Cooking: Chef Elle Jones' Story

Published by: on Monday July 2nd, 2012

On my 35th birthday, I decided to do a health evaluation to see how my body was holding up after the birth of five children. When I listed my 36th ailment, I had a meltdown. Then I remembered something Morgan Freeman said in the movie Shawshank Redemption. "Get busy living or get busy dying." I began to read everything I could find about natural food and healing. My meltdown turned into revelation. With a sixth newborn packed snugly in my backpack and a six hour daily commute, I went back to school to study nutrition. That was then. Today, my stove is for decoration. I am 100% raw.

Five years ago, Rawsome Foods, Inc. was just a vision. Just before its birth, I remember going on a mountain climb with one burning question. Was this my destiny? Before I began, my climbing instructor said, “Let me carry your backpack. You don’t need the extra weight. This is your first climb. You’ll need all your strength.” My guide said a lot of things that day. “Make the best decision for the moment. Not everyone makes it up the mountain. Some get halfway and turn back. Just keep climbing. Don’t rest too long.” I passed others. We were all here for different reasons. It was well over 100 degrees. I couldn’t see – only feel, claw, pull up my weight, stretch, search for a foothold and begin again. The instructions continued, “Just when your footing seems sure, be cautious. If you fall in the easy places you won’t have the strength to get up from the hard ones.”

A trained guide can keep you focused, can keep you from making a fatal mistake, can make the climb with you, but can’t make the climb for you. Sometimes, even when you follow their advice and are moving in the right direction, there are still obstacles like camouflaged boulders on the side of a mountain. Obstacles have a way of causing crystallizing moments when you realize that sometimes you have to backtrack around them to continue the climb. A few feet back…or all the way down.

My experience backward was five feet – an inch shy the length of my body. Like a whole “me” do over. Five feet might not sound like much – until you’ve been hugging the side of a slope for a long time. But then you look up toward the top of the mountain, and you just know that your answer is there.

You wonder, though, if you get to the top, if there will be others, like you, waiting. Maybe they started their climb a little earlier or hung around a little longer to enjoy the view.

Illness, wellness…is just like climbing a mountain. You don't know how far you've come unless you pause now and then for reference. When you do, you’ll see where you started, the path you chose, where you fell, where you are, how far you’ve come…Though the journey isn’t over, you’ll realize that you just might make it. And if that’s not enough, you’ll realize that if you do, on your way back down you’ll pass others halfway up their own climb. You’ll encourage them to keep going. You’ll become an instructor. If you did it, they can, too. And, they’ll believe you.

You know why? Because of the crest. One-point-two miles. Straight up, with the exception of a four-foot zigzag. I stood upright under an Arizona sun. Every cell in me ached. I was dust covered and disheveled, but I had made it.

There was nothing but open space above me, humanity before me, and a firm foundation beneath me. My instructor scrambled up behind me on the breach of the summit. For a moment, there was the flavor of sweet success forged from the journey of only two. 

To know, versus to experience, is not the same thing. I turn to find my guide, not scanning the horizon, but watching me weep at the vision. She's already been here – seen it with others – hundreds, maybe thousands of times. But she looks at me, through me, like she’s seeing it for the first time – and she is – through my eyes.

I am here because of her guidance. Her words, all along, the answer to my question... is THIS my destiny? Can I do it? A seed here, suggestion there, familiar ground, just enough encouragement for the grip I was in.

There is no one else here – me, my God and my guide. Those who didn't make it – won’t even know they missed it. But I would. One last, long look…I would store every pixel of that view in my long-term memory. It would have to be enough for me to describe it to others in words that would give them the will to start the climb.

It is a journey that has taken me eight years and 1.2 miles! Today at the age of 44, I am healthier, happier and have more energy than I have had in all my life! I may not be able to decide the length of my days, but I can do something about the quality of them.

Everybody has a story. Like everybody has a mountain. At least that’s my story. What’s yours?

Chef Elle Jones Story