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IN CONVERSATION: CHEF JASON OF JASON PABST CUISINE

We are so grateful to have interviewed Chef and Holistic Health Coach Jason Pabst of Jason Pabst Cuisine. Based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Jason’s goal is “to encourage people to reassess their relationships with food, people and nature to lead them toward more grounded, healthier lifestyles filled with joy and vitality.” With a degree in Agricultural Science and a focus in Sustainable Agriculture, Jason’s desire to find out where our food comes from and explore our relationship with the food source is so important, and something we at Sun Potion greatly admire and appreciate. Read on for more about Jason and his culinary endeavors. 

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We read that you have been in the kitchen since you were young, cooking Thanksgiving dinner with your grandma for up to 12 people at only 13 years old! What was it that called you to be a chef?

I actually first got into cooking as a creative medium. Growing up, I loved art, especially painting and constructing decor style pieces out of elements found in nature such as driftwood or feathers. But as my childhood progressed, I found myself going into the kitchen more and more often. What started as simple tasks, such as cutting vegetables or stirring a pot, led into asking my mom for the responsibility of cooking dinner for my family each night. It turns out this was a major blessing for my mother as doing so removed some responsibility off her plate - no pun intended. 

This is when cooking really started to become a major part of my life. I became so interested in different flavors, colors, etc. and it quickly became my new outlet for creativity. I found it as a means to express my true and authentic self. However, I never planned to become a chef or even saw it as a means to create a livelihood for myself. But, after combining cooking with my passion for living a healthy life filled with vitality, the title of a chef found me.

How did Jason Pabst Cuisine come to fruition?

Jason Pabst Cuisine came to fruition through the help of someone I now can call a close friend. A few years ago, I began posting some food photos on social media for leisure. I never had the intent of attempting to develop a brand for myself or become a chef. However, I was approached shortly thereafter by a professional athlete in the NBA who stumbled across one of my photos expressing that the food looked appetizing, yet also healthy. I was flown out to LA soon after to interview and the very next day, I put in my two weeks notice at my job in Philadelphia and started to begin this new chapter in life as a personal chef and thus created Jason Pabst Cuisine. 

In the last few years, I have learned so much, both professionally and personally. I am beyond thankful for my boss, and now friend. We both have made major strides in our careers during our time together. I have learned more and more with each passing day and take great pride in enriching the lives of others through doing something that I truly love.

What are primary and secondary foods?

Great question - consuming a healthy, balanced diet of both primary and secondary foods is key towards living a life filled with vitality. These foods comprise the focus of my health coaching work, as well as my own personal journey in this world. 

Secondary foods are best referred to as the nourishment one receives from physical food such as fruits & vegetables, nuts & seeds, grains, fish, etc. Primary food, on the other hand, is the nourishment one receives from life experiences such as personal relationships, self-care, career, finances, etc. 

I firmly believe that primary food is just as, if not more, important for the body and mind as secondary food. For example, an individual could consume the healthiest diet in the world, but if he/she is in a toxic relationship, whether that’d be with him/herself or with another, he/she will still experience tremendous dis-ease due to the mental and physical exhaustion that relationship is causing. With my work, I do my best to help others identify such imbalances in their lives and support them in the journey to overcoming these challenges..

What do you love most about farm-to-table cuisine?

What I love most about farm-to-table cuisine is it’s taste and flavors, nutrition, seasonality, and economic & environmental viability. 

When food is grown and sold locally, the taste is far superior to anything found at conventional grocery stores as produce is picked at peak ripeness, thus allowing their sugars to be fully developed which is what gives produce its flavor.

Locally grown food is also more nutrient-dense as the land it’s grown on is more fertile and cared for more consciously. Once produce is picked, it begins to lose its nutritional value so eating locally is healthier since foods don’t require far shipments.

The seasonality of farm-to-table cuisine is also quite amazing. Eating locally gets humans back to the basics of eating, and the cycle of the seasons supports our health. For example, when it’s summer, our bodies require cooling foods such as fruits and hydrating vegetables like cucumbers, lettuce, zucchini, etc. and that’s coincidentally what is grown during the summer time. Coincidence, I think not. The same can be said for other seasons throughout the year. Overall, farm-to-table cuisine helps diversify what our bodies need for the different seasons.

Most importantly, farm-to-table cuisine provides economic & environmental viability. It gives power to the consumer to keep money in the local economy, encourages diversity within local agriculture which protects soil health and local flora and fauna, and produces a significantly smaller carbon footprint, and can even sequester carbon in some instances.

 

Is there a nostalgic meal that someone in your family used to make that makes you feel like a kid again?

I would have to say any fall or winter hearty type meals is what makes me feel like a kid again. I grew up in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania so our days mostly consisted of being outdoors hiking, hunting, snowboarding, quading, tending the land - you name it. In doing so, there was no better feeling than coming home from a cold day outside to foods like chili, hot soup, porridge, roasted root vegetables like sweet potatoes and butternut squash, and so much more that warmed the body right up.

We love your photos that you take of both food and your travels! Is photography a hobby of yours? Can you share some photos with us?

I would definitely consider photography a hobby of mine. I love capturing moments, especially in nature, that I feel tell a story, evoke a certain feeling, or simply showcases earth's natural beauty. 

However, I will say that learning to use a camera I find to be a very difficult one so I would like to say kudos to anyone reading this if you’ve successfully learned how to shoot and edit your own photos.

Tell us more about your time in Tuscany, Italy, and your travels afterward!

While attending college at The Pennsylvania State University, I was granted the opportunity to study abroad in Tuscany, Italy, to learn about sustainable food systems and the Italian culture. Our classes consisted of daily class field trips to various farms, vineyards, restaurants, food distribution centers, and even national parks across Tuscany. This awakening experience ignited my passion for preparing farm-to-table, seasonal ingredients, treating such ingredients with the utmost respect, and using my culinary creations as a means to story tell and pay respect to the places and people that inspire me.

The desire for culinary travel did not end in Italy however. After graduating college, I backpacked for six months in Portugal, Italy, and Costa Rica volunteering on multiple organic farms and homesteads through a program referred to as WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms). These experiences served as a cultural exchange for me where I was able to learn about other cultures and the role that food and agriculture plays within each of those societies. These travels also help me to refine my cooking style, as well as grow mentally and spiritually. 

What is (currently) your favorite meal to cook at home?

Being in the midst of summer, my favorite meal by far to cook at home is a seasonal summer salad. There are endless options of fresh produce this time of year so I love seeking out what is in-season and not fussing with it too much. When you choose produce that is in-season, and sourced locally, the flavors are so much more pronounced and succulent, and so I try to just leave the produce as is and let their natural flavors speak for themselves. 

I like my salads to have 8 components in order to maximize taste, nutrition, and heartiness. 

  1. A few large handfuls of assorted greens.

  2. Colorful raw veggies such as tomatoes, snap peas, carrots, peppers, cucumbers, beets, radishes, broccoli, and fresh herbs such as dill, basil, etc.

  3. Small handful of a healthy protein source such as chickpeas, lentils, canned sardines, roasted steelhead trout or wild-caught Alaskan salmon with lemon and herbs.

  4. Small handful of a healthy complex carb source such as quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, or roasted sweet potatoes.

  5. Small handful of low/lower-glycemic fruit such as berries, stone fruit, or apple.

  6. A couple tablespoons of assorted raw nuts and seeds including sliced almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, etc.

  7. Small handful of a healthy fat source such as avocado, olives, almond based ricotta cheese (or goat/sheep cheese if you like dairy), or olives.

  8. Small amount of an organic extra-virgin olive oil based vinaigrette or tahini dressing without any sweetener. 


Mix everything up in a bowl and you have yourself a filling, nutrient-dense packed meal that supports all your body’s functions from gut health to brain health.

Favorite dessert?

Though I am not the biggest fan of dessert, my favorite has to be a big bowl of homemade banana ‘nice cream’ with all the fixings! It’s so easy to make and is a great alternative option to traditional dessert that won’t derail your health goals. 

I love to blend a couple of sliced frozen bananas in a food processor with a little bit of full-fat coconut milk or unsweetened plant milk and vanilla, mint, cacao powder, fresh berries, etc. to make the ‘nice cream’. Blitz it up so it's creamy and super thick and you have yourself some ice cream.

Now my favorite part, topping it off with some almond butter, cacao nibs, hemp seeds, shredded coconut, bee pollen, fresh berries, walnuts, you name it and dig in.

Do you have a favorite adaptogen or tonic herb that you find supportive? If so, what is your preferred way to incorporate it into your day?

As someone that regularly fights stress and anxiety, my favorite adaptogen has to be Ashwagandha. It significantly helps with calming mental and physical stress through lowering the body’s cortisol levels. I’ve found it to be very beneficial for my overall well-being and so I take it daily in a powder form along with a host of other mushroom powders. Also, I keep a bottle of it on hand in liquid form in case I need it again during the day.

What does your morning routine look like? Do you have any grounding rituals that help you prepare for the day ahead?

Being a morning person, it usually begins with waking up bright and early. I like to then lay in bed for a few moments to collect my thoughts, become aware of my surroundings, and perhaps repeat a few affirmations. If I am super tired one morning or it’s just a relaxed day, I like to listen to a guided meditation or yoga nidra as it really puts me into a calming state. I don’t keep it too strict, just as long as I stay off my phone for at least the first 15-30 minutes of the day. I have noticed that I am more productive on days in which I don’t gravitate straight towards the phone.

I like to then drink a big glass of water with lemon and pink Himalayan salt (it detoxes the body and acts as a natural electrolyte) and exercise, whether it’s a run, walk, bike ride, or lifting weights in my apartment. Working out early in the morning I found serves my body the best. It alleviates the pressure of having to do it later on that day, which sometimes causes me stress worrying about it, wakes me up, motivates me to be more productive throughout the day, and then helps me fall asleep earlier that night.

After my workout, I like to shower and take my supplements with more water, and eat a nutrient dense breakfast with lots of healthy fats and some protein to keep me satiated until lunch. Breakfast is usually a big bowl of chia pudding with lots of nuts and seeds, berries and banana, Ceylon cinnamon, and almond butter. On days where I have more time, I like to make a big green smoothie with spring mix, spinach, avocado, apple, sprouts, and dulse flakes. The recipe is on my website if you’re interested (click here)! With breakfast, I like to take 15 minutes to myself and watch Youtube before jumping into my responsibilities for the day.

Any sustainability practices that you would like to share?

When it comes to sustainability, in regards to planetary and human health, I would simply advise people to just try to do their part, as individuals, to make more small conscious, meaningful decisions on a daily basis. I firmly believe the best way of doing so is choosing to make sustainability a fun, enjoyable, and positive experience, as opposed to a restrictive one that you think may hinder the convenience of your current lifestyle. For example, create a game for yourself that each time you fill up your recycling bin, you get to treat yourself to ice cream or try to learn one new recipe each week using an ingredient from your local farmer’s market. Create an incentive for yourself and make it fun.

Such sustainability practices include recycling more, purchasing a hydro flask and reusable bags (using less plastic), buying more secondhand items (hit a thrift store or facebook marketplace the next time you need new clothes or furniture), buying more food from your local farmer’s market, making more meals at home, supporting sustainable minded companies and local businesses with your dollar, taking five minute showers as opposed to twenty minute showers, etc. The options are endless but always try to make it a positive experience as opposed to a restrictive one.

If we all can act on an individual level, that will correlate to a collective unity of sustainable decision-making by all humans that will in turn positively impact the planet as a whole. As the saying goes, “there’s always greener pastures”, and I believe there is no better time than now to literally create greener pastures through being more driven to support sustainable practices.

Who is on your current playlist right now?

Though my palette for music is ever evolving, indie, indie/funk, and electronic/dance are always at the forefront of my playlists and includes artists such as Lizard Tears, Toro y Moi, Talking Heads, The Japanese House, Ruby Waters, Earth, Wind & Fire, Odesza, and Glass Animals. 

Also, nature sound playlists and guided meditations work wonders for me when I am either anxious, stressed, or have trouble sleeping. I absolutely love yoga nidras, deep ocean sounds, and the band Portico Quartet.

Lastly, I have an interest in listening to educational podcasts mostly in the health & wellness space such as Dr. Mark Hyman (The Doctor’s Farmacy) and On Purpose (Jay Shetty) as a means to improve my own well-being and learn about new principles to assist others in their life journeys. 

Is there a place where we can find some of your amazing recipes?

Yes! You can visit jasonpabst.com/recipes to find some easy-to-make, nutritious, tasty recipes.

 Images courtesy of Jason Pabst

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