My Life in Food

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You know what I love about cooking? I love that after a day when nothing is sure and when I say nothing, I mean nothing. You can come home and absolutely know that if you add egg yolks to chocolate and sugar and milk, it will get thick. That’s such a comfort.

It is no secret that I have had multiple eating disorders over the years, but the thing that has lingered after most of the symptoms have departed is a really fucked up relationship with food. I’m certain that being a Chef and a Nutritionist don’t exactly help…

But yet I have this deeply ingrained passion for food. I don’t just love it, I am wholeheartedly obsessed with everything about it. It is my hobby, my career, and the fire that fuels my desire to get out of bed each and every single day. And yet, it is also the reason why some days I don’t want to leave my bed.

I could tell you how many calories are in almost every single food. I can tell you the healthiest foods to eat for longevity, the worst junk to put in your body, and a slew of science based nutrition opinions. I can tell you that a smaller plate will undoubtedly help you eat less, as will using chopsticks. I can tell you that a portion of fat is approximately the size of the tip of your thumb, and that cheese really counts as a fatty condiment, not a protein. I can prove to you that the diet you are following will fail, eventually. I can tell you what supplements to take, and which to skip. I can tell you that I truly believe that we need to, “…Eat real food, not too much, mostly plants.” But what I can’t do? I cannot eat a meal without thinking of every damn diet tip, calorie, food rule and macro-nutrient I am ingesting. I can’t eat a meal without thinking about how other people just naturally know when to eat, and when to stop. Or how I should be adding more green vegetables to each meal. Or how much water I am consuming that might affect my digestion later, and am I chewing enough times? I cannot eat a meal without having a thousand voices in my head chattering incessantly about every damn thing you couldn’t possibly imagine.

Our first lunch together in France had been absolute perfection. It was the most exciting meal of my life.

I have made it my mission to ‘recover’ from this disordered relationship with food on many occasions, fluctuating from ‘lifestyle’ to ‘lifestyle’, but never quite finding the perfect fit. Always having a looming feeling of longing for ‘normal’ (whatever that may truly be). I swung manically from one side of the pendulum to the other, hopelessly seeking balance. But all along in the background, I remembered why I love cooking.

Bon Appetit! 

The first time I enjoyed birthday cake in nearly a decade came in the form of a yellow butter cake with chocolate buttercream frosting. Julia Child’s recipe, of course, and a recipe I remember sitting on the counter ‘helping’ my babysitter to make for my mother’s birthday. I remember the feel of the candy letters (H-A-P-P-Y B-I-R-T-H-D-A-Y) in my hands, and the intoxicating smell of the chocolate frosting. I remember seeing the brilliant yellow color of the cake.  This was one of the best birthday cakes I have ever had. And the only reason I took the time to make it for myself is because I remember an interview with Julia Child where she highlighted the importance of cake at a birthday party. I had decided, in that moment, to challenge one of the many food rules rattling around in my brain.

I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate.

Unlike Julia Child, I have spent half of my lifetime in kitchens (both professional and home). It is my passion, even if it may have initially been fueled by my obsession with food. I believe I can rightfully say I was 30 when I started eating; up until then, I just cooked. I have eaten many meals over the years, but I hardly remember a time when I didn’t have to hear the endless bantering in my brain. Sometimes I find myself eating, and actually enjoying food, but I cannot remember ever enjoying something as much as Julia enjoys Sole Meuniere. I also have found myself munching through meals that I would almost never say ‘yes’ to. I think it may all just be part of the healing process.

If everything doesn’t happen quite the way you’d like, it doesn’t make too much difference, because you can fix it.

On August 26th, I will have been in (and out and somewhere in between) recovery for 10 years. I still have absolutely no idea what I am doing, and I am not sure I ever really will. But I do know that as I turn through the pages of Julia Child’s memoir, I am more inspired than ever to keep working on healing my relationship with food, and with life.

People who love to eat are always the best people.

I am not and was never interested in eating processed junk, and I think Julia would passionately agree. But I am interested in learning how to enjoy my life. And I think one of the best ways to do this is to eat really good food with really good people. So while I continue to stumble along this journey, I take great comfort in knowing that the words of Julia Child ignite a different passion in me. Not simply to cook or to eat good food – but to find that undeniable joie de vivre which Julia fearlessly plunged into every aspect of her life. After all, “A party without a cake is just a meeting.”

 

 

 

 

The Art Formally Known As Yoga

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I recently started a yoga practice – and by recently I mean I’m 12 days into what I’m hoping will be a lifelong challenge – and I’ve started to notice some things I’ve never even come close to grasping before.
Let me begin by saying that I have been doing what I thought was yoga for the past 10 years. It was never my only form of exercise, and I always considered it to be more like stretching. Even during my recovery from anorexia, I managed to used yoga as a guise for preaching the mind/body connection, while I was secretly getting exercise. And as a personal trainer, I frequently referred my clients to yoga classes, constantly chirping of their benefits (mind you I still wholeheartedly believe in prescribing yoga to people, just perhaps for different reasons). But for some reason, this yoga practice is so much more than ever before.
I’ve never really considered yoga exercise (except when I was desperate for movement), and I think that’s one of the reasons I never made it a priority in my life. I always made it out to be something I’d do occasionally and enjoy the flexibility and relaxation benefits. Of course I usually would attend a class, or religiously follow a youtube video until I’ve perfected the postures and earned bonus points for best in class, but this time, I challenged myself to a practice without rules, with relaxed “go at your own pace” instructions.  I still don’t consider yoga to be exercise, but I’m now starting to understand why it should be a part of everyone’s life.
As I laid in shavasana with tears streaming down my face, just trying to focus on my breath, something shifted inside me. “Maybe yoga isn’t about perfect poses, or breathing in time with the instructor, maybe yoga is about being the warrior who faces your emotions, learning to breath in a way that releases them, and embracing the whole body experience that just happens when you force yourself to sit on that mat and just breath.” Maybe yoga is so much more then we’ve marketed it to be.
I had a teacher who taught of the value of a meditation practice in words that finally made sense to me, and that’s one of the reasons why I chose to start practicing yoga again. Because yoga is the precursor to meditation, one that calms the body and quiets the mind, and while I’m quite a long stretch from sitting in silent stillness, I’m starting to lay the foundation for a lifelong practice – brick by emotional brick. So here’s to putting one foot in front of the other on the long road of learning to love myself.

Namaste

Embrace The Glorious Mess That You Are

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“Maybe my life hasn’t been so chaotic. It’s just the world that is and the only real trap is getting attached to any of it. Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation.” (Elizabeth Gilbert).

Here I am, over a year and half since I moved to British Columbia, and I have never felt less like myself. I sat in my therapists office the other night with a tear stained face, and cried out puffy eyes, as she asked me if thought I was suicidal.
Am I? I asked myself. And the truth is, as someone who has battled mental illness over half of my life, I’ve thought about it. But I never felt like it was a real solution to the issues I’m facing. “No, I’m not” I responded. And she let out a breath she was holding in. “I’m just frustrated and I want to go home.” I said. And it’s true. I don’t even know where home is, but I know that it isn’t here. And then she asked me what brings me joy, and I could think of was when I talk to my friends and family back home. When we have meaningless conversations for hours on end, sharing moments and sometimes even meals. But the minute I hang up the phone I’m brought back to my reality.
I’ve never really invested anything into the places I’ve moved, because I know that I will inevitably go home, eventually. But for some reason I thought this would be “the last move” and that I would find my home. I know that your home is where your heart is, but I also know that a big piece of my heart is on the East Coast. You see, I’m not one of those people who can spend a lot of time alone. I actually need my friends because they bring joy to my life.
Lately, I’ve been a mess on a good day. I’ve found it harder and harder to pull my butt out of bed, and to not become angered or frustrated by the most foolish things. And maybe I’m frustrated because it feels like there is a great big hole in my heart. It’s a hole that cannot be filled with material things, or even a really good meal. It’s a hole that can only be filled by that place I call home, by those people I call family and by those freezing cold winters and blistery summers. A hole that is filled by the late night laughs, early morning tears, dinner parties and ridiculous amount of holiday cheer my friends have (even though I maintain my Scrooge status). I guess as we grow older, we start to realize what is really important in our lives.
I had a conversation with a guy in a cabin in the middle of nowhere BC last weekend, and he said that everyone makes decisions based on either comfort or freedom. Some people buy houses and cars, and that creates comfort, while others have a month to month lease and a suitcase ready to go at any moment, and that creates freedom. But for me, having a place to call home creates both comfort and freedom. It creates the comfort of being near my people, and the freedom to live life on my terms. And while I have a loving partner, an apartment I enjoy living in, a job that pays my bills, and some wonderful friends here – it just doesn’t feel comfortable or free.
Everything seems a little bleak, and it’s difficult to find a solution to my frustration, apart from packing up and fleeing into the night. But I think that what I am going to do, at least for the next few months, is to let myself embrace the glorious mess that I am – saying no to things that don’t bring me joy, and start creating memories with the friends I do have here. Everyone goes through dark and cloudy parts of their lives, it’s all part of the ebb and flow of life, but I need to start choosing to create my own sunshine, even in this rainy, wet and grey province. I need fill the rest of my heart with love, so that when I do get to go home, I can bring my own joy back to my people.

“Sometimes to lose balance for love is part of living a balanced life.” “Believe in love again.”

Il Me Manque Un Morceau De Mon Coeur

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A little over a year ago, I moved to “Beautiful British Colombia.” And sure, the stunning views of the mountains and picturesque valley towns where the fog slowly rises off the water each morning are definitely beautiful, but BC has an ugly secret.

Dear Western British Colombia,
I think you owe me an apology. Because me, being the naive east coaster with a big heart, was led to believe that this was the place to be – the promise land. Not quite the same promises of wealth and fame as Ontario, or endless riches as Alberta, or amazing sandwiches as Quebec…but promises of a breathtaking landscape, health-conscious people, and some of the best home grown produce in Canada (due to an extended growing period and lush, fertile earth).
But here I am, one year later, feeling ripped off, cheated and empty. And here you are with an insane price tag, skyrocketing homelessness, land-raping monoculture, and a strange sense of superiority to the rest of this amazing country. And while I believe I’m still a girl in search of a word, yours in Money.
But beyond all of the surface ideals that so many people warned me of, there is something that makes my heart hurt. Perhaps it is because I too struggle with this concept – love. When I go out into the streets, to a coffee shop, or out for dinner at a highly praised restaurant, I can’t help but feel like there is no soul, no heart, no love.
I’ve tasted the glazed carrots, the steamed spinach, the pan seared chicken…I’ve tasted the celebrity Indian food, the ‘best burger in town’, the sushi that should blow me away, and the fresh baked bread. I’m sad to say that food is just money, be it from a corporate supplier, a roadside market, or a restaurant. Sad to say that food is just a transaction, one that leaves your stomach kind of full, but your heart yearning for more.
So Western British Colombia, I challenge you. I challenge you to open up your hearts, and stop worrying about the size of your wallets, how many vacations you take in a year, or what square footage your beach front cottage is. I challenge you to let your souls shine, and show me a goddamn cocktail that says “I FUCKING LOVE LIFE”. Smile back at me when I walk by, look up from your phone when the cashier is ringing in your items. Make me a burger that says “I truly care about you” (not just the 28$ plus wine and tip that I’m putting in your pocket). Make the feeling that radiates from your heart and soul as you cross through the mountains the same feeling you can have anywhere in Vancouver.
As for me, I’m still a girl in search of a word. A girl who is missing a piece of her heart the size of the entire East Coast. A girl who wants nothing more than to feel the love (especially from myself). A girl who is *still* rebuilding herself out of years of rubble. Because after all, ruin is the road the transformation.

Traditions or Structure, Repetition And Routine,

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I haven’t celebrated a holiday with my family in almost three years.

Three years ago, my grandmother passed away.

I haven’t celebrated a holiday with my family since my grandmother passed away three years ago.

When my aunt died, I was a sixteen-going-on-seventeen jaded, young punk. But it hurt me a lot to lose her. I think the reason it hurt so much is because she loved me even if I was weird, covered in makeup and angry at the whole world. Unconditional love, they call it, and when she died there was a big hole in my heart. A big hole that I tried to fill with anything else, including obsessive dieting, food, exercise, work…but no matter what I still felt empty. The traditions we had built were torn apart in an instant. We tried to keep up the Christmas eve and summer cottage visits, but it didn’t feel right anymore. The tradition I managed to keep alive was the gift of a box of cherry chocolates to my father each Christmas, love Andy.

I spent a Christmas alone in Newfoundland. I didn’t come home, I didn’t make time to see my family. I needed the time alone to feel better and to avoid the plethora of rather intrusive questions (while all meaning well) from friends and family. But I still made sure to send some cherry chocolates, love Andy.

My Nanny was diagnosed with lung cancer sometime during the year I turned 23. I didn’t know what to say, or what to do. Because she was my rock – the person you could tell anything to. “My person” so to speak. It was all a blur, but I remember how important certain traditions suddenly became. How important it was to have dinners together and visit regularly, and watch game shows together, and call on birthdays and Christmas, and sometimes for no reason at all – because who knows how long we have.

The year I turned 25, I needed change. I had this wonderfully eccentric plan to move to the other side of the country and become a personal trainer – leave it all behind and start fresh; to make new traditions. She called me on my birthday and sang to me every year since I was born, but that year I called her because her memory wasn’t the greatest anymore, love Nanny.

The day before I left, she hugged me so tight and whispered goodbyes in my ear. I just kept telling her I’d be back in the spring to visit.

She passed away the next day.

You don’t think about it all at that moment. All the traditions that were created over the years. All the things you thought would always be that way, because that’s the way they always were. You don’t think about the fact that getting slippers for Christmas every single year is a silly little tradition that means so very much, Love Nanny.

I went to Christmas dinner this year. And I visited family you could say I’ve been avoiding. Not because I don’t love them, but because traditions just don’t feel the same without certain people in your life.

And eventually we grow up, and we make our own traditions. And maybe that’s what I was trying to do for the past two years. Or maybe I wasn’t ready to feel the pain quite yet.

I recently determined that I need more structure, routine and repitition in my life. So I guess you could say that I’m trying to re-invent some old traditions to help me feel grounded again. I know my aunt and my nanny  are still with us in our hearts, and that you can survive after losing such a big piece of you. But I also know that part of surviving and part of keeping their memories alive is to keep those *slightly altered* traditions alive, instead of avoiding them.

So here it is, in an unapologetic, tear stained blog post:

Merry Christmas

Love Andy, Love Nanny

 

Where’s The Beef?

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“There is no good reason for eating as much meat as we do.”

It is estimated that the average American eats approximately a half a pound of meat per day. The amount reccomended by health professionals and enthusiasts is around half a pound per week. So why are we eating so much meat?

Originally, meat consumption increased as people moved away from farms and into cities, and the slaughter houses moved out of the city and out of our minds. We became less concerned with who and where are food came from, and began to concentrate on how much we can have. After the second world war, there was an overabundance of meat (no longer being fed to the soldiers) and a few entrepreneurs with a brilliant idea. They started campaigns promoting meat, protein, strength – and suddenly government reccomended amounts of “daily protein” started appearing and increasing, fast.

Fast forward to present day, and meat consumption is at an all time high. Researchers are concerned that we’ve reached a maximum quota of bacon production, and every day a new study is emerging about the excessive environmental toll of our current consuming habits, hell even the USDA only reccomends eating half the amount of protein that we eat (The Canada Food Guide is telling us to eat 5-7.5 oz of meat and alternatives a day).

When you ask people why they feel the need to eat so much meat, they generally respond with some half-ignorant response about “getting enough protein.” But, behind all of this flashy protein propaganda lies the real truth – people are lazy. People expect convenience because they “don’t have time” to make meatless meals, or hell, meals composed of anything other than meat, carbs and boiled broccoli. And its really taking a toll on our earth and our health.

“We don’t eat animal products to have sufficient nutrition, we eat them to have an odd form of mal nutrition, and its killing us.”

But I’m not here to tell you to go vegan, or even vegetarian – despite the ridiculous amount of health and environmental benefits linked to both. I’m here to tell you to eat less meat. Let’s do some food math and you can see for yourself why eating less meat can change our entire world for the better.

If each person eats 1/2lb of meat per day, thats 182lbs per year.

So a family of four eats approximately 700lbs of meat per year.

If each person in that family reduced their meat consumption to 1/2lb per week, that would equal a mere 104lbs of meat per year

That’s 600lbs of animal that didn’t get slaughtered.

If five hundred families came together and reduced their meat consumption to 1/2lb per week, they would eat 52 000lbs of meat per year – thats 47 cows, or 193 pigs, or 8956 chickens

These families woud normally consume 350 000lbs of meat per year – which means that just by reducing their consumption to a moderate amount (and they’d still get to enjoy meaty meals) they would eat 298 000lbs less per year – thats 270 cows, or 1104 pigs, 51 379 chickens. And all this is only from 500 families. I live in a city of 75 000 people, and those 500 families would be less that 3% of the population, and yet, that 3% can make one hell of a difference in the environment, their own health, and the lives of many animals.

If nothing else, take from this post that we need to make some changes, now.

“Less meat, less junk, more plants its a simple formula. Eat food, eat real food.”

Check out the Ted Talks “What’s Wrong With How We Eat” by Mark Bittman and many others for more information.

A Sentimental Post For A Sentimental Day

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*It’s hard to believe it’s been two years – but I know it was your time to go. 
Sometimes it feels like yesterday – we laughed and cursed and played bingo.
I think your laugh was my favorite part – or maybe it was your great big heart.
Or that you’d always make me grin, even when we didn’t win. 
Or that you’d always pinch my cheeks, and give me all the bestest treats.
But most of all I think it’s ‘cuz – you were the best Nanny there ever was.*
Love you always xo

Two years ago I lost a pretty big piece of my heart. An amazing woman who touched so many lives, and made so many people smile moved on to her next life. I can say its the first time I really let myself feel grief, and even to this day I can still feel the tears well up when I think about how much I miss her.

Sitting in my bedroom surrounded by little nic nacks she gave me over the years, not to mention a drawer full of unopened avon lip balms, I can’t help but feel like she’s right here with me. Telling me to stop crying because I’m too pretty to cry, or because she’s having a blast so it’s okay. And I know I will be okay, just like I have been – but I won’t stop missing her, thinking of her, laughing at all the silly jokes we had, smiling when I think about our talks, and the way she hugged me that one last time xx

“This hole in my heart is in the shape of you and no-one else can fit it. Why would I want them to?”

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back – or Why I’m Ok With Being ‘Fat’

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There is a Roman saying, “parla come mangi” which translates into “speak the way you eat”, and lately I think I’ve been doing just that.

I have found myself stuffing my face with anything and everything (as long as it’s vegan) and bubbling over with constant conversation at any given chance. While never dieting again is a part of recovery, and learning to eat and enjoy all the “forbidden foods” is a huge step in moving forward – it doesn’t quite translate into stuffing french fries/cliff bars/chips/cheeseless pizza and potatoes in your mouth whenever you have the chance.

My recovery is about learning how to eat and live without strict rules; how to fuel my body on instinct, rather than starve it to achieve a certain look. And most importantly, to achieve overall health, to love my body and to feel balanced. So maybe this is all part of my path to life without bulimia.

Of course I’ve gained some weight from this crazy food indulging I’ve been engaging in, but you know what? I’m okay with it. I’ve got a curvy, squishy body that screams, “you need to stop eating so much” while at the same time it mumbles, “oh but that ice cream looks delicious.” And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Of course I wasn’t and am not always this easy going about my weight.

To be completely honest, some days I look at myself and I want to cry. I’m overcome with thoughts of “you’re disgusting, you’re fat, no one will ever love you”. I’m torn down by a piece of me that is the hardest to overcome. The piece of me that insists that tomorrow is a new day, tomorrow I’ll get back on track, tomorrow I’ll count my calories, tomorrow I’ll watch what I eat closer…when in all reality, I am on track, I’m on track toward my recovery, toward learning how to listen to my body, toward having freedom from the seemingly superhuman grip of my eating disorder. And every single day that I keep getting up and keep moving forward and keep enjoying food is a day that brings me closer to balance, to happiness and to health.

Many people spend half their lives (or more) chasing an unattainable dream. It has nothing to do with working out  at the gym every day, or watching your water intake, or eating only boiled chicken and brown rice – but it has everything to do with living life, enjoying yourself and being happy, healthy and balanced.

So for now, I’m more than okay with being ‘fat’ – hell, my body deserves to enjoy itself after years of strict dieting. And I know that the closer I come to where I’m supposed to be (even if it feels like every day is one step forward, two steps back) the better I’ll feel (and look), and the happier, healthier and more balanced I’ll be. I am worth it and so are you.

Much love,

Ness

The Chef, The Personal Trainer and The Life Coach

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A year and a half ago I would have told you that I never want to step into a restaurant kitchen again, and for good reason. Life as a Chef certainly isn’t an easy one – long hours on your feet, no breaks and not nearly enough pay for the work you put your heart and soul into – but it is a job, and the pay is better than minimum wage. But here I am once again melting in a hot kitchen…

Over the past year and half, I was a personal trainer at *big box gym* and found myself sick, overwhelmed, and depressed. Its not because I dont enjoy training – its because I can’t stand the idea of ‘making a sale’. I’d much rather inspire people to change, and gain real clients who need my help and appreciate my advice. I don’t believe that ‘training’ is simply doing a list of exercises over and over until you achieve the desired weight loss – I believe that trainers are people who help ignite change in people. Changes like never dieting again, moving your body, learning to overcome binge eating, learning to love yourself, and eventually, finding that balance which includes happiness, longevity and finding your natural healthy weight.

After a complete relapse into bulimia, I decided to take a job as a barista and with that job came minimum wage pay – a hearty 10.30$ per hour – and a struggle for 38 hours a week. I certainly don’t regret this experience, and I’ve actually learned a lot. It’s a very humbling experience to have to budget at least 835$ per month in bill plus 150$ for groceries out of a grand total of approximately 1200$ a month. But I did it and I survived. And then I took a job at a local restaurant and as I walked back into the scorching kitchen and looked at the fridges filled with food – I remembered why I left.

Of course its not all bad and I certainly dont regret taking the job. I feel like I will finally be able to put myself in a much better place, financially, emotionally and physically. I finally have the courage to start putting money away to go back to school, and the drive to succeed as a life coach, trainer and nutritionist.

Sometimes it seems like nothing is working out in your favor and you feel incredibly lost. But if you just trust in the process, have faith and give it time, your path will unfold infront of you. Ive always wanted to help people, and after a year and a half of searching for my path, it seems that it took coming a full circle before I realized where I want to go. So here I come – much healthier, happier and confident – Im ready to take on the world!

Much love,

Ness

Fuelling the Fires of Passion

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I have always had a fascination with food. A true love affair with the grand variety of textures and flavors and their simple yet magical combinations. I have woken in the night with visions of dishes, and a fierce desire to whip up a decadent chocolate cake. But I have also always felt guilty for indulging in the food I create, because I’ve never known how to eat just one portion. Or going the entire day without eating and then gorging on a gigantic restaurant-sized feast. Because I have lived for many years with this unhealthy relationship with food, I began to question whether my passion was fuelled by love, or obsession.

After leaving the ‘chef life’ – aka the high stress, male dominated, restaurant life – I decided to pursue a career as a personal trainer. And you know what? People really liked me, I made a lot of friends and helped a lot of people. But as it turns out, I’m horrible with selling ‘fitness’ to people. I could convince people how important their body is as a tool, how they need to move it, and fuel it properly. I could inspire people to make better food choices, while still enjoying their lives, hell I could even convince people to buy a meal plan – and it worked. But when it came to telling people that my gyms training plan was worth 8000$, I just couldn’t do it. So I left, and when I did, this tiny little spark inside me became a burning flame once again. Food is my passion, my love at first bite, my piece de la resistance, the butter to my bread, my je ne sais quois…okay I’ll stop now…Food and cooking is the one thing that I always return to. After a bad day, after a good day, as a way to show my gratitude, my love, as a way to bring my family and friends together – even if they’re miles away – Food is my passion. It is what I am meant to be doing; it is my way of changing the world.

*You’re effect on people is the greatest currency I’m the world*

I always wanted to be something bigger, something better, the kind of person who really makes a difference in the world. But you see, I do that already. When I can inspire someone to try something new, to make their own meal, to put real food into their body, to support local farmers…I’m making a bigger footprint than I could ever imagine. I am changing the world.

What’s your passion?

Much love,

Ness