I get tremendous satisfaction living a life I am passionate about including fueling my body with clean, whole, nutritious plants. I’m on a path of self-improvement and education to be an ethically driven compassionate part of this planet but have not always been this way. In my teenage years, I did not make the connections to how my choices affected not only my health but also everything else around me, especially my choices with food. Food was for fuel, feed the input system, rather than nourishment.
I have always been athletic, and I love being active every day. I was fortunate enough to play college soccer in Tennessee, Go Bucs! Being there was a wonderful way to truly experience southern hospitality, and with that came the standard southern fare on a college budget. Biscuits and gravy, fried chicken, BBQ, chicken wings, pizza, and mac and cheese. Occasionally we did get “salad”, it was iceberg lettuce drowning in ranch and vegetables were overcooked and swimming in butter. At the time, the quality of the food did not matter; we were only concerned with getting enough calories to burn off while training two to three times a day. When I finished my undergrad, I came back to California to pursue my lifelong dream of becoming a chef and attend Culinary School. The types of foods changed but my habits did not. I still ate anything I wanted, and in my mind, I was still training like a collegiate athlete. I replaced the weight room and cleats for a kitchen and knives.
At Le Cordon Bleu, a very traditional French culinary program, we learned about all sorts of different cuisines but relied heavily on the French influence. Culinary School is grueling and I had no time to make myself meals. I ate whatever we were making in class that day or ate at the school café washing it all down with copious amount of coffee and diet soda. Leftovers from school ranged from croissants, cream puffs, and wedding cakes to sausages, eggs benedicts and seafood. Every imaginable animal product was available and only the thickest, full fat versions of butter, cream, and cheese were used. Regarded as “haute cuisine” I knew then it was not health food, it was overly rich, swimming in butter and oil, but it was extravagant and I was excited to learn my new trade. As chefs, we were learning the art of combining fat, salt, and sugar to create the ultimate experience of taste. Our job was to flawlessly execute proper meals not determine whether the food was actually beneficial to someone’s well being. Nutrition and health was someone else’s responsibility.
I learned quickly that eating this way was not the right daily fuel for my body to make it through school, a full-time job, and planning a wedding. Stressed beyond reason, I hit a personal low. I was out of control, exhausted, depressed, and emotionally spent.
I was severely overfed and entirely undernourished. This was the beginning of a turning point for me to prioritize my health. By making more time for myself by cutting my work hours down, I was able to give myself the time to make my own food and slowly step away from the lavish richness of school meals and constantly eating for convenience.
After culinary school, I began cooking for private clients and catering small events. I loved my job but I noticed that everyone I cooked for used the same jargon when describing the types of meals they wanted, “healthy,” and “calorie restricted”, along with being precisely labeled so they could easily break down the food into the “good and bad” parts of their diet. The way I learned how to prepare food became a hindrance instead of a joy. More and more people want to know the minutia of the nutrition in their meals as if it was a daily obstacle they must deal with. I began to realize that to become a better chef, I needed to know more about the nutrition that made up the food I served to my clients. I began to realize that my simple plant centered dishes, not the most elaborate and rich plates, were the most satisfying and got the best reviews. Subconsciously, I was being drawn into my new lane of cuisine.
In August 2014, my diet completely changed for good after reading “The China Study” by T. Colin Campbell. Once I understood the scientific backing for a plant-based diet I traded in bacon, beef, and butter for beans, berries and bok choy. Since making this change just a few years ago, my health and general outlook on life have improved for the better. I’ve uncovered a positive relationship with my food and a much deeper appreciation for the “peasant” ingredients that were often over looked in school. Culinary school taught me to treat these plants as accompaniments to the “main event” of animal protein, but this way of thinking brought plenty of anxiety and talk of “restriction” and “moderation” among my clients. Giving plants the stage they deserved opened a world of new possibilities of preparations and techniques. I left what I now refer to as “beige land” (the limited color spectrum of animal flesh and their products) and instead live in Mother Nature’s bounty. Variety, color, and texture are featured in every meal. Along with the gorgeous color spectrum the plant kingdom has to offer plants provide all the nutrition that is lacking in the standard American way of eating. Now I’m able to get everything I need; water, fiber, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, phytonutrients, and minerals, and nothing I don’t; cholesterol, hormones, toxins, antibiotics, and cruelty. And yes, it tastes amazing.
I did not heal myself overnight, but I immediately began to feel better and saw drastic changes in my health. Sometimes you don’t know how bad you feel until you start to feel good. Each day I added more plants onto my plate and each day I felt better than the day before. Seeing small consistent changes while maintaining real, uncaffeinated energy to get through my days gave me the drive to continue forward and never look back.
I decided to complete my Plant Based Nutrition Certificate through Cornell University while continuing my own research with food documentaries and diving into the great trove of books, medical journals and nutrition research websites. My plant-based education has given me the tools to help others understand the science of human nutrition and the facts about how our current way of eating affects our health and environment. This continues to empower my approach to healthy living. By focusing on mostly whole unrefined plant foods I can sustain an active lifestyle and feel confident in my lighter footprint on this earth. Knowing how this lifestyle has changed me both physically and emotionally, I can’t keep it to myself.
I truly believe everyone deserves to feel this good.
I’m using my background in the kitchen to show everyone, no matter your kitchen skill level, how simple, creative, and rewarding this lifestyle can be. I hope to inspire people that plants can be as elementary or complex as we decide to make them. The possibilities are truly boundless when we give ourselves the space to be creative. I’m excited to share how old favorite recipes can be transformed into healthier, less refined delicious meals while trying out new creations I would have never dreamed of making before. Let’s drive to create something new, and get people to look at their food in a different, more positive light and shift the current paradigm of eating for specificity. The issue is not the portion it’s, the food. If you are eating whole, nutritious, plants to fuel your life, your body will naturally tell you when you’re full, you wont need to rely on the calorie count printed on a bag. Eating should be a joyous experience and I truly believe that the food we eat is a relationship; the food you love most might not love you back. The food we eat should love us back by nourishing our bodies to let us thrive.
I started this journey for health reasons, but through tireless research and fervor for the topic of plant based eating, I have a more complete understanding of the global impact of animal cruelty and the effect it has on our environment. Making this change has helped me become a more compassionate and healthier human while becoming the best version of myself. With this knowledge, we can positively impact this world. The beauty of life is that everyone’s path is different and ever changing but the ambition to be the best version of our self is a universal goal. Changing habits is hard, especially changing our food habits, but you don’t need to transition overnight. It takes time, education, and practice and someone to guide you. I’m here to show you simple ways to make changes one meal at a time.
If I can make a positive and enlightening impact on your journey to your best self through food, no matter how small the change, I have made a step in the right direction.
I hope I will become a valuable staple in your kitchen.
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