We really really love the stories behind these amazing small businesses and this one really grabs at the heart strings. I love hearing how someone realizes their passions and goes for it! Mesa de Vida has done a great job realizing her potential and we can’t wait to try her goodies!
Where does your passion for food come from?
I grew up with a family that had a love of cooking, and lot’s and lot’s of food. I was obese by high school. As a young mother at 23 I began cooking regularly, realizing I had a passion for it. At 25, when my daughter was 2 and I was over 100 pounds overweight, with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and pre-diabetic, I realized I had to be a better role model for self love and self care. I set out to learn what “healthy” truly meant, and committed to a 100% real food lifestyle. I lost over 100 pounds “accidentally” and created a heart healthy new family legacy. Now I want to help others do the same.
Tell us about your culinary journey.
I grew up with my dad catering and making amazing smoked/cured meats. I developed my passion for cooking at 23, but with no money or time culinary school, I began to self-study. I would go to the library and check out books from the Culinary Institute of America, Le Cordon Bleu, and more. I would assign myself 3 month “tracks” and dive in to “courses”. I would spend 3 months on skills, 3 months on Italian food, 3 months on bread baking, etc. I also began developing my own style of cooking, as well as took online business courses for starting your own business. I started my personal chef business in 2006, focusing on cooking for busy people, as well as private party catering. I moved to the Seattle/Eastside area in 2011 and relaunched my business up here, this time focusing on health and wellness cooking, using my healthy and nutrition certifications in alignment with cooking. I got a phone call one day from The Food Network asking if I’d like to be a contestant on Guys Grocery Games. I was flown out the next month and competed in California – and won! I have been on the cover of Womans Day and Womans World magazines, been a chef spokesperson for nutritious food brands as well. I also began getting referred out to professional athletes through doctors and trainers. I have worked for several of the Seattle Seahawks, and just wrapped up my second summer of private cheffing for Isaiah Thomas (Cleveland Cavaliers). For years I dreamed of starting my own brand of the healthy cooking sauces I relied on for my players (for health, flavor – and to sneak veggies into some of my picky players) and being able to help people everywhere! I LOVE to feed people. I launched Mesa de Vida in December of 2016 and am excited to continue to grow this brand, helping people enjoy healthier, more exciting, more delicious meals at home more often – simply!
Where is your favorite place to eat?
It used to be Spicy Talk Szechuan food in Redmond, but they closed. 🙁 I love local mom and pop restaurants, and unpretentious, simple food. The taco truck at the AMPM on the corner of 148th in Bellevue is pretty awesome. 😉
Where do you source your ingredients?
Most of my vegetables and fruit (no sugar – I sweeten my sauces with plums!) are “ugly veggies”, perfectly nutritious, delicious veggies not pretty enough to head to the store. They get chopped up and sent to my copacker in Renton, WA that takes my recipe and makes batches a bit bigger than I can do on my own at this point. The spices and herbs are whole spices, sourced from the best places around the world. I ensure every ingredient provider gives me a non-gmo statement. My ingredients are the same as you would have in your kitchen if you made these sauces yourself! No funky stuff.
Tell us about a new product you are working on.
I am going to expand with 2 more healthy cooking sauces. All of my sauces are inspired by vibrant cultures from around the world. Currently I have Smoky Latin, North African, Caribbean and Creole. I wonder if anyone can guess where the next to will be inspired by. 😉
What will our fans find at your booth this fall?
We will have our 4 heart-healthy cooking sauces available individually, and in a really cute gourmet gift pack carrier, perfect for gift giving!
What are your goals for your business in the next year?
Continue to develop the business in the Northwest, demo, demo, demo. I recently broke into our first retail location in Idaho, and I hope to continue to strategically expand across the US.
What was your biggest challenge when starting out?
Not knowing this business – at all! I put a year of research and development, as well as consulted with a group at the UW Fosters School of Business for 2 months. There was still so much to learn – and that happens every single day. There are so many known-unknowns when launching something like this, so many struggles and hurdles, sleepless nights and long days. But now I’m also doing this to help other woman/minority owned brands some day, I want to share what I’ve learned – and continue to learn – to help them have a path to creating a brand and company that can give them a business that supports their family and creates beautiful, delicious things for this world!
What’s your favorite part of this food movement?
The grit and drive of all of these people! It is scary to put something out there that you’ve created, having a small business isn’t for everyone. I am inspired by every single story of every single maker I have ever come across!
What’s the best part of your job?
Feeding people. When I get an email from someone sharing with me a photo or a story about how my sauces, in their kitchen, made a difference for them and impacted their life in some way…that is priceless.