MGU 2 | Pursuing Our Passions

 

For some of us, our passions are not only limited to one thing. However, sometimes when a particular one sticks out, we tend to just focus on it as a career and forget the others. Proving that you don’t have to trade all of your passions for one is Jason Wrobel – chef, musician, actor, and practitioner of yoga, pilates, weight training, meditation, and more. In this episode, Jason shares his rollercoaster path from his childhood up to now. Breaking out of the mechanistic environment of Detroit into the land of opportunity in Los Angeles, Jason set out on a path to pursue his passion for music and acting, and later discovered the world of raw food. After going vegan, he transitioned into being a chef by enrolling in a fully raw vegan culinary school in Northern California called Living Light Culinary and then working for Matthew Kenney. Before long, he grew to be an influential person in the health and wellness space with his own cooking show and a cookbook deal. Just when everything seems to go well as a celebrity chef, Jason started getting burnt out and frustrated. Find out how he bounced back to finding where his creativity is leading him to and learn the lessons he picked up along the way.

Listen to the podcast here:

Journey Across Passions: Pursuing Music, Acting, And Culinary

We are building upon an episode to introduce you to this podcast. If you have not read that yet, we recommend that you do to learn a little bit more about the purpose of this show at Wellevatr.com. What we’re going to do is talk about Jason. This episode is devoted entirely to him. We’re going to be doing it interview style. It’s similar to what you’ll hear in upcoming episodes with us when we have special guests on. If you haven’t read the intro episode yet, you may not know that a lot of these episodes will be a conversation between me and Jason. Some of them will include special guests that will also be conversational.

I shouldn’t even use the word interview. I’m using that mainly to clarify the format. I prefer the word conversation for this show because we aim to make this something that you feel a part of, you’re a fly on the wall and you’re learning about whatever subject matter or subject matters we’re discussing. Hopefully, that will help you feel not only connected to us but get the wheels turning in your mind and think about how you feel about these subject matters. You get to think about how you feel about Jason.

That’s a loaded subject. You get to think about how you feel about Jason. I get to think about how I feel about myself, I suppose too.

I want to start at the beginning of Jason Wrobel. To do that, the first thing I would love you to share is about your mother. What do you know about your mother before you were born? Who was Susan Wrobel?

As far as I know from what she’s told me and anecdotes from other family members and family friends, my mom, as a child, was very active and was always an animal lover. They always had animals in the house growing up on my mom’s side of the family. My mom has a lot of pictures of her with her animals. The one that stands out, in particular, I can remember is her bunny rabbit named Fluffy. It’s like an arctic white giant rabbit that she had as a child. My mom was always rescuing animals, protecting animals and adopting animals. Definitely, as far as I know in her family, she had that instinct. I can see that was the source of probably my love and affinity for loving, protecting and rescuing animals. My mom had that as a child.

How did your mom meet your dad?

In between childhood and meeting my dad, there was high school. My mom got straight As. My mom basically had a perfect high school career. She got straight As. She was the class valedictorian. She was the homecoming queen and she dated the captain of the football team. It’s ridiculous. If you had a storybook high school career academically and socially, my mom had that. It was insane.

Where was this?

This was in Detroit, Michigan. She went to a Catholic school in downtown Detroit where she grew up, west of Tiger Stadium in downtown Detroit. It’s very close to the center of downtown, but still in a neighborhood. When my mom graduated high school, she was debating what she wanted to do and decided to go to Wayne State University, which also interestingly is where Dr. Wayne Dyer graduated from.

Who is that for anyone unfamiliar with him?

Dr. Wayne Dyer, who passed a few years ago, is one of the most prolific luminaries and teachers on higher consciousness and spirituality, love, manifestation and abundance. He wrote countless numbers of New York Times bestsellers and PBS specials along with Louise Hay. It seems that those two were at the pinnacle of the Hay House Media empire for many years before their passing. Wayne Dyer has inspired many people with his message of love, consciousness, abundance and faith. He’s a Detroit boy, graduated from Wayne State. It’s my mom’s alma mater as well. My mom was on campus one day hanging out at Wayne State, which again, the heart of downtown. We’re talking the late ’60s. The massive Cultural Revolution that was taking place in this country in the late ’60s musically, artistically and politically, she was in all that. My dad comes on campus. My dad wasn’t going to college, FYI. He was an older dude hanging out on campus to pick up chicks.

How much older?

My dad was six or seven years older than my mom. When my mom was eighteen, he was maybe in his mid-twenties. He’s on campus hanging out. My mom said the reason she was attracted to him initially when she met him was that he was very kind. He rode a motorcycle. He was a great dancer. Those are the three things she said. He was kind, he rode a motorcycle and he was a great dancer.

Is your mom a good dancer?

She has a funny food dance. The only dance that I’ve seen my mom do consistently is she’s got a signature dance when she takes a bite of food that she loves. She leans her head back. She shimmies her shoulders. That’s my mom’s signature move.

Your mom is Polish 100%?

No, I did 23AndMe. Whitney gifted me with 23AndMe. I did my genetics. The impression that I was under it was a pretty cut and dry ethnic lineage, but I found some surprises there. On my mom’s side, I was predominantly Polish, but also mixed in there is some Italian and Ashkenazi Jew. I did not know about the Italian or the Ashkenazi Jew.

People had their suspicions about the Jewish side.

There’s a story right behind the Jewish lineage that ties back to the composer and pianist, Frederic Chopin. My dad’s side was pretty cut and dry. It was Puerto Rican, Spanish and a little bit of sub-Saharan African. There are few surprises thrown into the lineage.

He’s a great dancer. He’s got a lot of that soul.

My dad had many gifts and talents and so do my mom had very different gifts and talents.

Your mom has all the cooking talent. A lot of this makes sense for who you became. Your dad used to ride a motorcycle. Now, you have a motorcycle. You’ve had several before. You love to cook. You also dance a lot. You like to sing. You like younger women.

Not as a rule, but yeah, that seems to be what happens. That seems to be how it plays out in life.

How did you come about in your parents’ lives? Did they decide to have you? Did they get married? What’s the story behind you and your parents?

My mom and dad were never married. Consequently, I always make this ridiculous joke that, if anyone has ever like “You’re a bastard.” I’d be like, “You’re technically correct. Try again.” I identified with John Snow, although we know anyway, that wasn’t true. My mom and dad were never married. They got together in late ’60s or early ’70s. I was born in ’77. I was conceived in the winter of ’76 and that makes sense because in the winter in Detroit, not a whole lot to do other than dig yourself out of snow and make babies. Mom and dad were together probably close to a decade before I came on the scene.

Since they didn’t get married, was it, “Let’s have a son, let’s have a kid?”

I don’t believe I was planned.

What happened after you entered their lives?

It’s interesting because there were a lot of fascinating stories prior to my birth. There are many fascinating stories that I’ve often wanted to write a movie script, talking about these adventures and the crazy stuff that specifically my dad initiated in life. There were a lot of crazy adventures and too many cinematic, crazy movie stuff. When I came on the scene, my dad was still getting these old classic cars. When we were growing up, we had a lot of Porsches, Jaguars, Excaliburs, MGs and cool stuff in Detroit because one of the things he was doing as a side hustle or maybe his primary hustle were finding these old cars. He was rehabbing them, refinishing them and selling them for a profit. When I was young, he was still doing that.

Before that, he was working as a stonemason, but he also was getting into acting. As I got a little bit older, three, four years old, there was this debate of whether or not I was going to be raised in Los Angeles where he was getting acting gigs or if I was going to be raised in Detroit. As my dad got into acting and was being booked for movies and TV and stuff, my mom had to make a decision. Ultimately, her decision was that the LA lifestyle and the entertainment world was a little too crazy and his life was getting really insane.

Freedom of expression and sharing our truth is such a vitally important thing for all of us as humans in this world. Click To Tweet

What does that mean?

First of all, my father had this ability to kick down doors and be in rooms that you would never have expected him to be in. The reason he got into the acting business is he had a gorgeous Jaguar XKE that he was in California trying to sell. The famous TV producer, Mickey Spillane, who did the Mike Hammer series and a bunch of other TV series in the ’70s and ’80s wanted to buy this Jag from my dad. My dad said to Mickey Spillane, “I’ll cut you a great deal on this Jaguar, but you’re going to write me into an episode of Mike Hammer,” like the balls on this guy, who does that? He did. The next thing you know, Mickey Spillane is like, “Sure.” He writes my dad in who had zero, not a day of acting experience in his life was on with Stacy Keach in the ’70s or maybe it was the early ’80s on the Mike Hammer TV series. My dad gets his SAG card. The next thing you know, I’m at home watching him on The A-Team, Simon & Simon. He was on Casablanca, the series in the ‘80s. My dad was working. He’s on Fantasy Island.

It’s not major roles, but enough that he was a day player, where he’d get paid for a day’s work, was a union actor and doing his thing. The craziness was basically him living the Hollywood lifestyle, being an actor, hanging out with paparazzi, having a few celebrity friends, drinking, drugs, partying and all the things. My mom is with me, a young child was like, “I don’t know if that’s the lifestyle and situation I want to have my son involved in.” She saw that my dad was becoming increasingly erratic, unstable and focusing on this new career and this new lifestyle, she thought it might be more stable and sane to raise me in Detroit where we had our family there. My mom and dad’s family were both in Detroit. That was a decision. It was like LA or Detroit. I was almost raised in Los Angeles. That was a consideration.

Do you think part of the reason that you eventually moved to Los Angeles has to do with your dad? He was out here when you moved out here. In what year did you move to LA?

I originally moved out here in 2005. The last time I saw my father was in 2005. I know that one of the big reasons that I moved out here was because when I was little, he would send me photos of the ocean in the hills and movie sets he was on. For a kid growing up in the city of Detroit that felt like a fantasy land. It’s like, “What is this magical place called California?” What is this? What do you mean ocean and surfboards and Mustang convertibles and Hollywood? It seemed like the most magical place, like the polar opposite of the energy and environment of Detroit.

Which was what for you growing up?

It’s interesting because as a child I don’t think that I was necessarily aware of the larger context of the culture and environment of Detroit as a little kid. As I got older though, I started realizing that as my desire to be a student filmmaker or actor or musician, all the artistic pursuits. Detroit felt like a very mechanistic environment of what do you do when you graduate? You go to become an engineer. You work for the Ford Motor Company, Chrysler or GM. There’s like a formulaic mentality there. I don’t like formulas. I don’t like doing what everyone else is doing. I never have. I’ve always felt very rebellious in that sense. California to me and Los Angeles specifically seeing it through my father’s lifestyle growing up was like, “He’s an actor. He’s got all these great cars. He’s hanging out with celebrities. What is this world? This is a crazy life.”

As an adult coming out to LA in my late twenties, it was definitely this idea of, “This is the land of opportunity. What can I do with California here in this environment that I couldn’t necessarily do in Detroit?” It was an opportunity. It was also, from an ego perspective, almost this idea of redemption. My father eventually derailed his own career. He started showing up late for movie sets. He got addicted to drugs and drinking. He sabotaged his life and his career in many ways because of his own mental struggles and demons. I almost had a mission that I was going to come out here and do what he wasn’t able to do, which is one of the main drivers of why I wanted to get my own TV series, act and do music. To be radically honest about it, one of my deepest wounds is not-enoughness because I never felt like I was enough because my father ended up leaving and leaving the family situation. It was almost like if I’m successful and I have my own TV series, I’m famous and I make a lot of money, I’ll be enough. Do you approve of me now, Dad? I did better than you.

Did you want your approval from your dad or from your mom or equally? Did you feel like you got approval from your mom?

It’s interesting because no matter what I’ve chosen to do, my mom has always been very supportive of that. My mom has been a rock. She’s been a great friend. While I don’t agree with her perspective on everything, obviously I feel like she’s given me so much love, guidance and generosity. She’s one of the most incredibly generous, loving human beings I know.

Jason and I are such good friends. I’ve known his mom for years. I’m surprised when you say we don’t agree with everything. What’s one thing that comes to the top of mind that you and your mom don’t agree on?

It’s the motorcycle and fast cars. I started getting into buying and modifying cars and riding motorcycles almost twenty years ago. My mom and dad had Porsches, Jaguars and all of these amazing old cars. They would work on a Shelby 427 Cobra, all this crazy stuff for the car fans out there and they both rode motorcycles. My mom had a Harley and a Honda and so did my dad. They both rode. When I started to get into it, I was like, “Fast cars and motorcycles.” I was like, “Pot meets kettle.”

Did that remind her of your dad do you think? Like, “I don’t want Jason to turn out like he did,” or was it that she knew that they were dangerous and so it was more of a fear because you’re her only child?

She’s at least never communicated to me that there was a fear that I was going to end up like my father. That’s never even been hinted at. It’s a sheer concern for my safety and protection.

If it wasn’t the motorcycle, what’s another point? I can’t think of anything I’ve heard you disagree with.

MGU 2 | Pursuing Our Passions

Raw Food/Real World: 100 Recipes to Get the Glow

One big thing is sometimes when I’ve put out content on social media, mostly video content. I wish I could think of something specific right now. One thing doesn’t come to mind, but there have been moments where I’ve spoken my mind on social media and done it in a way that people aren’t used to. If I had to generalize about maybe how people have perceived me for most of my career, it’s this happy, bright, sunny, cheerful, “I want to entertain you, I want to bring you joy” type of person. There have been certain videos where I’ve been a little more hardcore. I’ll use profanity and I’ll get charged up. Regardless of how people feel, I share my truth in sometimes radical ways of like, “I don’t give a shit what you think I’m going to share my truth and it’ll be what it is.”

Don’t you think that’s one of the main elements of this show?

100%. There’s a handful of times where it was like I said something or did something or position something and my mom is like, “You might want to think about taking that video down or editing it.” I’m like, “No.”

Why do you think that you’re resistant to her given that she has your best interest in mind?

My trigger is being censored.

Why is that a trigger?

I feel like freedom of expression and sharing our truth is such a vitally important thing for me and for all of us as humans to express in this world too. I feel like there was so much fear around placating others or people-pleasing or telling people what they want to hear. For a lot of years, I was trying to play a role in my career. I wasn’t fully speaking my truth. I wasn’t fully 100% myself. In moments, it was like, “I’m going to be edgy right now and I’m going to be charged up or I might be angry or drop some f-bombs or share some of the perspectives of my truth that people may or may not like.”

There’s a freedom in that. I feel a sense of liberation or getting closer to the truth of who I am. To get feedback from my mom specifically of like, “I don’t know if you should say that.” It’s like, “It’s been said and I’m not taking it down.” I’m not. Part of it is like in those moments I would remind my mom because my mom was also very rebellious growing up. I’ve got fourteen tattoos. I drive a motorcycle. I adopted five animals. I’m Vegan, I’ve been in punk rock bands, I skydive. It’s this thing that whenever she’s like, “Kiddo,” I’m like, “You raised me to have an open mind, to be rebellious and to look at what everyone else is doing and say, ‘F the status quo, be you.’”

Did she consciously raise you that way? Did she ever say those things to you or do you feel like you were following her lead because she was like that?

It’s two things. Yes, I was following her lead and my mom always encouraged me and still does to question everything and have an open mind.

How did she do that?

She wouldn’t tell me, “Keep your mind open, question everything and don’t take things at face value.” Whether it’s been my explorations in spirituality, health, love, art, music, basically anything that I’ve been super crazy passionate about, it was always going full force into it, go all the way into it and you’re part of it, find your truth in it, find what resonates. There have been women, but there haven’t been pursuits where she was like, “I don’t know if this is good for you.”

The women she doesn’t think are good for you is what you’re saying.

It’s so interesting because probably a lot of people, there’s this natural tendency of, “I don’t want to hear it. I love this person. Be quiet. Can’t you just be happy for me?” Interestingly, the women that she’s been reticent about turned out to not be so great for me.

Your mom is a very intelligent woman. Has your mom still been supportive of you in letting you figure things out on your own where she states her opinion and she accepts the fact that you may make a different decision? Is she that type of person?

Keep your mind open, question everything and don't take things at face value. Click To Tweet

Yeah, she’ll give guidance, perspective, wisdom and also knows especially at this point that I’m going to do what I want anyway. I appreciate her. It’s not often that she’ll say, “Jason, can I tell you how I feel about this?” When she does, they’re very dear and closest people in my life. When someone feels the need to interject and share what’s on their heart and mind or their perspective on something in my life, I listen. It doesn’t mean I’m going to agree with it, but I will definitely listen and be present to it.

Especially if they ask you first if they can share feedback, you like that a lot.

If we’re talking about triggers, one of the things I got breathe through still is when I get unsolicited feedback from people. It doesn’t matter if you’re the closest person in my life or a stranger on the internet when people chime in with their two cents and I haven’t asked for it.

They didn’t ask permission first because somebody could approach you and say, “Do you mind if I give you some feedback?”

That’s to me a very kind approach. My preferred communication style is permission-based communication where it’s like, “I have a perspective on this. I have some feedback. Are you open to it?” I might say yes, no, or not right now. When someone launches into something and throw a should in like, “You should do this,” I’m like, “Thank you for that. I didn’t ask.” That’s still something I’m working on is to have compassion, patience and tolerance for people that feel the need to do that.

Did you come out to California and immediately go to culinary school? Is that the first thing that you did in California or were you already living in California doing something non-culinary related? I don’t recall the story. You were already a raw foodist though in 2005, weren’t you?

Yeah. I did a cross country road trip from Detroit to California.

Why?

I knew it was time to leave.

Why did you pick California? Was it because like you said with your dad? Your dad was alive. He was out here. Were you coming temporarily? Did you think that you’re going to stay here since then?

I had a massive garage sale in that summer and basically sold the majority of my possessions. I packed up my Honda Prelude and drove to LA.

Did you drive with Gary?

No.

Who did you drive with?

I took a solo cross-country road trip from Detroit to LA.

Still, some people sell everything and don’t think that they’re going to stay somewhere. Maybe they don’t know where they’re going to end up. Did you think then that you were going to stay in Los Angeles for this long?

Yeah.

What about LA? Have you visited previously?

Yeah, especially with my dad’s career in the ’80s and early ’90s. I visited LA a lot. I was not green to LA. I had been many times. I had a couple of family friends here. When I came out as an adult in 2005, I knew the lay of the land of LA.

What did you think you were going to do for work or what was your first job? Did you have a job lined up or you came here in faith and said, “I’m going to find this job?” Where you on a certain career path at that point before you went to culinary school?

It was music and acting. I came out to LA for music and acting.

What do you define as music?

I was in many bands in Chicago and Detroit before that making music, recording, doing live shows. One of my best friends who I was in a duo called The Bellicose Butchers, his name is Rob, he moved out a few months prior to LA. He was out here already. There were two other friends from Detroit. I knew a few people in Los Angeles. I knew literally a handful, like five people. I thought, “That’s enough. We’ll lean on each other. I know some people there. I’m not going in like a complete rookie. I’ve been to LA many times. I know the general lay of the land.” I had a little money saved. I had to quit my job. I was working at a children’s theater in Detroit as their marketing director and a children’s theater teacher. I quit that job in February of 2005. I traveled to Central America, Costa Rica. I went to Europe for the summer. I basically traveled that spring and summer. I was like, “It’s time to go to LA. I knew it. I could feel it.

Can you pause there because another important thing as we lead up to the culinary side of things is you went plant-based in Detroit in what year?

I became vegetarian in late 1996 and became Vegan in the summer of ’98.

When did you go raw vegan?

Raw was in ’04.

It’s about a year before you moved to Los Angeles. Do you want to share briefly why you decided? I’m sure people could find this in a lot of your interviews, but what’s the summary of all of it? Why did you go vegetarian, vegan and then raw? How did that affect your life in Los Angeles?

When I was little, we found out pretty quickly that I was lactose intolerant. Dairy was off the table. My mom, after she finished breastfeeding me, put me on soy formula. I didn’t have meat at all for maybe the first three years. There’s a funny story when she first served me chicken, how I looked at it and looked up at her and was confused. I said like, “What is this?” She said, “It’s chicken.” I looked at her quizzically and made the flapping arm motion. She said, “Yeah.” I was so horrified. I refused to eat it. Gradually through school and hanging out with friends, you get indoctrinated. My initial instinct was not to eat meat. When I was eighteen, my grandfather passed away from cancer and it set me off into this exploration of why are people getting sick and dying, cancer, diabetes and heart issues are not some common thing.

There was this attitude of like, “It’s what happens when you get older.” When my grandfather passed, that was this beautiful gift, this catalyst that got me researching. At that time, the mad cow disease was coming out in the mid-’90s. I was getting in tune with my own sense of spirituality, ethics and thought, “What if I start cutting out junk food, soda and artificial foods.” I started to feel better. I started cutting out one meat at a time. Over the course of three years, between ’95 and ’98, I went from a fully standard American diet, eating junk food, getting triples at Wendy’s. It’s not even on the menu. You take a triple at Wendy’s that has three patties. That’s nuts, to May of 1998 being fully vegan.

Much like anything else, there can be this myopic, fervent, psychotic pursuit of something. Click To Tweet

It was a very gradual thing where the more organic fruits and vegetables and healthy food, I felt my skin cleared up. I felt better. I’ve lost probably fifteen pounds. I felt good and I never looked back. The raw thing came because along with my buddy Gary Yourofsky, we were pretty hardcore junk food vegans. We were getting down with the crazy 2003 and 2004. It was a lot of Philly cheesesteaks, a lot of sliders, a lot of pizza, a lot of heavy junky vegan food. One day we were in Ohio and we went to a bakery. I’ve only done it once in my life. It was in Cincinnati or Cleveland. It was 2003 or ’04. I went into this vegan bakery. I was so excited like, “What do you mean there’s a vegan bakery?” I ordered one of everything.

How many items was that?

It’s dozens. On the road trip back to Detroit, I ate all of these baked goods. I got so sick. I started to think to myself that maybe eating all this junky food is not like the best idea for my health. That’s when I discovered raw. 2004 is the year when Raw Food/Real World came out by Matthew Kenney. To that point, raw food was hummus and cut veggies. That book came out and I remember leafing through the pages and being like, “Raw lasagna, like raw noodles, sushi, chocolate-avocado pudding, what in the name of God is this?”

How did you even find that?

I honestly don’t remember. My mom has the largest collection of vegan cookbooks I’ve ever seen. She has two massive bookshelves full of vegan cookbooks.

Your mom went vegan as well in what year?

My mom went vegan three or four months after I did in 1998.

Both of you are vegan. You were living with her in Detroit. One of you comes across this raw food trend.

I was like, “This is amazing.” I remember digging in and starting to experiment. Also, a person I was dating at the time was getting into raw. It was this whole, “What’s this raw thing?” 2004, 2005, I’m rocking this raw food thing. That led me to an interesting serendipitous moment when I moved out to LA in ’05, cross country road trip. I’m in LA. I’m going on auditions. My roommate was a musician. We started a new band and started a new project, but no money is coming in. I’m watching my savings drain. The cost of living was substantively more in LA. My last flat in Detroit, I was paying $175 a month in rent.

Needless to say, if you don’t have a gig in a big city like LA or New York and you come from a place where you’re paying $175 a month in rent, it was a culture shock. I’m watching my savings drain. I’m like, “This is getting uncomfortable.” I went to Euphoria Co in Santa Monica because I’d heard about it. It was Janabai Owens and at that time, her partner Matt Amsden had the RAWvolution delivery service. This was before the restaurant even opened. I went to Euphoria Co. I met Janabai for the first time. I was telling her I’m thinking about going to culinary school. She’s like, “Do you know about Living Light Culinary Academy?” I was like, “What is Living Light Culinary Academy?” She said it’s a fully raw vegan culinary school up in Northern Cal. I was like, “Sign me up.” I went on the website the next day and I enrolled in their chef’s training.

Why did you decide though? What were the thought process and emotional reaction to that?

It was so exciting. I was so on fire for the whole raw vegan culinary thing because in 2005, it was still in its infancy. It was very exciting because I have always loved to cook food. My mom and my grandmother Rose were amazing cooks. I got my love of food because our family loved food. Food was a bonding experience in my family. It was a very sacred thing to get together at the dinner table and make food and eat food. The raw thing was exciting. It was fresh. It was new. There weren’t many places in LA at that time. There was a Juliano’s Planet Raw and there was Taste of the Goddess. It was exciting and I thought I need to create an opportunity for me to make some money because acting and music are not paying the bills. It was this ancillary art form that I loved that I thought, “Maybe I can do this as a career.” Full disclosure, the reason I went to culinary school is that I wasn’t making money as a musician or an actor. It was like, “I need a Plan B here because I’m drowning.” That’s why I went to culinary school. That was not Plan A.

You finished up culinary school and you came back to LA. Did you immediately start working in the raw food world?

I got a job offer to be the head chef at RAWvolution under Matt Amsden and I turned it down. It didn’t feel like the right opportunity.

Why? Sadly, RAWvolution is closed but it was a fantastic raw food restaurant in Los Angeles. Hearing you talk about it is bringing it back a lot of memories. It was in Santa Monica, Venice area and they had a lot of creative foods.

MGU 2 | Pursuing Our Passions

Pursuing Our Passions: There will be times when you forget to turn on your recorder, and the next morning, the musical idea would be gone.

 

I’m fresh out of culinary school. I apply for a job because they were opening RAWvolution in the winter of ’05. It might have been the pay. It was like $11 or $12 an hour. I was like, “What? I can’t live on this in LA.” I ended up getting a job offer to go back to Detroit and open a cafe there. I went back for a few months. My girlfriend at the time though was living in New York City and we were in this mode of, “Someone needs to make a decision here. Someone’s going to come to New York or I’m going to come there.” I left that gig in Detroit and ended up working for Matthew Kenney at the Jivamuktea Cafe in New York City. I moved to New York.

Matthew Kenney for reference is?

Matthew Kenney is the originator, one of the cofounders of Pure Food and Wine in New York. He’s written many amazing raw and vegan cookbooks. He now is the proprietor of Plant Food and Wine in Venice. He’s got restaurants literally all over the world, Double Zero Pizza. He’s also got a packed food line coming out. He’s a prolific chef and he was also a great mentor to me. He was my first real culinary mentor out of culinary school, who took me under his wing. When he was available, he was guiding me at the cafe.

Full circle, that cafe has a health and wellness center in LA where you do yoga.

It’s the Jivamukti Yoga Center where I was the chef at their cafe back in 2006. They opened in 2019 in the downtown LA Arts District, which is close to my house. I started going as a throwback. I hadn’t done Jivamukti yoga at a Jivamukti Centers since I visited in ’08, but it had been eleven years since I did a Jivamukti yoga class. It was so familiar, sweet and the energy was good. It’s been a full circle, interesting thing to be practicing a Jivamukti again.

We won’t go too much in-depth through your culinary career because I feel like there are many interviews of Jason talking about this. The summary though is that you work for Matthew Kenney. You come back to Los Angeles. What made you make that decision?

When I was living in New York City, my girlfriend at the time who was also a chef, got a job offer to work for Google. You don’t turn down Google. It’s like, “If the great Google is making a job offer, you better well take it.” We left New York and moved to Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley was not my vibe at all. It didn’t feel like a place that resonated with me energetically. I spent most of my time when I was living in the bay there in either Santa Cruz or San Francisco. I thought about moving to San Francisco. I ended up moving to Santa Cruz after my girlfriend and I broke up. I knew I didn’t want to be in Silicon Valley. It wasn’t my vibe. It was very suburban, very techie, very white. It felt very sterile to me. I was in Santa Cruz, San Francisco. The Bay Area, I have so much love for it. I love San Francisco. I love that city. I love Santa Cruz, but it felt to me like the itch to have more opportunity was not there. It felt like the ceiling was low in a way. I wanted to make music. I wanted to keep the music going. I wanted to keep the acting going, but it felt to me like LA was calling me. It was an intuitive thing that LA was like, “No, it’s time for you to come back.”

How’s your dad passed away at this point?

No, dad was still alive.

What year is this?

This is 2007. I’m in the Bay Area and my intuition is like, “You need to get your ass back to LA.” I was like, “Okay.” I moved back to Los Angeles on April 1st, April Fool’s Day of 2007. I’ve been here ever since. There have been many permutations. I had a catering business with my friend, Mike, for about a year and a half. I was doing celebrity personal cheffing. I did nutritional consultations for people. When things started to pivot in an interesting way was YouTube and social media. In January of 2011 is when I got my first sponsorship deal on my YouTube channel.

The story behind your very first YouTube video, wasn’t it like a submission for something?

My very first YouTube video ever is me doing a culinary demo from 2009 with David Wolfe at the launch of the Longevity Lifestyle series. When they were launching the Longevity Now Conference, for those of you who’ve never heard of this, it was one of the largest, health and wellness conferences for many years. It’s a global thing where people from all over the world would come. It was a launch party. It was a live stream all day thing with David Wolfe for musicians and chefs. People were coming in. I wasn’t even supposed to be on camera. I was catering for the event. I came and catered the event. David and his team were like, “Are you good on camera?” I was like, “Yeah.” They’re like, “Do you want to jump in and do a demo with David?” It’s not even planned. It’s completely improvised.

I don’t know if I’ve seen this video.

I’m wearing a brown corduroy jacket and a Paddington bear hat. It’s ridiculous.

Our brains interpret making music and making a recipe the same way. Click To Tweet

Jason’s style has shifted a lot over the years. It’s fun.

The best fashion sense of 2009 for me was probably best described as a burlap boho chic. The first video I ever uploaded in early July of 2009 was a two-part food demo with David Wolfe.

Shortly after that, isn’t there a video where you are submitting to some TV show?

Yeah, a few videos in. There’s a demo recipe when Oprah in 2011 was casting for her OWN Network. When she left her show and formed her own TV channel, OWN, she was doing a casting call for your OWN show where whoever was going to get selected was going to get their own series on the Oprah network. I went for it. I got a casting call. The casting agents called me and they have to talk to me and said, “You’ve made it to the next round. We want to talk to you.” I remember that call and I freaked out. That was the first big bite I’d ever had in Hollywood where the casting agents called and want to have an hour talk with me. Obviously, I didn’t get my own show on Oprah’s network. I sang. I danced. I made the food. I gave it my all and yes, that’s up there too.

Going back to your dad, can you share the final experiences with him and how that has affected you as well? What year is this?

As a precursor, I didn’t see my dad at all through the ’90s, maybe 1990.

Part of that is that he moved away, but he also had another extension of his family. Did he marry someone?

I don’t know. Unbeknownst to me until a few years ago, I had no idea that my father had started another family and had a couple of other kids. I have a half-brother and half-sister who I’ve never met. I didn’t see my father in the ’90s. Even the late ’80s, it was probably a good ten to twelve to thirteen years that I did not see him or speak to him or connect with him. In 2001, I got a phone call from a family friend who lives out here in LA who’s been friends with my mom and dad for decades. He said, “Your dad is back in Detroit. Do you want to see him?” I was like, “What do you mean he’s back in Detroit?” He’s like, “He’s in jail.” I was like, “Okay.” My dad had his third or fourth DUI and they threw him in jail.

I was writing letters with my dad while he was in jail and I went to go see him for the first time in well over a decade. That was a strange meeting because I was an adult. I was 22 or 23 at that time. I wanted certain answers from him man to man. I asked him real questions. I don’t know that he was interested or even in touch with giving me his authentic perspective on things. I asked him some very pointed direct questions and it felt to me like he wasn’t being real with me. That was disappointing because I wanted some realness. I wanted to connect with this man and understand him. I wanted to understand him. Fast forward, I didn’t see him for another four years. In LA, I moved out in September of ’05, the same family friend says, “Your dad is back in LA. Do you want to see him?”

This was the day before Thanksgiving. I went to Westwood near UCLA. It was like to meet your dad outside the El Pollo Loco. I was like, “Okay.” My dad’s homeless at this point. My dad had been homeless for several years. He had this long grizzly beard. He was walking very slow. It was the first time where I was like, “My dad has been not good to himself, his body.” It was shocking. I spent about two hours with him walking around Westwood and talking. He was like, “You know who you need to marry?” I was like, “Who?” He’s like, “That one Latino girl.” I’m like, “Jennifer Lopez.” He’s like, “No. Christina Aguilera, no.” For a half-hour we’re trying to figure out who he wants me to marry. He’s like, “Cameron Diaz. That’s who.” My dad was like, “You need to marry Cameron Diaz.” Gradually, my dad in his homelessness and his drug and alcohol abuse was estranging himself from anybody who had contact with him.

2006 was the last time anybody had heard from him. Fast forward to early 2011 at Natural Products Expo in 2011, my mom calls me the last day as we’re wrapping up the booth and said, “I have some information about your dad. Can we talk?” I’m at an expo, the wrap-up day and that expo is this giant trade show with thousands of people. She said, “I found information online that he passed away.” My dad passed away in 2010. None of us knew. Nobody knew. He got sick and had to go be admitted to a county hospice. He died. They scattered his ashes in the ocean.

Who’s they?

The wards of the state who were taking care of him. They put him in a county facility, a county hospice. The thing about my dad was there’d been so much forgiveness that I’ve chosen to do with him and work on. The thing that I have pain around with him is not so much that I wish he had been there or I wish she’d been a different father. I’ve made peace with those things. It’s that this human being had so much talent, potential, hutzpah, charm and love. The pain, the suffering and the demons that he had from his upbringing, his father and his family life, he never fully healed or learn how to work with that trauma and that eventually consumed him.

The thing that breaks my heart when I still think about it sometimes is the loss of such a talented, loving, warm being who was never able to pull himself out of that suffering he was in and ended up literally destroying himself. It was like a slow suicide. When I get choked up about it and I get emotional, again, it’s because of like this human being that chose to destroy himself so slowly. I don’t know that he had a choice honestly. I’m grateful for the lessons of my father. I’m grateful for whatever genetic gifts he’s given me. I’m trying to do my best to take those genetic gifts or that imprinting and do good in the world with it and not to allow the suffering or the mental challenges of my own to consume me or destroy me. There’s still more letting go that I need to do with my dad around that of making peace with the choices he made because it was his life. It gets sad sometimes when I think about it still.

2011 was a big turning point in your life. What happened after that with your lifestyle and your career?

2011 was this interesting confluence of things career-wise, where it was like the celebrity personal cheffing was going strong and I was getting a lot of traction with that, working with different people. With YouTube, I had my first sponsorship and I was getting paid to do YouTube videos. This was before anyone was considered an influencer or any of those things. I was like, “Your companies are paying me to do videos.” It was this interesting merging of I get to act, be on camera and have this persona. I get to teach people nutrition and food, which is also a love of mine. As I went on, I realized that I have this ability to amalgamate my passions. It didn’t have to be, “Music is over here. Food is over there and acting is over there.” It’s like, “What if I mash these up?” While I’m making food, I can be funny, tell jokes and be this character that I am. I can throw in some music, throw in some singing. That started to gain a lot of ground.

That’s ultimately the YouTube thing and longevity is what led to eventually getting some interest with Cooking Channel and Food Network. That eventually led to the TV deal, How to Live to 100. I always like to say that I view myself as the Justin Bieber of the vegan food world because that’s how he got discovered by Usher was on YouTube as singing videos. I’m like, “That’s how Cooking Channel discovered me. They found my videos. I’m the Justin Bieber of veganism.”

The cooking show on television led to the cookbook deal.

The cookbook led to touring with Wanderlust and doing the online courses with them. Yeah, it seems like there was an interesting domino effect of one project leading itself, unfolding itself into one and the other and the other. It seems to me there’s been an interesting natural progression to all that.

You had this at least ten-year career in the culinary world. You came out to LA in 2005. You go to culinary school shortly after. You got a TV show in 2012. It started airing at the end of 2012 or beginning of 2013.

It was in January 2013.

The show, unfortunately, got canceled but it’s still running so you can look it up, How to Live to 100. I’m pretty sure you can buy it on Amazon or iTunes. It’s at a very affordable price. You can buy the whole season for $10 or something. It’s a great show. It was hard for me as a friend to watch Jason go through the heartbreak of that being canceled because he felt like this was the pinnacle of his career. There was a point, you published this cookbook. You admittedly did not feel like that one as well as you hoped it would. This was 2016. There was a point somewhere between that 2016 and mid-2019 where you’ve said to me several times since that you don’t want to be known as a chef anymore. You have sometimes felt like you wanted to implode all your social media accounts.

What happened for you after those, let’s say eleven years or so as in the professional culinary world? You described how it felt good for a while to be acting and doing music and food, a lot of your passions in one. There did come this turning point for you in your mind that you might want to give it all up. I’m curious because I’m not 100% sure. Do you still feel that way? You continue to make choices that are culinary related. You have embraced music separately. Even Jason was working on some new songs so perhaps you can look forward to that. I tried to get him to sing as often as possible on this show. The acting, sometimes you’ve dabbled in voiceover. You’ve done some on-camera work, but it’s still very connected to culinary. The question that I have is what was the first inkling in your head again somewhere around 2016 that you might not want to do this anymore? Why have you continued to do it? Is there still an endpoint in your head? Are you letting it flow?

The reason that I started to have all of those feelings was that I made a decision to shelve the acting, the music and the other styles of writing that I enjoyed to focus solely on growing and exploding my culinary career. My spirit, my soul was reacting against, “This can’t be the only thing.” It was an idea that I had that if I pick one thing and that’s my career, this is what I am, then I would be fulfilled and satisfied by that. Especially getting the external material accolades of being “You’re the first vegan chef with a primetime TV series in history.” That should be pat on the back. You’ve got this great cookbook deal or you’re working with all these celebrities. It was this idea of how far can I take this. Not at the end of it, but when it was the period of evaluation, I was still not feeling 100% creatively expressed. There were still things in me that wanted to be addressed and let out. It was almost like you’re going to feed this one child and let the rest of them starve. I started to have my soul be like, “You can’t keep ignoring these other passions.”

A lot of the frustration and anger was self-created because I had chosen that I’m just going to focus on my culinary career. The reality is now that it’s also frustration of when I branded myself, there’s this expectation of, “I was Jason the chef, Chef Jason.” No one ever wanted to talk to me about my music or my acting or my literary stuff, any of the stuff that I was passionate about. It’s like when people would see me or meet me, it’s like, “Recipes, food. What B vitamins should I take? How was cooking?” I started to grow frustrated with feeling pigeonholed when all anybody ever wanted to talk about was food. I was like, “That’s not all there is to me. You don’t know this.” I need to invest time to shift away and pivot away from being just a chef where all anyone wants is recipes and talk about nutrition all the damn time.

I started to get burnt out and frustrated because that was the only conversation always. I still like making food, but I don’t have any desire to solely focus on the pursuit of being a celebrity chef, that whole thing because much like anything else, there can be this myopic, fervent, psychotic pursuit of something. When you get a taste of it and on the other side of it, it’s like, “This isn’t what I thought it was going to be. I don’t feel as satisfied or fulfilled as I thought I would.” Getting the TV show, the cookbook deal, doing Pebble Beach Food and Wine, cooking for celebrities, all that stuff was fantastic. There was a part of my creativity, my soul that wasn’t satisfied because I had sacrificed all of these other things to do that and get there.

Now I’m not abandoning my expertise, wisdom and years of experience with food and nutrition because it doesn’t feel right to abandon it, but nor do I want to be considered or brand myself as just a chef, which is why I’ve changed like my social profile to like a pro-plant pusher. It doesn’t say like celebrity Vegan chef anymore because I need to be mindful of changing the narrative around who I am; singer-songwriter, mental health advocate, podcast host. I still will do acting and TV hosting. Being just a chef, I can’t. When I think about doing that, part of me inside goes, “That’s not what I want anymore.” I know it because when I remember brainstorming, conceptualizing the recipes for the TV series or the first cookbook or some of the eBooks I’ve done with the courses, there was this, “We get to be in the kitchen and come up with new recipes.”

Now, to be honest, after 320 something videos on YouTube and 154 recipes in the cookbook and some of the other projects I’ve done releasing literally hundreds of recipes, I don’t want to make new recipes. It’s not in me right now. It might come back. I’m open to it coming back. I don’t want to make any more recipes right now. I don’t feel compelled. There’s not a deep compulsion to do that right now. There’s deep compulsion to do other things, be on stage and sing, record this new music that seems to want to flow out of me. I was telling Whitney at 1:00 AM, “Where is this song coming from? I had to record it right away because it wants to flow out of me.”

Can you sing a little part of it?

No, I can’t.

Animals teach a lot of patience because it is the nonverbal relationship that involves constant decoding of trying to understand each other. Click To Tweet

You can, but you look like you’re getting shy.

It’s about a specific person that we know.

Can you sing a little clip without giving anything away?

Her name is in it.

Every word, her name is in it?

It’s a little insight into how I’ve noticed that creativity flows through me and/or how my brain works with music for whatever reason. It’s like 99% of the songs I’ve written over the years. The chorus always comes first to me. It was the hook. It was like, “That’s a dope chorus. I had to capture it,” because there have been so many nights where I didn’t turn on the recorder on my phone. The next morning I would try and think of the musical idea and it was gone. I was like, “Wake up. Record this.”

I have an idea. Replace her name with Suzanne, which almost sounds like Susan or maybe you could be Susan. Let’s hear it.

Maybe I’ll do the bassline. I’ll throw it all in, “Suzanne, where did you run to now, Suzanne? Maybe to your hiding place, Suzanne? When can I kiss your face, Suzanne? When will you let me in, Suzanne?”

How does it feel to sing that?

There was this whole little bassline that I wrote and piano parts. There’s this cool whistling.

Can I hear a little bit of that?

It’s all these layers. Another thing too, music to me works the same way as building a recipe. Whereas when the ideas for a song come, it’s like the layers of flavor and texture. You have the bass and the drums, which are holding everything down. That’s like the heavier part of the dish. That’s like a heavy sauce or the bed of quinoa or something holding the dish down. You have the melody, the vocals, the guitar parts, the whistling, the piano and all of these layers. To me, my mind conceptually views building a recipe the same way it views building a song. I’ve known so many other chefs like Greg Arnold, Scott Winegard and some of the other great chefs in our community that are also tremendous musicians. We’ve powwowed on that. Our brains interpret making music and making a recipe the same way. It’s very interesting. I don’t find any other art form quite like that. There’s a synergy with those two things.

Where do you see yourself going now that you’ve had a television show cookbook? Not to say that you felt fully fulfilled by either of them. You still felt like there was more to go, but what are you working on right now aside from this show? Do you have any other big dreams or goals that have been on your heart?

I’ve had an idea for a children’s TV series that I would like to do someday with puppets, characters and like a crazy variety show, Pee-wee’s Playhouse meets Mr. Rogers meets The Muppet Show with music, food, entertainment and memorable characters. Beyond that, and I bring in the Mr. Rogers thing, it’s to talk about not just merely entertaining children but infusing them with messages of equality, inclusion, healthfulness and positivity, processing their emotions and positive communication. I feel like there is an opportunity to talk to children and reach children in a very creative, memorable way, much like the shows I grew up on that touched me. I feel like there’s a great possibility. I’ve had this concept floating around for three years now. The children’s show is still there floating around in the cosmos of my mind.

I want to record a solo album of the music that I’ve been working on that burns very deeply. It’s not even an optional thing. I need to do that. There’s a part of my creative being that’s like, “You have to do that.” Then there’s getting this show to as many people as possible and getting as many ears around it. I don’t feel like there’s an end goal like there was previously in my career which was basically become a celebrity chef, get a TV series, be famous and make a ton of money. I don’t have a pointed goal like that anymore. What I’m more interested in doing is allowing myself to be led to where my creativity, soul and intuition wants to guide me. What the end goal is contentment. What I’m interested now is genuine like a peace of mind and contentment, not happiness, but contentment. All is well and I feel grateful for this moment and who I am and what I have. I have no idea what the next moment will bring. That’s it for now. Contentment and peace, that’s it for me.

MGU 2 | Pursuing Our Passions

Pursuing Our Passions: Our hearts and our psyches can heal and, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the moment, return to a space of opening our hearts again and trusting.

 

Speaking of content, we left out a big part of your life, which I feel like we need to mention. Jason doesn’t know what I’m talking about. Probably in 2013, Jason and I have been in each other’s lives since late 2012 on a deep level. We had known each other. We don’t remember when we first met, but because we work in these worlds of YouTube and veganism and all of that, somehow we had crossed some paths and knew we knew each other and ran into each other here and there. We started dating in 2012 and dated for a few years and transitioned into friendship. It must have been while we were dating. I started to bug Jason about getting a cat. I would bring it up to him and he would say, “No, I don’t have time for a cat. I travel too much to have a cat.” He had all these excuses. At a certain point, I started to feel like maybe it wasn’t going to happen. I don’t know why I was so attached to him getting a cat. I have my dog, Evie. Jason and I both love cats. I wish I could remember why I was so committed to encouraging Jason to get a cat.

Maybe you thought it would be good for my mental and emotional health.

I knew that Jason loved cats. I was perplexed that’s why he didn’t have one. By the magic of the universe, one of us heard about some kittens. Was it you that heard about the kittens?

It was an email through our good friend, Ele.

Ele sent out this email to Jason and to me maybe. We should go and look up that email. She knew of this woman in the area between where I lived and where Jason lived. We traveled a lot between there. She had four kittens. The interesting thing was is that I had been encouraging Jason to get one cat, but the caveat was that this woman was hoping that somebody would take two of the four so that they could stay together. There were two sisters and two brothers. I wouldn’t know about the sister if they both went to the same family, the two of them. Some of them had already been claimed. Jason had a shift in the spring of 2014. There’s something shifted in Jason where he had a new openness. I was a little bit surprised that he was willing to check out these kittens. I was ecstatic.

I went with him to see these kittens and they were so cute. They were in this bathroom. There were two female black kittens, fluffy and two gray tabby males. We sat down and Jason was trying to act like he didn’t care. As soon as these kittens got into his lap, he slowly started to fall in love. I captured this all on camera. We have this moment documented of him meeting these kittens who became his cats, Lynx and Clawdia, the original. He was resistant to one cat and suddenly he had two. Within a week or so he threatened to return them because he was so overwhelmed and he kept saying to me, “I told you I didn’t want a cat. Now, I have two cats and these kittens are driving me nuts.”

I thought that he might return the kittens but fortunately, he stuck it through. Now they’re turned five. The funny part is on one of Jason’s birthdays, in 2015, Jason was looking for a new place to live. We went to this house, which was funny enough in an area where Jason now lives. Back in 2015, he turned down this house. It was not in good condition and the people that had been living there were evicted. There are cockroaches. It wasn’t in good shape. It was on your birthday, July 6, 2015, we had gone to Matthew Kenney. It’s funny how a lot of stories start weaving together here. We went to eat up at Plant Food and Wine in Venice, which is owned by Matthew Kenney, who we mentioned earlier.

Afterward, we went to check out this place because the guy was only available at certain times. It was late at night. It was probably like 10: 00. This neighborhood wasn’t the nicest neighborhood. We show up and we had to wait in the car for the man that owned the property to come to show it to us. As we were waiting there, we saw these kittens running around the street and we thought this is interesting. We get out of the car to meet the man. As we walk up to the house, one of the kittens ran up onto the ledge, the stairs up to the house. Jason asks this guy, “What’s the deal with this cat?” The man says, “The family that lived here that got evicted abandoned it. They left the cat here. I have to call animal control to come pick it up.” Without even hesitating, Jason said, “That’s okay. I’ll take it.”

I knew that LA City Animal Control would take any animal to a high kill shelter. This animal who got abandoned and thrown out by his family on the street, you’re going to take them to a shelter where the probability of this cat getting euthanized is high. I was like, “No.” Your reaction was hilarious. You whipped your head around. You couldn’t believe what I said. It was so clear to me though that like the trauma this animal had been through and now you’re basically like, for all intents and purposes, maybe giving him a death sentence by taking him to this site. Who knows, but the probability is what it is. I was like, “No.” That’s not okay.

This cat was so sweet. He followed us around the property and kept rubbing up against us. He just wanted to be loved. He was so excited that there was someone there. It’s heartbreaking to remember that. We took this strange cat and put it in Jason’s car. We don’t have a carrier completely unprepared. We don’t know anything about this cat. I remember getting in the car and being amazed by how the cat got in with us and sat on my lap during the drive home. It’s fifteen, twenty minutes back to Jason’s place. Your concept was to foster this cat and find it a home. I kept saying to him, “Are you sure you don’t want to keep him?” For some reason I have this weird side of me that wants to encourage Jason to have more animals.

Here he is, he’s already got two cats. Now, this third is living at his place. Jason was determined to find it at home. Long story short, that never happened. He couldn’t find the right home for it and he decided to keep this cat who has now been named Figaro. Here we are four years later and he’s still living with Jason. The story is not over yet. In 2017, the fourth cat appeared in Jason’s life. This one was more interesting. I’m going to let you tell this story because I wasn’t even that involved, believe it or not. I was very highly involved with the first three cats, but the fourth one?

Julius Bartholomew is a little orange cat. Our good friend, Brittany, who has a wonderful rescue in town called Little Love Rescue posts adoptable animals on her Instagram feed all the time. I saw this little orange kitten and I was like, “It’s this little creamsicle, ginger Yoda.” I had this idea of, “I’ve already got three. Let me go meet this cat.” I went and saw this little munchkin. It was ridiculous, this cute little orange fool. At that point it was like, “What’s one more? I’ve already got three.” Julius Bartholomew was a tiny little orange fluff ball and immediately started terrorizing everyone. He still does to this day. He’s an incredibly loving cat and also he’s the smallest one. He’s the runt of everyone and he beats the hell out everyone. It’s so funny. He’s very dominant. He’s very dominant but it’s adorable because he’s two now, but he’s small. He’s a small cat because he’s this tiny cat who goes berserker on everyone.

When I got this obsession, I was committed to encouraging Jason to get one cat, but I never expected him to have four. I would have been satisfied with one. This is what happened. Somewhere in these years of us being in each other’s lives, I got obsessed with the idea that Jason would get a French bulldog and it wasn’t just any dog, it was specifically a French bulldog. This was locked in my head. It’s similar to how little kids get obsessed with something. No matter what you do, you can’t convince them to stop obsessing over it and they won’t leave you alone until they have it. That’s how I was.

I would talk to Jason about French bulldogs all the time and I would point them out. I loved them. I didn’t want one though. I have my wonderful Jack Russell, Evie. I had this strong desire for Jason to get this French bulldog. In March of 2018, we were at the Natural Products Expo again, coming full circle and somebody had brought their French bulldog. They call it Blue Frenchie. It’s like a bluish-gray color. Around that time I said to Jason, “Will you humor me? Will you tell me what would be your perfect French bulldog?” He said to me, “It’s got to be a girl and I want it to be a blue-gray color. It’s going to get along with the cats.” You were also indulging me.

You still didn’t think that it was anywhere near on the horizon, but unbeknownst to both of us, one night I opened up Instagram and that same account, @TheLittleLoveRescue run by our friend, Brittany, posted a picture of a female blue French bulldog. It was to me this pivotal moment, I immediately called Jason and said, “You need to message her right now and we need to meet this dog because finding a French bulldog rescue that’s a young dog, but also one that doesn’t have any major health problems, which were all listed in this post. This is like a diamond in the rough. Most people get French bulldogs from a breeder, which Jason also did not want to do.

A lot of French bulldogs have health issues. I saw this post and I thought, “We cannot waste any time.” I’m on the phone with Jason and he’s all annoyed. He’s like, “No, I don’t want to meet this dog. I’m not ready for one. I won’t do it.” At some point, his mind changed. Maybe even you thought, “I’ll message Brittany, but who knows? We might not even meet this dog. It might already be to be taken because they’re in such high demand.” Somehow this dog was still available and because Brittany knows us, she wanted us to meet the dog and she told us when we met the dog that there are a lot of people that we’re offering double, triple the amount, the adoption fee, because people are trying to compete to get this dog.

Again, Jason is thinking, “I don’t even have a chance.” Even paying the adoption fee was pretty high, but we also knew it was going to a good place. That’s a nice thing. When you adopt an animal, you get to, in most cases, help out an organization. I remember meeting this dog for the first time and she was even cuter in person. She was this tiny special dog. Most notably she was in our friend’s arms when we met her. As soon as our friend, Brittney, put her down on the ground, she didn’t run to me. She ran into Jason’s arms and I captured it all on camera because I felt very confident that this is going to be Jason’s dog. A few days later, Brittany made the decision to pick Jason out of all of them. She felt like he was the right home for this dog. Jason then decided that he was going to move forward with it. Bella came into his life and now he has five animals. If you’re anything like me, there’s plenty of women out there that would probably find that a turn on if anybody likes cats and dogs. Who doesn’t like French bulldogs? You’re caring for these animals. How has your life been impacted by these animals, Jason?

They’ve taught me a lot. They’re great teachers. They’re great teachers in the sense of, first of all, they’ve taught me a lot of patience because you have these beings that have needs and desires but can’t verbally communicate them to you in a language you understand. It’s constant decoding of trying to understand these animals and their signals. There’s a nonverbal relationship. It’s taught me a lot of patience. It’s also taught me that, especially in the case of say Figaro, one can come from an abusive situation or a situation where there’s a lot of sorrow and that abandonment, which is my probably deepest core wound personally. That one can learn to trust again and heal. It might take years. In the case of Figaro took him years to like soften and trust and be affectionate and like allow me to be affectionate with him.

You have Bella, who’s also interesting. We don’t know that much about her, but she’s two years old when you got her. She was a breeder dog. From the little that we know is that she was basically rescued out of the breeding situation, which is generally not that healthy, especially for a small dog. What’s amazing about Bella is that maybe she wasn’t abused. We don’t know. She is one of the sweetest. It’s interesting because Figaro, we also don’t know for sure if he was abused. He has demonstrated in his behavior the lack of trust. He’s got fear and he doesn’t like to be touched very much. You have Bella, who loves human beings so much. She trusted Jason so quickly and loved him. She was very bonded to him very quickly. It is interesting to go on what you were saying about what you learned from animals, beings, creatures that may not have come from a good situation and seeing how it’s affected them and how have they change over time.

It’s a good reflection that when we feel like we’ve been abandoned, heartbroken or discarded, or we need to regain our trust and our faith in life and love that it’s going to take time. To know that our hearts can heal and our psyches can heal and even if it doesn’t feel like it at the moment, return to a space of opening our hearts again and trusting. It’s a beautiful lesson there. They’re wonderful companions. It’s interesting because I feel like as I get into this idea of what home means to me, it’s certainly contrasting it by living alone versus having animals in the house. They fill it with warmth, energy and a vibrancy that you don’t experience when you live completely by yourself. Amidst the moments of frustration that I now have a small farm, it’s the love and the lessons and the patients they teach me and the unconditional love they give back to me. I don’t regret the decision. Some people have their opinions on five animals. We’ll leave that for maybe another conversation. It’s a great filter for dating.

You seem to feel almost like insecure a bit sometimes about having five animals. What does that mean?

It’s because I’ve seen how people react to it and there’s generally only one of two reactions, especially in terms of a possible romantic connection, dating or whatever. I have one person have a neutral reaction. Most people, it’s either, “You have five animals. When can I come and meet them?” It’s excitement and giddiness or it’s like, “You have five animals?” There’s not a lot of middle ground, but I am not everyone’s flavor of ice cream. I’m not like anybody else I know. I am me. I’m still figuring out who I am. I love food, music, art and dancing. Orange is my favorite color. I like having my earrings, my tattoos, my motorcycles, my cars and my comic book movies and making a recipe, making love and dancing and tasting life and tacos.

There are many things that I love and I know that I’m not for everyone. I know this. I’m more okay with that now than I’ve ever been. Whereas for many years when I was younger, it’s like, “How do I get people to like me so they don’t abandon me?” Now in my early 40s, I’m moving into this interesting energy of not giving a crap about a lot of things I used to in terms of being something I’m not or people-pleasing or trying to win people over so they won’t abandon me. Now, I’m my own brand of weird and I like my brand of weird. I like who I am. If someone’s not down with the animals or my lifestyle or my art or the things I love, cool. I love that about me and I love my life and I love the person I’m becoming. I trust that I will find people and continue to find people that are like, “We dig your weird.” Maybe one of the secrets of life is finding the same people who resonate with your weirdness. It’s like, “Instead of Namaste, it’s Nama-weird. The weirdness in me acknowledges the weirdness in you.” At this point in my life, I do dig who I am. My flavor of ice cream is like double fudge habanero brownie chunk with marshmallows and mochi. That’s a great flavor. Somebody is going to dig that flavor.

I hope that you have learned a lot about Jason. There are things that you shared that I didn’t even know, which is amazing because I talked to Jason almost every day and have been for the past several years. It also goes to show that you might think you know someone, but there’s a lot within us that we may have never brought up and things that haven’t even occurred to us until conversations like this. In addition to learning more about Jason, learning a little bit more about us as friends and getting a taste for the conversations that we have here on this podcast that we hope to have with guests on here and all the different places that we’re going to go that may or may not make you uncomfortable.

I also hope that this episode got you thinking about the conversations you can have with your own friends, your family members or your loved ones. One of the most important things that we can do as human beings is to connect and try to get to know each other, try to understand each other. Interviewing them or having an in-depth conversation where you sit back and let someone talk unless you’re talking about animals like I did, I got very excited. I wanted to tell that story, but for the most part, I did my best to sit back and listen to Jason. It’s wonderful. You might discover facets of somebody that you didn’t even know were in there and it gives you a greater understanding and love and respect for others. I hope that you, the reader, do that.

On that note, one of the best things I did before the grandparent that I was the closest to was before he passed away, I did a number of recordings. When he passed away, I remember thinking, I wish that I had recorded even more conversations with him and never felt like enough. Maybe this will inspire you to record a conversation with a loved one and ask them more about their lives and who they are and why and how that’s defined them. In the upcoming episode, Jason is going to turn the table around and it’s my turn to be in the hot seat. Stay tuned for that. Check that out here on the Wellevatr podcast. We want to load you up with all of those details on the website. You can sign up for our newsletter there. We try to give you lots of goodies. We want to share with you as much as possible, so be sure to go to Wellevatr.com. Thanks again and we’ll see you in the next episode.

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