CONFIDENCE. Lastly, it takes a confident person to be honest, take risks, be dedicated to something that is “against the grain” and to take care of oneself. Being a change maker means to be confident in who you are. This doesn’t mean to be perfect, to never make mistakes, or to never be afraid. Rather, it means to be confident that you are strong, resilient, and dedicated to being yourself. Being confident means to own up to mistakes, learn from them, and continuously improve. To me, being confident means to be 100% pure and honest — know your “inner demons”, be honest when you need help, show your flaws, and be comfortable in admitting to your mistakes.
As part of our series about young people who are making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kenzie Osborne, a culinary graduate from George Brown Culinary School who currently manages a blog dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of food on the mind, spirit, and body. After suffering from a severe case of anorexia nervosa that nearly took her life, Kenzie has now begun a blog that documents the stories, traditions, cultures, and emotions “behind the plates” of the world. She has interviewed famous Food Network chefs such as; Marc Murphy, Elizabeth Falkner, Simon Majumdar, Darnell Ferguson; renowned chefs from Michelin-starred restaurants; and, home cooks from small towns around the world. She has interviewed people from over 25 countries, and continues to strive to raise awareness about the importance of food, and the benefits it has on the mind, spirit, and body. Her goal is to inspire our society to find peace with food, explore the benefits of a meal, break bread with various cultures, and realize the powerful healing effects of sharing a meal with others.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us about how you grew up?
I grew up in a family of 6, with three older brothers and two incredible parents. My brothers and I were all high-performance athletes, and spent much of our days working towards our athletic goals. My parents always encouraged us to strive for our goals (regardless how big or small) and give 100% of our efforts to achieving them. Both of my parents worked part-time as doctors — always ensuring that one of them was home to take us to school, pick us up, prepare dinner, and take us to our extra curricular activities. As a family, we travelled together, ate dinners together, and always supported each other through every challenge and success we had. I feel so blessed to have been surrounded by such strong, caring, and dedicated people.
Is there a particular book or organization that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
During my eating disorder recovery, my greatest supports were my mom, dad, brothers, and friends. Each one of them made a huge impact on my recovery, and in truth could not have asked for any better support through the deepest moments of my life. After recovery, however, I was involved with an organization in Toronto called “Seeds of Hope”. Seeds of Hope collects food from restaurants and food businesses, then re-purposes it in their kitchen to prepare food for those in need in the community. Throughout the summer, I volunteered as a chef at “Seeds of Hope”. My eating disorder was still challenging — but the act of preparing and serving food for others in need made a huge impact on my motivation to continue to recover. The experience of giving a freshly cooked meal to someone in need was absolutely incredible. The expression on their face, the gratitude for my work, and the sheer appreciation for every bite of food reminded me of just how important food is — not just for the body, but for the mind and spirit too. I’ll never forget the moment when I prepared one of my personal fear foods for the community… I was terrified to taste it, and I was nervous to share it with the community. I walked down and presented the meal to one lady in the lobby… As soon as I opened the package, her eyes lit up. “WOW, you made this yourself? This is incredible.” She took the package and started to show her friends what I’d made… Together, they ate the meal, enjoyed a conversation, and bonded… These people have so many challenges in their lives — but for a short moment in time, it seemed like those challenges went away. My food offered them an opportunity to escape their struggles for a moment and enjoy time with their friends and a warm meal. After that moment, I went back upstairs and had a bite of the food I’d made… It was no longer a fear food — it was something that had build connections and made a difference in someone else’s life… It was something special — and I wanted to have the opportunity to savour a bite for myself.
You are currently leading an organization that is helping to make a positive social impact. Can you tell us a little about what you and your organization are trying to create in our world today?
I currently manage a blog (https://kenzieosborne.com) and Instagram account (@chefkenzieosborne) that strives to raise awareness about food positivity, mental health, and the incredible food stories from around the world. Growing up, I developed a severe case of anorexia nervosa — a dangerous eating disorder that affects many in our world today. When I was 18, I was given about 6 months to live and was forced to withdraw from my Freshman year at a university in the USA. Throughout my recovery, my parents did their best to re-introduce me to the wonders and joy of food. They encouraged me to look at the cultures, traditions, artistry, and stories behind each plate of food — rather than focussing on the nutritional value of my “fear foods”. Through this process, I was able to discover the true meaning of food — and I was eventually able to conquer my eating disorder. The goals of my blog are as follows…
1. Provide a raw, honest, unedited view of what an eating disorder is. I want to share my honest thoughts and combat the stigma that is associated with eating disorders. Eating disorders are a severe mental illness, and we need to talk about them more openly and honestly. My Instagram account features a new “food story” every day, introducing others to one of my own successes or experiences as well as sharing a funny/heartwarming story about food.
2. To share the food stories that helped me overcome my anorexia. I want to raise awareness about the cultures, traditions, and social/mental/physical benefits of dining with others and eating the foods you love. There are so many under-represented chefs, home cooks, cultures, and food traditions in our world… My goal is to enlighten the community, promote diversity, and share the stories “behind the plates” of today’s world. On my blog, I write free articles for businesses, chefs, young culinary students, and home cooks from around the world. The goal is to highlight their unique food stories, promote diversity, and shed light on the food industry (and food as a positive aspect of life).
Can you tell us the backstory about what originally inspired you to feel passionate about this cause and to do something about it?
Growing up, I was surrounded by social media posts (and misinformation) about the “benefit” of having a thin body, exercising excessively, and restricting food. In high school, I struggled to find my identity… As a high-performance athlete (with incredibly athletic brothers), I was immediately given an identity as “the healthy one”. Everyone viewed me as someone who was healthy, athletic, and fit. Of course, in high school, you want to have an identity and “fit-in” to the crowd (in other words, you want to meet the expectations of others to validate who you are). I worked hard to meet the expectations of a “healthy image” — I avoided foods labelled as “bad”, I exercised excessively, and I strived to have the perfect “athletic body”. In doing so, I started to let the media make my food choices — anything they claimed as “bad” was off limits. Eventually, I had eliminated most foods from my diet, and was extremely ill. At the age of 18, I was given just 6 months to live — and was forced to withdraw from my Freshman year at university (where I was an NCAA tennis player). I returned home to recover, and remained in recovery for about 3 years. During this time, I was at home for one year and in culinary school for 2. Combating my eating disorder wasn’t about facing my fear of food per-say — it was about letting go of this identity I had adopted for so long (and discovering who I truly was). I had no clue who I was, what I liked, or what my hobbies were… Did I like exercising, or was it my eating disorder that liked satisfying the expectations of others? Did I really like the taste of plain salads and boiled chicken, or was it my eating disorder that wanted to eat “clean” to have an “athletic body”? Did I want to go to the gym instead of hanging out with friends? Who was I? My eating disorder had become a part of me — and losing it made me feel like I didn’t belong anywhere. It made me feel as though I was worthless — because for so long, it seemed that the only way to satisfy expectations was to be “the healthy one”. Without my eating disorder, I felt as though I was no one… Looking back, I now realize that my eating disorder habits stemmed from a desire to meet others expectations. I wasn’t being myself — and I missed out on exploring who I truly was. Now, as I interview chefs, home cooks, and self-proclaimed “foodies” from around the world, I am realizing that sharing food is a way to express who you are — your culture, traditions, creativity, etc. I have transformed my fear of food into a passion for it. Sharing food allows me to express myself — it’s scary and I feel vulnerable — but it’s a raw, authentic, and honest reflection of who I am. My experience with anorexia (and watching as others suffer from similar thoughts, emotions, and difficulties) has inspired me to begin my blog and instagram account. My dream? To inspire others to be their true selves, find peace with their bodies and food, and live a life that THEY love to live.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
I don’t think there’s one singular interesting story that stands out to me… Rather, the process of interviewing chefs, home cooks, and others from around the world (and hearing their stories) has been absolutely incredible. The reality is that the media tends to only reveal the stories of chefs who’ve done something extra-ordinary… But what about the grandmas and grandpas who have been cooking for years? Or the line cooks that use cooking as something to help them through their own mental illnesses? Or the young girls and boys who cook with their mum and dad to learn about their own histories and cultures? I now realize that I was blinded by the “WOW” factor of celebrity chefs and food shows… But I was missing out on the stories behind the plate — the stories that make a meal particularly special. Every chef or cook that I speak to has a deep appreciation for food. I’ve heard stories of food connecting people with their heritage, bringing their families together, and even helping them get through severe depression or thoughts of suicide. To be able to shed light on the power of food is one of my greatest passions… We tend to view food as “good” or “bad” — and we base much of our opinions on the nutritional value of what we’re eating… Our society has also drifted away from sharing food, appreciating it’s origin, and using food as a means of connection with others. Sharing the stories “behind the plate” and inspiring others to get into the kitchen, find peace with food, and create something for themselves is absolutely incredible. Every story is interesting, inspiring, and encourages me to continue through my own challenges with my eating disorder.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
In starting my blog, I have received multiple private messages from others suffering from eating disorders, as well as “thank you”s from restaurants and food businesses of whom I’ve interviewed. One of my most memorable moments was when I received a private message from a woman who was suffering from an eating disorder herself. She had previously never shared her eating disorder with anyone, but (as a blogger herself), she wanted to share her story. Upon reading my blog, she was inspired to share her own story, and help others along their eating disorder recovery. Although others have opened up to me about their eating disorders — this story was particularly impactful. I was so proud to have been able to inspire someone else to share their story, and build upon a “chain of positivity” on social media.
How do you define “Making A Difference”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Making a difference means to inspire others to be their best selves. In our society, “making a difference” is often associated with some sort of monetary or physical donation — but I think what is more important is the ability to motivate and inspire others. We are all unique in our abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. If just one person can inspire another to be the best version of themselves, we will reveal yet another strength and unique ability for the world to see. No amount of money will bring the same impact as one person who is 100% dedicated to being their true selves and bringing their best self to everything they do. When I try to “make a difference”, my goal is to inspire. It’s not to raise money, or “force” someone to do an action — it’s to inspire them to be motivated to make the world a better place in whatever way they can.
Many young people would not know what steps to take to start to create the change they want to see. But you did. What are some of the steps you took to get your project started? Can you share the top 5 things you need to know to become a changemaker? Please tell us a story or example for each.
To become a change maker, you need to be confident in who you are as a human being. As many others have said, in order to help others you must first help (and understand) yourself. Before I could begin my journey to help others — I had to fully understand myself. Below are the 5 biggest lessons I learned (steps I completed) throughout my journey…
1. HONESTY. When I began interviewing chefs, I was 100% honest and transparent about my eating disorder and journey through mental illness. The first chef I reached out to (and interviewed) was Chef Carl Heinrich (top Chef Canada Season 2 winner). I was absolutely terrified to be transparent with my story… In the first paragraph of my email, I explained who I was and what I wanted to accomplish. I revealed my anorexia story and explained that I wanted to raise awareness about food stories and mental health. I had no clue what the reaction would be — but it didn’t matter. What DID matter was being true to myself — something I’d struggled with through my whole life.
2. RISK TAKING. Reaching out to chefs such as Marc Murphy, Elizabeth Falkner, Darnell Ferguson, and others was absolutely terrifying. I didn’t know what these highly-recognized chefs would think about me and my story — and I was scared to be so vulnerable with them about my experiences. Similarly, sharing my personal story (unedited and raw) about my eating disorder was a huge risk. I had been judged and ridiculed in the past (and continue to be judged on occasion to this day). But, taking that first leap and being confident in who I am as a human allowed me to take a risk and (hopefully) inspire others to change their view of eating disorders and mental illness.
3. DEDICATION. Creating a blog (and sustaining it) takes a lot of organization, work, learning, and planning. People will disagree with you, challenge you, and try to stop your progress. Again, you have to be confident in yourself and what YOU are doing. People on social media suggested that I start editing my photos, some suggested I “don’t talk about my anorexia so openly”, and others suggested to focus on the nutrition of food rather than stories to “get popular”. But — each of those suggestions/strategies were exactly the opposite of what I wanted. Sure, I MAY gain more followers — but it would be counterproductive… I would be contributing to the problem rather than solving it… Food is messy, people have imperfections on their bodies, everyone has their “inner demons”… I wanted to be honest, and I was 100% dedicated to being myself and striving for my own individual goals.
4. SELF CARE. As mentioned above, the process of building my blog required hours upon hours of work, learning, and organization. On top of that, there were people who would try to challenge my progress along the way. At the beginning, I was putting 12–14 hours of work into my blog… I read articles that said this is how you will be successful — to “work, work, work”… It took me a long time to realize this was opposite from the truth. “In order to help others, you must first help yourself.” I was neglecting my own needs, overworking myself, and my blog began to feel like it was work. Caring for yourself and taking care of your own needs is just as important as inspiring others to do the same. It’s about creating a COMMUNITY of strength — and in order to have a strong community, you must be strong as well!
5. CONFIDENCE. Lastly, it takes a confident person to be honest, take risks, be dedicated to something that is “against the grain” and to take care of oneself. Being a change maker means to be confident in who you are. This doesn’t mean to be perfect, to never make mistakes, or to never be afraid. Rather, it means to be confident that you are strong, resilient, and dedicated to being yourself. Being confident means to own up to mistakes, learn from them, and continuously improve. To me, being confident means to be 100% pure and honest — know your “inner demons”, be honest when you need help, show your flaws, and be comfortable in admitting to your mistakes.
What are the values that drive your work?
The main values that drive my work are: purity, vulnerability, and dedication. I truly believe that the keys to success are to be pure (100% honest about who you are), vulnerable (comfortable with sharing your flaws, recognizing your weaknesses/mistakes, and asking for help when needed) and dedicated (determined to make a difference and accomplish your goals).
Many people struggle to find what their purpose is and how to stay true to what they believe in. What are some tools or daily practices that have helped you to stay grounded and centred in who you are, your purpose, and focused on achieving your vision?
When I was suffering from my eating disorder, my dad covered all of the mirrors in my house (yes, this made getting changed and ready in the morning a challenge for everyone in the house). The idea was to prevent me from judging my value/worth by the look of my body. In our house, we have 4 large mirrors. Every day, my dad and I would go around to each mirror and write an answer to the following four questions….
1. What do you want to accomplish in life?
2. What do you love about yourself?
3. What is one thing you did today that you are proud of?
4. What is one word to describe who you are as a person?
This was incredibly difficult at the beginning… I struggled to come up with answers, and was constantly thinking of words that described my body rather than who I was as a person. We continued to do this activity for a little over a month before removing the paper. This was the first time that I really thought about myself as a human (rather than as an image). I discovered my purpose — and gained clarity as to what I really wanted in my life. I realized what was important to me, and it allowed me to understand what I wanted to do in this world. Finding your purpose requires you to look inward and consider what makes this world special for YOU. Everyone has their own values, motivations, and beliefs. In order to find out what yours are, you must look inwards. Forget about social media, others opinions, and the image you see in the mirror — take that all away and blind yourself to the outside world. Discover what you truly want — then, be confident in your ability to make your visions come to reality.
In my work, I aim to challenge us all right now to take back our human story and co-create a vision for a world that works for all. I believe youth should have agency over their own future. Can you please share your vision for a world you want to see? I’d love to have you describe what it looks like and feels like. As you know, the more we can imagine it, the better we can manifest it!
In a perfect world, we would all be honest and confident in who we are. If we are all confident in who we are, and we appreciate the differences of others, we could accomplish anything. It doesn’t take much to make this world a better place — it just takes YOU (really — YOU). We all try to be someone we’re not — and in doing so, we don’t get to showcase our true abilities and strengths. I would love to see who YOU are. I want to see a world full of imperfections — a world full of people who truly care about something. Could you imagine a world of purity? A world where everyone was dedicated to accomplishing their own goals, and proud to showcase exactly who they were. We would have so many different traditions, cultures, forms of art, identities, and talents… We would be unstoppable.
We are powerful co-creators and our minds and intentions create our reality. If you had limitless resources at your disposal, what specific steps would take to bring your vision to fruition?
If I had limitless resources, I would want to share raw, authentic stories of people from all around the world. I would love to write a book that features regular, raw stories of people from around the world. No amount of money will encourage someone to be vulnerable and confident in who they are — but, I truly believe that sharing raw stories (unedited, “no filter”) can inspire others to feel comfortable in their own flaws — and become inspired to show their true, beautiful selves to the world.
I see a world driven by the power of love, not fear. Where human beings treat each other with humanity. Where compassion, kindness and generosity of spirit are characteristics we teach in schools and strive to embody in all we do. What changes would you like to see in the educational system? Can you explain or give an example?
Growing up, school tended to be so focussed on one particular path… We had to conform to the “norm”, and if we didn’t quite fit in, we were punished. In grade 7 and 8, I went to an art school — and it was one of the best experiences of my life. We didn’t write tests or do essays — and we weren’t forced to do a project in a particular way. We were given the opportunity to express ourselves and display our knowledge in whatever way we felt most confident in doing. For example, rather than doing a math test, we could draw an optical illusion and describe how math helped us create it. Or, we could perform a dance or write a song about a certain moment in history. I was encouraged to step outside of my comfort zone and do something I was truly passionate about. Additionally, I was exposed to the uniqueness of others — I would see others create beautiful pieces of artwork that I would’ve never imagined possible, or watch as someone choreographed a dance inspired by a historical tribe. I think our education system needs to be more flexible in it’s testing procedures — and rather than encouraging students to follow a norm, inspire them to be creative and do the things they are most passionate about.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
Striving to make a positive change in the world allowed me to understand myself (and my own strengths, weaknesses, and abilities). When you make an impact on society, you are making an even bigger impact on yourself. You will learn from others, discover parts of the world you never knew existed, and find parts of yourself that you didn’t know you had in you. When you make an impact on society, you bring a bit of YOU to the community. For example, if you help pick up trash from the community, you are giving YOUR kindness to others. That’s a part of YOU that’s now in the community. You learn about skills you never knew you had, and you make the community a place that you’re happier to live in. Making a positive difference doesn’t have to be a huge feat — all it means is to be yourself and offer your strengths to those around you.
Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Simon Majumdar!!! A few months back, I had the incredible opportunity to interview Simon Majumdar… Through my culinary schooling and newfound love for writing, Simon has inspired me to discover the meaning of food, connect with others, and express my feelings through written articles. Simon’s unapologetically honest reflections, humour, and passion for sharing incredible food stories from around the world is inspiring. Everything Simon does is with pure honesty — and I commend him for standing up for his beliefs, recognizing (and appreciating) the differences in our world, and shedding light on our world’s unique culture, traditions, and people. His podcast “eat my globe” has exposed me to parts of the world I’d never previously known about — and learning about the meaning/significance of food has further inspired me to continue to fight against my own food fears. Though he may not speak about the same issues I do (eating disorders, anorexia) — he is true to himself, eager to learn, appreciative of other people/cultures, and pure in his intentions/points of view. He has supported and inspired me through my career — and I would be absolutely honoured to one day share a meal with him!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Readers can follow my work at https://kenzieosborne.com (blog) as well as on instagram and facebook @chefkenzieosborne.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!