What advice do you have for teachers who want to have more meaningful conversations about health and wellness with their students?
First, have the conversation. I think being honest and open about your personal journey with health is important. The next step is actually living it—it’s hard when students see adults preach about wellness but aren’t practicing it. Then try to bring this to life in the classroom or through experiences that are relevant. Whether it’s teaching them how to cook something, going to a farmer’s market, or visiting a grocery store, making it real and giving students agency in their own lives is the best thing educators can do.
How did travel affect your connection to the food industry?
When I had one semester left at the University of Chicago, I was desperate to see the world. I applied to three study abroad programs—Bombay, Rome, and Vienna—and got waitlisted. I stormed into the study abroad office and said “You have to let me go. I don’t care what you do, but I will make the absolute most of it.”
So they sent me to Vienna! When I got there, I told the head of the program that I was interested in food and thought I could manage a pastry shop once a week. It turned out that her husband’s uncle’s friend-from-college’s son rode bikes with a sous chef in the best restaurant in the city. She said he’d meet me the next day if I was interested.
It was a very fancy restaurant, and I had no idea what I was doing. But I loved the controlled chaos of the kitchen—the energy, the intensity, the performance of it all. The sous chef was this big dude, funny but also very tough. He called me over and put a scallop on a very thin pastry spatula and said, “Carry that over to the chef on the other side of the kitchen.” When I did so, the cook gave me the strangest look, but the sous chef said, “You’re welcome back in my kitchen any time.” Later on, he told me he was testing whether or not I had a steady hand and if I could deal with pressure. If I stayed calm in high-pressure moments, he knew he could teach me anything. So I started going back every day until the government sent me back to the United States because I overstayed what was allowed with my student visa.