From Mum to Chef

Ever since I was little, I was baking alongside of my mother and grandmothers like no tomorrow. I’d like to think my mom was one of the first #supermoms on the planet – and of course I wanted to be just like her. Hand-sewn clothes, fresh baked bread, and yogurt cultured from scratch just seemed to be in the job description back then. Except that I was the kid at school with the packed lunch no one wanted to trade me for… always wholegrain bread (even if it was a PB&J!), an in-season fruit, and a raw veg of some description. I had constant lunch-envy of my classmates who had white bread sandwiches, crisps, and fruit roll-ups. They got soda, I got 5 cents to buy the whole milk in the lunch line each day.

Fast forward a few (!) years to today and I couldn’t be more thankful that my mother’s ahead-of-the-curve nutrition was just as it was. So much of what she taught me as a child has stayed with me all these years. My passion for food meant that even my childhood dream of being a Cindy Crawford couldn’t contend with the “calorie restrictions” required to be a supermodel.

After moving to the UK from the US nearly 11 years ago, I soon found out I was pregnant with twins. Now was my time to #supermom. Except that having twins kind of made my life overwhelming and sleepless for most of the first year. So instead of feeling like a #supermom, I was feeling more like a #superfailure.

I wish I knew then what I know now. Ever said that to yourself?

I wish I knew that cranial osteopathy & probiotics might have helped my son who went through quite a bad bout of colic, which meant no sleep for him (or me)! I wish I knew that eating loads of bread, cereals, and cakes was the wrong diet for me (and for my milk)! It wasn’t until the twins turned 4 and started school that I finally came through the other side. At last, we all slept.

It was about that time that I started to show off my childhood baking skills to the pre-school mums on the playground alongside of my best friend and neighbour. Being American, I wasn’t happy with the supermarket birthday cakes with the 6 month shelf life that choked you as you swallowed it. Instead, I rolled up my sleeves, took my great-grandmother’s cupcake recipe and started baking. These were no ordinary cupcakes – they were made with a fruit or veg puree and a lot less refined sugar – and they wiped the supermarket floor with the rest of their cakes on taste (ok, I was a bit biased). So much so, that after selling loads to local friends and mums for parties, we decided to try our luck with Waitrose HQ one sunny Valentine’s Day. No appointment, we walked into Waitrose reception in Bracknell and asked to speak to the cake buyer. To our surprise, she came down, had a chat with us, and took our cakes away to be tasted. The very next day, she called to tell us she wanted them on her shelves! From that moment on, a whole new level of cake making started and we were inducted into the world of food manufacturing. Not only did we supply Waitrose, but we were a finalist in the UK Baking Awards for Product Innovation and had constant calls from Tesco, Whole Foods, and Sainsbury’s.

Sadly, food manufacturing wasn’t all it was baked up to be (sorry). I learned more about how food is processed, chemically altered for longer shelf life and chemically sped up for profit reasons. My buyers kept asking me to add more sugar to my recipe as “the UK customer likes things sweeter” and on top of that to increase my shelf life from 1 week to 3 months! Some of them wanted to purchase our product so cheaply that it meant we would have to pay them to put them on their shelves. It was an eye-opening experience I’ll never forget.

About this same time, I found out the news that my mother had been diagnosed with early stages of Parkinson’s. Being 3000 miles across the pond was now even more difficult than raising twins. I didn’t even fully understand what Parkinson’s was – how you get it, what it does, and was there a cure? When my husband shortly after was made redundant, I decided it was time to chuck in the oven gloves and start hitting the research books to try and help my mom. But my research books included cookery books as I was so passionate using food – but good food in a good way. Food as medicine.

After loads of reading articles, books and testing out different recipes, I finally found my calling – I am training to be a Natural Chef using principles of Naturopathic Nutrition.  My focus is in preparing food for health – this includes therapeutic menu writing, menu planning, and foods that support organs. I am also currently working on a short course in Detoxing which looks at taking the right steps for your body to get the most out of a detox – before, during, and after.

I plan to bridge that gap between nutrition and patient – most nutritionists I have met cannot boil water and therefore it seems there is (fresh) market for someone, like me, who is passionate about food, health, cooking and helping to coach others. There are so many ‘diets’ out there but naturopathic nutrition stresses the use of whole and organic foods as medicine.

I also think it’s important to focus on our kids. I’ve learned that you can’t rely on school to teach them what a healthy diet is, it needs to be taught from home. I’ve even enlisted the help of my 9 year old twins to help spread the naturopathic word – luckily, who know more about YouTube than I do!