Women Who Inspire Us
Ah New York City, how can you not be jazzed by the architecture, the art, the fashion, and the overall brio of the people who give it life. We feel fortunate to call NYC home, and to live amongst so many of the amazing women who make the city what it is. And we felt it more important than ever in these trying times to bring you their stories. Truly, women who inspire us, and now, hopefully you too...
The food scene is something we love about NYC, which is why we are so excited to introduce you to Phoebe Lapine, a gluten-free chef and author of recently released and acclaimed book, The Wellness Project. After being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that restricted her diet, she spent the next few years refining her life to eat healthy without giving up life's joys. She's been featured in food and lifestyle magazines such as Food & Wine and The Wall Street Journal, and we are so inspired by her. We sat down with Phoebe and asked her about her journey and what inspires her...
Rumba: Can you tell us a little about Feed Me Phoebe and how it has evolved?
Phoebe: My goal when I started blogging was to inspire my peer group—fellow twentysomethings—to get in the kitchen and get cooking. But as I’ve grown up, along with my audience, my food point of view has evolved to include more about physical wellness—not just social wellness!
I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease in my early twenties and it took a while for my focus on health to catch up with my cooking.
At the beginning of 2015, I decided to double down on all the self-care practices that fell by the wayside when I left the corporate world to become a professional slicer and dicer, by making one lifestyle change, one month at a time. That blog series, The Wellness Project, is now a book!
Now on the site, I hope to give folks who feel overwhelmed by all the health to-do’s on the internet, permission to choose their own wellness adventure. To find practices that are worth the time, money and energy we spend on them, and a shame-free way to kick those that aren’t to the curb.
Rumba: When was the moment you realized you were on the right path? What's the one thing you would credit as influencing your career?
Phoebe: People are always asking me how I ended up in the food biz. Sometimes my answer is simply: boredom. I was so starved for creativity during my first corporate job that I ended up starting a blog on the side to feel some sort of purpose and re-find my sanity.
I got my start in the professional cooking world in the least professional of settings – quite literally, in my 6 x 4 square foot kitchen, feeding friends from a pot of chili with a measuring cup instead of a ladle. I knew I was onto something when the first piece of press about the blog hit, and then 9 months later when I got a cookbook deal.
My corporate job was in marketing, and though unintentional, I think I credit some of my success to always going after what I felt was missing from the food space—the “market.” I’m my brand. I’m also my target demographic. I’m willing to be vulnerable and tell aspects of my story—failures, worries, fears—that don’t always find a place in our glossy world of digital perfection. I know if I’m feeling overwhelmed, lost or confused, there are so many others out there who feel the same way. Those are the problems I look to solve in the kitchen and when it comes to our health.
Rumba: You have a new book that just came out, The Wellness Project, can you share with us what to expect?
Phoebe: Absolutely! The book chronicles the year of my life that I dedicated to healing my autoimmune disease, Hashimotos Thyroiditis.
After feeling overwhelmed by my doctor’s orders and confused when they contradicted the latest diets on the best seller list, I decided to take a step back and come up with 12 of my own wellness directives—including eliminating sugar, switching to all-natural beauty products, and getting in touch with my spiritual side—to find out which lifestyle changes truly impacted my health for the better.
The Wellness Project is the result of that year of exploration. It’s part memoir and part health and wellness primer (with 20 healthy recipes!). My hope is that it gives people a road map for their own self-experimentation. It’s all about the baby steps. And if there’s one thing I hope you can learn from my experience, it’s that you don’t need to all of the above, all at once. Just start. Somewhere. Anywhere. And take it one day, week, month at a time.
Rumba: Has working in the kitchen influenced your daily personal style? If so, how?
Phoebe: Yes. I’m a lot more casual and cozy than I was working at an office. I’m all about the capsule wardrobe, and mine includes ripped jeans and a comfy T shirt. That is... when I’m not just wearing yoga clothes all day.
Rumba: How has your travels influenced your dishes?
Phoebe: I love tasting my way around the world, and always come back to my kitchen inspired. A really formative trip for me was when I went to Morocco with my mother after college. She used to live there in her twenties, and was the one who taught me to cook in the first place. I love making tagines and Moroccan spins on other one pot dishes. Other recent travel influences are Vietnam, Brazil, and France.
Rumba: What is your favorite food hack? Do you have a favorite dish to make?
Phoebe: I love adding fresh garlic paste to salad dressing. You add some salt to the clove once you’ve broken it down to a rough chop, then smash it around with the knife. It allows all those juices to infuse whatever dish you’re making, and when you’re adding it to salads and such, you don’t have to stress about it burning.
Rumba: Who is your own inspiration?
Phoebe: Ina Garten. She’s my kitchen fairy godmother.
Rumba: What is the main challenge you’ve been faced with in your career?
Phoebe: Working from home has really taken its toll at times. There’s no one there to bounce ideas off of or give you advice in the moment. No one to flash an eye roll if a client is being a pain in the butt or a deal falls through because Mercury is in retrograde. The absence of community weighs on me, and I have to remember to try to nurture it outside my apartment and break up the day with some human interaction, even if it’s only with the man taking my latte order.
Rumba: If you had one piece of advice to give creative entrepreneurs starting out, what would it be?
Phoebe: Don’t wait to pass Go. Dive in, then iterate. You have to do the work if you want to grow.