Welcome to our new column, All In, where we sit down with some of the most inspiring people in the wellness industry to find out how they got their start, their successes and their struggles, and their top advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. Next up is Joanne Gerrard Young creator of The Healing Cuisine, which offers retreats, plant-based culinary vacation packages, raw chef certification, private chef services, and more. And did we mention that the founder is also the personal plant based chef for Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen in Costa Rica?
Can you recall the first inspiration you had to start your own business?
I grew up loving to cook and my dad wanted to send me to France to become a chef. I remember I said “Oh Dad, chef’s have to stand all day in a hot bright kitchen, I don’t think that’s for me.”
[After a summer working for the president of Microsoft Canada, then traveling to the Caribbean after high school] I finally came home and moved out west to Whistler in the mid 90s. I worked as a cook and sous chef for a while but quickly realized the real money and fun was on the other side of the pass, so I took to serving at the base of Whistler mountain. It was fun and it was social, but I came to a point when I realized that I just could not physically and spiritually continue this lifestyle.
In 1997 I decided that Whistler needed a juice bar and I moved to Vancouver to study Entrepreneurship at Capilano University. That’s where I began the study of healing with whole foods and creating healing menus for health practitioners. Putting together my two passions created magic.
What were some of your early challenges?
The biggest challenge of being an entrepreneur can also be the biggest blessing: you make your own schedule and choose your own hours. Sounds like a dream but if you are the head chef, sous chef, manager, office manager, bookkeeper, prep cook and cleaner it all becomes very overwhelming. Finding family time and ‘me’ time became the biggest challenge.
What are some challenges you still face today?
I still have issues organizing my time and relinquishing control to allow others to help me. I am only now reaching out to hire the experts to do the jobs I don’t have time for or simply cannot do.
Were you also working a full time job when you launched your business (as a side hustle) or did you go full-force into the new business? Would you recommend the approach you took?
Once we moved to Costa Rica, The Healing Cuisine morphed from a cafe to catering to personal chef and detox expert. I had to work part time while I built my clientele. Luckily word was spreading quickly but my town is seasonal and there were times where it was a struggle to put food on the table. So I took to traveling with my clients which was really tough on my young family.
Running your own business can be overwhelming. How do you stay focused and on track on a day to day basis? What are some of your top tips?
It has taken me years to finally realize that the stress and pressures of entrepreneurship are self-inflicted. It’s only our own deadlines and perfectionist ways that prevent us from calmly moving through the process. Realizing that everything was a process and had to be done step by step was overwhelming. I wanted to go right from A to Z. So instead of skipping right through, I take the time to appreciate and be present each step of the way.
I don’t make a decision unless its a ‘hell yes’ or ‘no way.’ Designating real family time and me time became a huge priority after nearly losing everything and almost all of my relationships falling apart from neglect and self neglect.
My top tips would be to take care of your loved ones and yourself first. You have to put your own oxygen mask on first before you can expect to help anyone else.
You didn’t simply wake up one day and become a sought-after chef (with a celeb clientele). Instead you also worked with naturopathic doctors, herbalists, alternative healers, and Chinese medicine leaders to add to your knowledge base.
Why is it important for you (and for anyone going out on their own in the wellness industry) to continue your education even after achieving success?
Continuing education in any profession is always recommended if not necessary to maintain licensing or to improve our ability to serve others. This is especially true in health and wellness fields because information, research results, and findings are always changing. It is so important to be on top of the the newest frontiers of human physiology, food research, and flavour trends.
You also offer a raw food certification course as part of The Healing Cuisine. Why is it important to you to educate and nurture the growth of others in your business?
When I was cooking, it was personally fulfilling to create. But once I started teaching others and running detox programs, I found it literally changes peoples’ lives. They begin to see more clearly, their minds open up to new ideas and concepts, not only in food and health but in other areas of their lives. They naturally become more compassionate humans.
We live in a time where almost everyone is aware that we need to change the way we eat to improve our own lives and the future of Mother Earth. But there seems to be a missing link between knowing that we should be eating plants because they make us healthy, and how to get them onto our plate in a simple and delicious way that the whole family will enjoy.
I made a lot of raw food at the Juice Bar in Whistler but it wasn’t until moving to Costa Rica and running juice cleanse programs, that I realized how delicious and life changing it could be. After half of the business owners in my remote little magical town had gone through my program, I began putting out a weekly raw food menu. I quickly realized that raw food was pricey and there was a lot of work involved (I found a way to make it more approachable, simpler and fun) so I decided to start teaching people how to make their own raw food.
I want people to know that it’s more important to our health to be happy and stress free than to eat the ‘perfect’ diet. So I teach people how to incorporate more whole plant based foods into their meal plans.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given as it relates to running your own business?
Know your value and don’t stray from it. And hire the experts.
What’s the best piece of advice you would give to a woman interested in going out on her own in the wellness industry?
We are women, we are creative portals to the Universe (literally!). When we lead with our hearts and create with our hands we all have the ability to heal and change the world. Be prepared to be met with some uncertainty, it takes time to for people to change and accept change. We can’t change our loved ones or clients by passionately sharing information that they may or may not be ready to receive. We have to spritz them with tidbits and hope that our little seeds will take root and grow within them.
Don’t be discouraged when people choose a different path or don’t take your advice. They will reach a point in their lives where they will circle back to those little sprouts of wisdom we shared or were reinforced by an authority they trust. Share your knowledge with confidence and an open heart. Go with your gut!
About The Healing Cuisine:
One of the first things we learn about starting a successful business is that you have to relieve a pain point for the public. What was the problem you set out to solve with The Healing Cuisine and how have you solved it?
The pain point I was addressing at the time I began The Healing Cuisine in 2000 was to provide a plant based option for individuals seeking health in my community. Eight years later in Costa Rica it was to help people find the bridge between wanting to be more healthy, and how to provide the correct nourishment to do so on a plant centric diet – and to make it delicious.
You’ve made it your mission to not simply make great food for your clients but to teach them that healthy food can be delicious and fulfilling and to raise awareness of the healing, clarifying and energizing powers of whole organic foods. Tell us about how you work with clients in an educational capacity.
I work with individuals in a variety of ways. I do private consultations to outline the clients main concerns. Through a general health questionnaire and intake form, myself and my holistic nutritionists help summarize the client’s main issues and create a plan to move forward in the right direction.
Sometimes the plan begins with an elimination diet or detox cleanse program. This is quite often followed by a private cooking class that I teach in the client’s home. I provide the client with a list of menu options that work with their health concerns, and they get to choose a number of recipes. The number of recipes they choose is based on the amount of time they want to spend with me in the kitchen. I believe that learning through experience is the best way, especially with food.
Creating foods that support the microbiome is something that’s important to you. With gut health suddenly trending in the wellness industry, what are some of your top tips to maintain a healthy gut?
The reason gut health is ‘trending’ is because we have discovered a new frontier in human physiology where Louis Pasteur’s Germ Theory is no longer relevant but his rival Antoine Beauchamp’s Microenzyme theory is becoming more prominent. We are made up of 1:1 human cell:microbe. These microbes consist of bacteria, fungus, microorganisms and viruses and live throughout our bodies and within our organs. Ninety-five percent of them are found in our gut and that is what we now know as the human microbiome.
It has been discovered that the main health concerns and auto-immune diseases today are inflammatory. By supporting the microbiome through plant based high soluble and insoluble fibrous pre and probiotic foods, we can help re-proliferate the good bacterias in our microbiome which supports our entire immune system. So eating leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, and ferments we can re-colonize our microbiome, boost immunity and reverse disease.
You’re the personal chef to Tom Brady and Gisele in Costa Rica so you know we have to ask: what are they eating that makes them such high-performing (and also incredibly fit and glowing) humans?
I’ve had the great pleasure of cooking for them since 2010 when they stay at their vacation home in Costa Rica. I know its hard to imagine but they are regular people like you and me. They are dedicated to daily fitness and self care, whether that be working out, yoga, meditation and/or massage therapy.
For many years they have been dedicated to eating healthy, organic foods. Gisele loves my juice fast program and participates once per year. They both have a passionate drive for what they believe in and family always comes first. They are aligned with the planet and living a heart centered conscious lifestyle.