Hi! I'm Jess.
I'm an entrepreneur, educator, and a passionate, intuitive cook currently living in San Francisco. I’m a proudly self-taught cook, with the help of some professional catering, personal-cheffing, and cooking-teaching experience! I grew up in Pittsburgh, PA, and lived in Washington, DC for 6 years before moving west. I also did a 3-month stint on a coffee farm in Hawaii in 2015 (more on that here)!
I majored in marketing in college and didn’t fully realize my passion for food until 2011 (story here). Before venturing out on my own, I spent three transformative years working at Revolution Foods, a company that makes healthy lunches for schools across the U.S. While there, I spent time in schools across the country and witnessed firsthand the importance of teaching healthy eating habits from young age. This experience provided the foundation for my life goal to change the food system from the ground up.
Why GARLIC PRESS, you might ask? The garlic press is one of my favorite kitchen tools, for sentimental reasons. I'm Italian and Lebanese, and we eat A LOT of garlic. Growing up, my mom would often give me the task of pressing the garlic (a great job for kids!), and my Nonna's shiny silver garlic press was always waiting on the counter for me when I came over to help make our ultimate family comfort meal - spaghetti and meatballs with tomato sauce and garlic bread.
Like a garlic press, I enjoy squeezing the very most out of life - both in and out of the kitchen :).
I believe that intuitive cooking leads to living your best life everyday.
What is intuitive cooking?! On a practical level - someone who cooks intuitively can open up a fridge/pantry and make something simple and delicious with confidence and ease. Someone who cooks intuitively can go to the grocery store without a plan, buy the right amount of food for the week, and cook tasty, simple meals from it without wasting anything. Cooking intuitively means that cooking (and everything that comes with it - shopping, prep, clean up, etc) is simply BUILT IN to your life - it is something that you just DO without a lot of stress or strain.
I cook intuitively, which is why I can help people get there! I won’t deny that yes, I have special skills with food. And yes - I am way more obsessed with food than most people. AND - I did not always cook intuitively. I learned how to do it with practice (lots) and curiosity and observation. I really believe that ANYONE can learn to cook intuitively. And so for the time being, that is what I’m devoting my life to working on :).
WHY does intuitive cooking lead to living your best life every day?
If you stop to think about it, a life is really just a whole lotta days in a row…! So - if you improve the quality of your days in little ways, you’ll improve the quality of your life.
The biggest opportunity I see to improve life on a daily basis is: FOOD! Because you eat it… Every. Single. Day. In that, I see BIG OPPORTUNITY.
In our modern world, you have two options to feed yourself - you can either buy something that someone else made (be it a packaged food company, a local restaurant, or a fancy private chef), OR you can buy ingredients and make something yourself.
I believe that, ultimately, no one is set up to feed you as well as YOU are. That’s because only YOU truly know your taste buds and preferences, and only YOU truly know how certain foods make you feel. So, for these reasons - most of the time - I believe that making your own food has the most potential to be the best thing for you. Thus: the power of cooking!
I believe that cooking is the ONE THING you can do that provides the OPPORTUNITY to increase and improve a bunch of other factors that lead to living your best life. To me, these are the things that ultimately lead to fulfillment and joy on an everyday basis:
BEST LIFE powered by cooking includes:
delight / pleasure / joy (via deliciousness)
mindfulness + presence
meaningful connection with people and community
treating the planet well
OPPORTUNITY is a key word here. Eating - at the base level - is about survival and getting the energy you need to go about your day. And OF COURSE, you’re not going to have all seven of these things every time you cook or eat. However, there is an OPPORTUNITY to incorporate 1-7 of these things every single time you eat/cook. I find this to be SUPER EMPOWERING and that’s why I want to share it with anyone who will listen!
Back to intuitive cooking real quick. I’m focused on that because, when cooking becomes intuitive, ie - just built in to your life so that you don’t have to think about it too much, THEN we create the space to really improve on and incorporate these other factors more and more over time.
So - gettin' into the details - I DID put my list of seven things in an intentional order, although I see them as sort of a hierarchy with 1 at the bottom and 7 at the top as we move through the cooking journey. Let me explain as I dig into each one:
#1 & 2: Delight/deliciousness and health are the top two. These are most likely what you’re thinking about in relation to food on a daily basis - “Does it taste good?” and “Is this good for me?” Teaching people how to make food that is both delicious AND healthy is surely enough to keep me busy for a while, AND I care about more than just these two key motivators...
#3. Self-sufficiency - At the end of the day, when nothing else is going right but you can still make yourself a damn delicious dinner, that’s a good, grounding feeling. This one might seem subtle AND I think it’s really important. Cooking is a life skill everyone should have.
#4. Mindfulness + presence - this one might tip you off that I’ve lived in California for 7 years, but, hey - mindfulness is increasingly important in our super busy, screen-filled world. Cooking is one of the last things we actually do with our hands (I'm just not ready to let the robots take it from us!). If you want to meditate/build mindfulness into your life but can’t find the time, hello: cooking! It’s a GREAT opportunity to use all your senses and practice presence. And hey - it’s still “productive” because you’re feeding yourself too. When people complain to me about chopping things… I really want to say: “CHOPPING IS MEDITATION, ok?!” (Also chopping is way more fun when you’re practiced at it!)
#5. Meaningful connection with people and the community. HELLO - the meaning of life! Connecting over food - with people you love, strangers, and/or the people who make/grow/prepare your food - this stuff matters. I really believe that cooking for someone else (and for yourself!) is an act of love. I mean - the first way we know that we are loved is because someone feeds us as a baby! I think there’s something deeper that happens when you share a meal that someone cooked versus just going out to eat. When someone puts love into their food, it just tastes better :).
#6. Creativity! Creating is fun! It makes us human! Making things more beautiful, more delicious, more surprising, more special than they need to be makes life exciting and worth living. And again - you HAVE to eat - so - cooking is creativity with a cause!
#7. Treating our planet well. Whether you think about it or not, our food choices have a huge impact on the planet. We are actually voting with our dollars every time we buy food. There are major systemic issues at play here, and I’m not saying we can solve them just by buying differently, however - we DO have choices, and we can make better ones if/when possible, if we’re educated and willing. Preserving our planet is hugely important to me and one of my key motivations for doing this work. AND it’s also really important to me to get people to love cooking first, and THEN hopefully empower them to make choices that support a healthy planet. (I also plan to work on the food system policy stuff eventually! Stay tuned!)