First things first. I got into this whole shebang because of my love of sweets, which was ultimately my undoing (and my nutritional apotheosis!). The name “sweetbean” comes from my affection for all the food-beans that are dessert-based, such as the vanilla and the cacao bean. I am always searching for delicious alternatives to refined sugar and there are some great beans about it! But we do more than just sweeten things up…
All of our products are either locally-sourced and/or organic. We only use humanely-raised meat, such as wild fish, grass fed beef and local poultry. All of our salts are of a sea or pink Himalayan variety (if not volcanic or Icelandic); we believe salt is exceedingly healthy and mineral-rich if you’re getting it unrefined and unprocessed. We primarily use a Sicilian extra virgin olive oil that is equally delicious and nutritious. Oils are a great source of omegas if you’re using the right ones, which we pride ourselves on doing. We never used refined sugars and only sweetened dishes with natural, whole foods such as maple syrup, honey and dates. We believe in the life and vibrancy of the food we make. These are the main pillars of SWEETBEAN. We don’t cut corners and we stand behind the quality of our ingredients.
I didn’t intend to become a chef. After seven years of artist-living and yoga-teaching in Los Angeles, I moved to New York and became increasingly interested in the culinary scene. Whenever creatively stifled, whether with writer’s block or during an acting lull, I’d find myself flour-stained and happy, baking away in my tiny kitchen. Cooking, I realized, was the creative process actualized, from conception to consumption.
Then something awful happened. I got psoriasis. At first I did what any normal person would do after a diagnosis: I went to a well-respected Western doctor who promptly prescribed a steroid cream, all the while assuring me this is a skin deep, “superficial” autoimmune disease that has nothing to do with any organ other than my skin and that I could continue eating and drinking as usual. Okay, I thought. I give up. This is the new me. This is how my skin will look and feel for the rest of my life. I’d rub hundreds of dollars of prescription chemicals on my skin and feel a respite for a week, until I’d get another flareup and deem that cream unworkable. Never one to fade quietly into the night, I went down the hippy-dippy rabbit hole and started doing my own research. I deduced the foods that triggered my inflammatory response and, after many many months of deliberate eating, I cured my supposed “incurable” autoimmune disease. That was years ago and I haven’t had a similar flare since.
As a perpetual academic and budding gourmand (now utterly obsessed with holistic healing), I completed the chef’s training program at NYC’s Natural Gourmet Institute in 2011, where food is used for healing purposes and nutritional courses are as mandatory as knife skills. The knowledge I garnered in school and through my self-healing has been integral in helping fix a whole host of other people’s ailments.
Pre-SWEETBEAN, I worked at Blue Hill in the West Village; as the sous chef for the president of Columbia University, as a culinary educator and consultant for a kids’ cooking school; as a private chef; a caterer; and a food blogger.