9 to 5: Karolina, Natural Foods Private Chef/Holistic Health Coach

new feature!

My name is Karolina and officially I am a Natural Foods Private Chef and Holistic Health Coach. What does that mean? Well, my background is in whole foods and plant based cooking but my clients range from vegans, gluten-free families, and raw foodists to athletes, pregnant mamas, and inspired people who just want to eat healthier. As a Holistic Health Coach I also help people who are searching for some guidance in reaching their wellness and life goals. I try to help them navigate their primary needs like diet, exercise, family, work, spirituality, etc. in order to find a balance. Phew! Sounds like a lot, huh? Well that's not all! I'm also a 26 year old pregnant mama-to-be and wife to a great fella. I've been blogging about my journey with cooking, pregnancy, our wedding, and life in our tiny New York City apartment at my blog, Paper Hearts and Cranes.

Describe a typical day at work.

I would say that a typical day at work for me is hardly ever typical! Depending on who my wonderful clients are at any given moment, I generally begin and end my day with food.

1. Most days this means an early morning visit to Whole Foods, the farmers market, or any combination of grocery/specialty stores to pick up what I need for the day.

2. After arriving at my scheduled home for that day, I make some coffee and start cooking! Depending on the needs of the individual or family, this could mean preparing and serving all their meals for that day or sometimes preparing a bunch of meals for multiple days and leaving detailed instructions.

3. After morning/afternoon cooking is complete, I may have a health coaching phone call lined up. I take a few minutes to look over my notes and get into a positive and calm mind set for my session.

4. The rest of the afternoon is dedicated to menu planning, organizing shopping lists, recipe testing (fun!), and thinking of possible marketing strategies.

5. If it's a special evening or a weekend, I may have a workshop scheduled such as baby food making or how to keep up your energy as a new mom. I recently began focusing my business on working with pregnant women, new mamas, and cooking for the whole family!

6. After dinner, snuggling with my husband, and relaxing a bit, I often research food magazines, blogs, and any revisit any other inspiration I had during the day to come up with new ideas. I love this time of year because the recipes choose themselves based on the amazing ingredients available all summer long!

[in Iceland- teaching a workshop on making raw chocolate truffles.]

Did you always want to do this? How did you get into this field? What kind of schooling or background did it entail?

Lot's of chef's I know always have really sweet stories of following their mom around in the kitchen and cooking from a really early age. Not the case here, folks. My mom was actually so surprised when I told her I wanted to go into this field, as I was so disinterested in cooking as a child and teen. Ha! Just goes to show you that your interests continue to grow!

Anyway, I actually went to art school through my undergrad and was preparing to work in fashion. After just a few short years in the real world, I realized it wasn't the right industry for me. I was still craving to do something creative, artistic, and interesting but wanted to really help people along the way. Enter culinary school. I went to an amazing school in NYC called the Natural Gourmet Institute, which focuses on teaching whole food and plant based cooking along with different dietary approaches. A few years later I also pursued a program at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to compliment my culinary training and so that I could continue to support my clients with their choices, outside of just food. Both of those programs changed my life and career. (Please feel free to email me if you want to know more about either of these schools. I love sharing my experience at both!)

After I finished with my technical culinary training, I worked in several different restaurants in NYC including a three star restaurant, a vegan tea house, a raw food cafe, and a thai catering company (among others). Along the way, I was given my first opportunity to assist two amazing chefs in cooking for a family and jumped at the chance! It was quite an adventure and each day presented new challenges. Even so, I loved the opportunity to tailor a daily menu, based on a family's needs and health goals, and present well made, nutritious food to them at every meal.

When my contract ended with that particular family, I was lucky enough to meet others who needed my services and have been extremely blessed to have been working consistently ever since.

 [her mama feeding Beatrice a nutritious meal]

Is this what you hope to do for the rest of your life? If so, how do you see yourself growing in this career? If not, what else do you dream of doing? Where do you see yourself in 10 years, career-wise?

The slogan for my business is, "Nourishing your family's body and soul." Becoming a chef and health coach were two of the best decisions I ever made and every day since then I have learned something new about cooking, nutrition, health, and life. I feel like having all this knowledge would be useless if I couldn't use it to help others.

The state of health in this country saddens me every day and advocating for children's rights to fresh food is something I am deeply passionate about. This past year, I worked for an amazing organization called Wellness in the Schools and I helped introduce a wellness lunch menu as well as teach cooking in the classroom. Working on projects like this and teaching people, not just children, about how to have a healthy relationship with food is how I would like to grow further in my career.

I do see myself in this industry for the rest of my life. How could I not? Food is such a primal need and everyone needs it to survive. Some of us eat for pleasure, while others for specific types of energy. Some people eat to heal themselves, while others choose foods based on emotional attachments and the feelings they may bring. In one way or another, food connects us all. And to me, that is the most beautiful lesson that there is. With life moving so fast these days, and most of us having families, jobs, houses, blogs, and pets to take care of, it seems like a real luxury to take some time out of the day to cook a lovely meal that will nurture and feed our families. I think it's a luxury we should all indulge in more often.

In 10 years, I hope to still be cooking, teaching, and providing support to anyone inspired to take control of their health and life. I hope to be helping more moms balance their emotions during pregnancy. I hope that more babies will be eating home made yummy foods! I hope that less young children are struggling with their relationship with food. Most of all, I hope to still be learning every day.
[w/gluten-free cookies!]

If you could tell your 17-year old self (fresh out of high school and ready to face the world!) anything about your life today, what would you tell her?  Is there anything you wish you would have known back then? Was there anything you would have done differently as far as your career, setting yourself up for success, etc. etc.?

Gosh. I see that girl and I just want to tell her not to worry! At 17, I just wanted to experience everything and see the world. And I did. But during those first few college years, I had no idea what I would do when I was done. I felt like I would be searching for my purpose forever! I remember leaving for college and thinking, "Now what?" I wish I would have know that it would all work out as long as I followed my heart. (Not what I thought I was meant to do.)
But I would not have done any of it differently. Experiencing all the things I didn't want to do led me to what I truly love.

[organic, dairy-free, chocolate cake with raspberries and vegan coconut butter cream!]

If I could tell my 17 year old self anything, I would tell her to learn as much from each opportunity as you can. You never know when you will have to do something outside of your job description! And the same goes for people. Please don't burn any bridges. Those are often the contacts you will need along the way. Or the support you will need as you change career for the fifth time!

Equally, don't stick around anywhere that doesn't foster your goals or help cultivate your passion. It's fine to "pay your dues" but if you're not taken seriously, or growing within your field, what's the point? Find people that appreciate your work and dedication.

Thank you so much to Danielle for including me in this wonderful project, along with all the other inspirational women here! I feel so truly lucky to be able to do what I love every day and hope that whatever you're doing on your own path, always leaves you with satisfaction and joy.