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Because it’s strange and beautiful and hot, people from everywhere converge on Florida and they bring their cuisine and their traditions with them. The Zest celebrates the intersection of food and communities in the Sunshine State.

Low-carb Florida life with Dennis Perez of Black Tie Kitchen

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The Oldsmar resident offers advice for folks seeking to reduce carbs.

Listen to the episode

In Florida, there’s no shortage of Cuban bread, key lime pie or shrimp and grits. But eating delicious food minus all the carbohydrates can get tricky.

That’s where Dennis Perez comes in. He’s the content creator behind Black Tie Kitchen, a popular YouTube channel where he shares low-carb and keto-friendly foods with a side of humor.

“I always wanted to share my love of cooking with others, and YouTube is the way to do it, so I started there,” says the Oldsmar resident, who wears a black tie in many of the videos.

But his recipes weren’t always so health-conscious.

“I remember I was filming apple pies, and I’d made like six of them,” Dennis recalls. “In the process of eating them, I go, ‘I can’t keep doing this. I have no one to share this with that would eat it.’”

So Dennis transitioned his online content and his own lifestyle to lower-carb foods. It was a far cry from the Cuban household where Dennis grew up eating three or four pasteles for breakfast.

“Orange soda was ‘healthy’ because it had oranges,” Dennis says of his childhood household. “That was the level of healthy.”

These days, Dennis subsists mostly on eggs, bacon, protein shakes, ground beef, chicken and green vegetables. He says he tried other ways of eating, but feels best and performs best at the gym when he limits his daily carbs to 100 grams or fewer. Still, he works in the occasional cheat meal, which he also shares on social media.

“I’ll put the diet aside for pecan pie,” he says.

Some of Black Tie Kitchen’s most popular recipes are for low-carb pizza, ice cream and creme brulee. His picadillo won second place in Create TV’s national cooking challenge.

For folks seeking to reduce carbs, Dennis offers this advice:

  • Consult your doctor.
  • Find your why. Maybe you want to lose weight, go hiking without getting winded or be healthier for your kids. “Otherwise, it’ll last a week or two, and then you’ll just fall off the wagon,” Dennis says.
  • Learn the difference between protein, fat and carbohydrates.
  • Get a food scale, and track what you eat meticulously.
  • Read labels. Don’t fall for marketing gimmicks.
  • Cut back on sugary beverages like sodas and sweet coffee drinks. Switch to black coffee.

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"I host a food podcast" is a great icebreaker at parties.