We are so excited to feature the divine Melissa Mayo, Chef and Author, on the blog today ahead of our exciting event in L.A. this coming May – ‘Cooking, Cocktails & Conversation’. To find out more details and to book tickets, click here.
- Tell us a little bit about yourself – who you are and what you do.
I’m a proudly Jewish chef, mom, wife, author, globetrotter, dreamer and eternal optimist. The glass is always overflowing to me. I was born in South Africa and raised on a steady diet of braaivleis (red meat cooked over an open charcoal flame). I learned to cook at my mom’s knee. I was her official taster. I was taught to taste my way to the perfect dish.
Like many South Africans I have a large personality. My front door is always open, and my home is full of guests and an abundance of good food. This is the South African way.I love steak, red wine, dark chocolate, expresso and karaoke.
After completing my MBA I moved to Los Angeles. I met my hunky South African husband, Saul, and gave birth to our beautiful daughter (and my best friend) Jade who is now 14.
We love to travel. I literally eat my way through each country, trying out new dishes and flavours. I developed a love affair with Italy. We recently bought a home in Lucca, where I plan on spending the summers until my daughter heads off to college. Then I plan on opening my cooking school and retiring to my Italian farm house with a big fig tree.
Fun morning onset shooting my first video of 2017… "Traditional South African Lamb Curry". So yummy. My kitchen smells like a spice market. Stay tuned. It's #lekkermense. Lots more on the way. While I was filming I used the terms "BTB" and "RTS". My husband Saul asked what I was saying and bet me no one else would know either. So I'm curious if you know what they mean? Lmk if you do . Wishing you a wonderful weekend whatever you are doing xxx Chef MM
- What was the ‘uh ha’ moment that inspired you to get in to health and wellbeing?
After my daughter was born I decided to leave the world of finance. When she headed off to preschool, I took a gig cooking lunch for 30, at Oscar winner Hans Zimmer’s studio. This gave me time to experiment. Influenced by my South African roots and my travels, I created a style of cooking uniquely my own.
I also stared on Foodnetwork’s “Private Chefs of Beverly Hill’s” and spent 3 summers teaching a kids cooking camp on the Paramount lot.
My husband felt I wasn’t cooking enough for him. Hahahahaha….So I decided to open my own cooking school at home. I developed a large following and their support pushed me to launch my website 18 months ago. It has tons of free recipes, 2 minute cooking videos and posts about travel, health and fitness.
I’m passionate about food, but I also enjoy feeling fit and healthy. I believe abs are made in the kitchen. By cooking with fresh ingredients, you control what you put in your body.I enjoy grilling and roasting colorful, crunchy food that is visibly appealing, because people eat with their eyes first.
I take all my own photos and style my food so I am drawn to lots of color. It’s so important to “Eat the Rainbow”. Each colored ingredient has different nutrients our bodies need, and variety is the key. I cannot eat the same food all the time. I like all food groups equally and don’t have any foods I avoid. My motto is a little of everything, not a lot of anything.
I love simple, uncomplicated methods and my recipes are quick and based on what is in season. I like to serve food family style on huge platters. I also like food to be at room temperature so I can enjoy my guests. And being Jewish I entertain a lot. Sometimes I cook for 90 people and hosting Shabbos dinner each Friday is the best way to head into the weekend.
Last year I published my first cookbook. It focused on recipes for the Jewish holiday of Passover. I am so glad I was able to get it out before my mom passed away, so she could see I dedicated it to her. Knowing her recipes were cooked at thousands of Seders over Pesach gave me so much comfort.
- Talk us through a typical day in your life…
6am: Wakeup and mediate for 5 minutes. Grab a double expresso and breakfast and enjoy it while I read my book. Breakfast varies. I love oats in the winter, Greek yoghurt and fruit, rye toast and peanut butter, a kale and berry protein smoothie . And then the weekend is always steak and eggs or smoked salmon and bagels.
PAPAYA WITH GREEK YOGURT Breakfast is hands down the most important meal of the day. I never miss it. It gets your metabolism going. And Papaya (Paw Paw or Panino if you are from South Africa) is one of my favorite fruits to eat for brekkie. It’s loaded with antioxidants to detox and cleanse your system. I love to enjoy it with a squeeze of lime juice. But I created this amazing combo which I cannot get enough of. I use the papaya as a bowl and fill it with Greek yogurt, which has tons of protein to keep you fuller longer. I also am not satisfied until I add a crunchy and chewy element to my food so I’ve added granola, walnuts, mangos, blue berries and pumpkin seeds. You can create your own using whatever you have in your pantry. I guarantee you this breakfast is going to be on constant rotation in your life. You are welcome. Happy Mondayxxx Chef MM
6:30am: Pack my daughter’s lunch and drop her at school
8am: Workout. My exercise of choice is always swimming in the ocean but if that is not possible I love the pool. I find the breathe in my ears is quite meditative and there is something healing to me about the water. I do most of my thinking when I swim. I also like to walk in nature or around the old cities in Italy. Nothing fast paced. Just a slow walk taking in all the beauty of the plants, butterflies and flowers. I am a yogi, but I tend to lean towards the geriatric style, slow placed, restorative classes with a lot of twists, stretching and forward bends. I am high energy person, so I use exercise to quiet my mind rather than to work out my body. I tend to put on muscle very quickly due to my high protein diet, so I avoid lunging, squatting and weights. I think it adds bulk.
Some of you might not know but last week we closed on a home in Lucca Italy. It's been my dream to retire there for more than 8 years and I manifested it into existence. Many of you reached out to me with questions about how I did this. I don't claim to be an expert on this. But I do know one thing is key… Surrounding yourself with positive thoughts and energy. I made a Quick VIDEO entitled "THE POWER OF POSITIVE THINKING" showing you some of the tools I use to stay upbeat and connect with my purpose. Check it out on my YouTube channel @chefmelissamayo . I hope you enjoy it. Social media and the world is filled with so much hate and negativity at the moment. Don't take it in. Move towards the light. We are all G-d creatures no matter our religious and politcal beliefs. So don't forget to share your light with someone who might need a boost. Only love, light and blessings my beautiful friends xxx Chef MM ____________________________________ Photo @heinrichknoetzephotography
10am: Cook and style and shoot some recipes. Edit these and post the recipe to my site. Do any social media posts and reply to all questions and comments from my community. I am a one woman team so there is always work to be done.
12pm: Lunch is usually a salad with some sort of whole grain, lot of different colors and a grilled protein. I love tuna and beets and I probably eat ½ a cup of olive oil a day. Some days I am lucky enough to grab sushi and a glass of vino with a girlfriend. And then an expresso to digest my meal.
Happy Monday guys. I know the holidays are close and everything seems a little more hectic. Traffic is crazy and people are stressing out. At busy times it's even more important to slow down and breathe. I make sure to take the time to sit down and enjoy each and every meal. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Today I'm having one of my favorite go to lunches… Tuns Salad with all the rainbow colors and lots of "Crunch". YUMMMMMO xxx Chef MM
1pm: There’s always a lot of laundry, house work, errands and grocery shopping. I am a mom and wife first so some days my work just has to wait and I am okay with that.
2pm: Fetch my daughter from school and head home and make her a light and healthy lunch to tide her over to dinner time.
3pm: Snack. Usually some nuts, or a few blocks of dark chocolate or some biltong (South African style beef jerky) and another expresso.
So many possibilities with all this gorgeous fresh produce 🍠🍌🍎🍏🍊🍋🍅🍆🍇🍈🍉🍐🍑🍒🍓🍍. Now that I have shopped the rainbow I need to figure out what to make. I am just so excited to finally be back in my kitchen (my happy place) after months of traveling. Stay tuned for some new recipes and thanks for patiently waiting for me to return. I love you all so much. Wishing you a magical weekend and shabbat shalom xxx Chef MM
4pm: I’m DONE for the day. It’s family time. My phone is put on silent. I put on the music of Andrea Bocelli. I pour myself a glass of wine, and drink it while I make dinner. We use the BBQ a lot, so I prep some fish, chicken, steak or lamb to go on the grill. I also make a huge salad and roasted veggies. My husband is 6’4” and is very active with a healthy appetite and my daughter is already taller than me so dinner time is our biggest meal.
5:30pm: Dinnertime. Saul grills the food and we eat together. This is actually my favourite part of the day. I grew up eating dinner with my family, something that most American’s don’t do. We slow down, catch up on our day, savour each other’s company and the food in front of us. We eat like we are in Italy. Long, slow, lazy meals. Then I load the dishwasher and clean up.
Braaied Lamb Chops for dinner tonight 🔥🔥🔥🔥 My absolute best. Nothing better than the charred taste they get on the grill. I've marinated them with some fresh thyme, garlic and mustard. And I'm serving it alongside some brocollini, sweet potatoes and cherry tomatoes. That's what I call a rainbow plate. Wishing you all a magical Thursday xxx Chef MM
7pm: Bath time followed by some TV time or sometimes just a book. I love the library and read any free chance I get. I find this is the best way to fall asleep. I also meditate for 5 minutes before bed time.
- Coffee or tea?
Always coffee. And none of the fancy lattes and cappuccinos. My Nespresso machine works overtime. I love a straight up short shot of black expresso, strong enough to spit a whole in the sidewalk. I probably have 4 a day and can fall asleep straight after having one. I think the Italian lifestyle has worn off on me.
- What is your indulgence of choice?
My weakness is salt and vinegar chips. I can flatten a bag on my own. It’s a serious addiction for which there is no cure. I think it’s the crunch factor that gets me.
- Three foods you can’t live without?
Steak, Italian Olive Oil (I have about ½ a cup every day), dark chocolate. And red wine for sure. I think I’d take wine over air.
There is absolutely no doubt that #internationaldrinkwineday 🍷🍷🍷 is my favorite holiday of them all. I mean red wine is one of the 4 basic food groups along with steak, dark chocolate and coffee. Am I right?? Hell yeah! I drink to all of your continued health and success wherever you are and whatever you are doing. Saulte, L'chaim, chin chin, cheers xxx Chef MM
- What’s your go-to snack for those days on the run?
Biltong (South African style beef jerky), a handful of nuts with a piece of fruit or dried fruit
- And any last words of advice or tips for those starting out on their health journey?
Be kind to yourself. You only have this moment so make it count. I’m in my mid 40’s and I have finally learned to be comfortable in my own skin. I wish I could tell my 20 or 30 year old self to be okay with the choices I made. I’d tell myself, not look for approval from others. I like my own company and I am no longer concerned with how I look on the outside, but how I feel on the inside. If something or someone doesn’t bring me peace, I make no apologies for stepping away. I am very protective of my energy and I am most happy when I am creating something. When I am inspired I feel closest to G-d. I want to use my work to bring light to those around me and to lift them up an encourage them. Giving is so much better than receiving. My goal now is to make sure that I will be strong enough and have enough energy to be able to keep up with my grandchildren. I want to age gracefully, winkles and all. My smile and my frown lines show a life well lived. I have earned them all and I finally realize, true beauty shines from the inside.
Join Jess and Melissa at their event in May – click here for tickets!