doesn't involve any cooking. You just need a good blender and fresh produce. I like to make several variations of gazpacho, but one classic version includes watermelon, tomato, cucumber and sherry vinegar. The sherry adds an amazing sharpness to the dish that cuts through everything. It’s easy to make and refreshing. (Check out Robbie’s gazpacho recipe below!)

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring chefs?

A: Move as far away from your home and comfort zone as you can. If you can, move to another state or country. Absorb everything you can about the culture, cooking techniques and cuisine. If you can’t move: no matter where you are, keep trying new things.

Q: And advice for quitters?

A: You can do it! Keep trying and don’t give up. Your taste buds will thank you!


Robbie’s Favorite Gazpacho
Serves 10


  • 4 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped 
  • 1 cup canned piquillo peppers, de-seeded & chopped
  • 2 red peppers pealed, de-seeded & chopped
  • 2 cucumbers pealed, de-seeded & chopped 
  • 1/2 bunch fresh basil chopped 
  • 1 clove garlic, diced finely 
  • 1 white onion, chopped 
  • 7 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons sherry vinegar 
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt


1. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl
2. Let marinate in the fridge for at least 24 hours
3. Blend thoroughly and strain through a fine mesh sieve
4. Garnish with fresh basil, olive oil, and a few drops of sherry vinegar
5. Serve cold with toasted bread pieces (Robbie uses a baguette)

What’s one food you enjoy with your smokefree senses? Let us know on our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram page. Or, check out some other great recipes from Quitter’s Circle