I have always loved food, especially fresh fruits and vegetables. I fondly remember the smell of sweet orange blossoms on the trees in my godmother’s yard and picking her berries by the handful, leaving my finger tips stained bright blue.
My grandparent’s love of you-pick farms and home gardening had a profound affect on me from an early age. Memories of shucking peas with my grandfather and picking cherry tomatoes out of the mountain high compost behind his garage paved the path for where I am today.
Even as a little kid, I took such pride in loving foods not commonly enjoyed by wee ones like me and can still hear my mom asking, “Isn’t she such a good eater?” I’m not sure if praise is the right way to go with every kid when it comes to food, but it certainly worked with me.
After years of modeling and acting, I decided to schedule a tour of The Institute of Culinary Education in New York City to see if it was the right path for me. That day was September 11, 2001 and needless to say, I never made it to the tour. Living blocks from the greatest tragedy I’ve ever experienced was an eye-opening moment that secured my future.
Months later, I started attending culinary school every night after my day job, absorbing every bit of information. Even a two-hour class on salt was exciting to me! One of the greatest benefits was bringing home late night meals for my boyfriend (now husband) to devour by candlelight.
After finishing school, working odd jobs in restaurants, catering, and even starting a protein bar company with a few girlfriends, I couldn’t find a culinary path that best suited me, so I went back to my day job and just enjoyed cooking for pleasure.
In 2007, I gave birth to my son, Kenya. When he was five months old, I started searching online to find wholesome homemade baby food recipes, feeding on information and tips. My husband Jon and I had always shopped for most of our food at local farmers markets, so making purees for my new eater was at the top of my new mommy responsibilities list.
In the end, I came up short and was shocked that I couldn’t find the online resources I needed to prepare homemade baby food versus store-bought jarred food.
I started pooling together my own information, prepared different homemade purees for Kenya, and asked a friend to help me build a website. Looking back, I realize I had no idea what I was doing. I was rarely online up to this point, so the learning curve was steep.
I was determined, however, knowing that there had to be moms like me in the same situation. Day and night I took care of my son and looked forward to each meal, recording his likes, dislikes and creating seasonal recipes based on the foods I found at our farmers market.
I launched Weelicious with about 20 puree recipes and a friend commented that the pictures looked like “vomit”. Not exactly the way you want to come out of the gate when you’ve been working on something that felt like such an exciting endeavor.
Looking back I can see exactly what he meant, but I carried on unfazed. The 100 or so friends and family that I originally sent the site to quickly grew. Over the past 6 years, my community has seen my children grow just as I’ve seen and heard about the growth of their own children.
What started as a resource for baby food recipes, tips and ideas swiftly turned into food for toddlers and has now evolved into a hub of information for feeding a family one meal instead of many. Mom doesn’t have to feel like a short order cook!
One of the greatest gifts has been the experience of cooking with my kids. I got my kids involved in the cooking process as soon as possible, whether it was as simple as letting them hold down the button on the food processor, peeling bananas or sprinkling herbs, I saw how it inspired them to want to eat the foods they helped to prepare.
Along this Weelicious journey, I learned a few great things that I think might be helpful to you.
- Follow what you love and never be dissuaded by other’s negative feelings. This one can be easier said then done.
- Nothing in life is a waste of time. Learn from every moment.
- Never feel bad about asking for help. Find someone you admire in a similar workspace and seek them out as a mentor.
Outside of the kitchen, I’ve achieved dreams I never thought possible. Two cookbooks, hundreds of recipes and cooking videos later, I still feel that my kids and I teach one another every day.
Having the opportunity to talk to parents around the world via email and social media, I hear firsthand how some of the ideas on Weelicious have helped create great eaters and bring families together.
That is the icing on my cake!