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“Spread the message of love and faith.” With Ming Zhao & Chef Serena Poon

In light of the current state of our world crisis, I recently just launched a #LOVENOTE♥️ movement, where I encourage my community to spread the message of love and faith by sending out 5 notes of love and kindness to loved ones, friends, to someone in their online community, or to strangers, or to the […]

In light of the current state of our world crisis, I recently just launched a #LOVENOTE♥️ movement, where I encourage my community to spread the message of love and faith by sending out 5 notes of love and kindness to loved ones, friends, to someone in their online community, or to strangers, or to the courageous heroes on the frontlines. The messages can be handwritten, or sent as texts, direct messages on a social platform, photo texts, voice notes, video messages, emails, or even as a post-it note left on the front door for the hard-working people who deliver packages & meals. Literally ANY message of love to ANYONE, in ANY form.


At times it feels like wellness or elevating one’s wellbeing, is diametrically opposed to high achievement and high performance in one’s career. The stress, mental energy, long hours, lack of restful sleep and preoccupation that result from a high-achievement life seem to directly inhibit wellness. And yet, in order to sustain the creativity, flexibility, mental acuity and resilience that are necessary for high performance, wellness and wellbeing of the mind, body and soul are also mandatory. So how do we achieve both? This is the question I’m hoping to answer through conversations with high-achieving leaders and influencers who are practicing their own philosophies about how to maintain their wellbeing.

As a part of our series about “Social Media Influencers Share Their Top Self Care, Wellness, and Beauty Tips, I had the pleasure of interviewing Serena Poon.

Serena Poon is a leading chef, nutritionist and reiki master to the Hollywood elite. Serena’s passion and career for curating healing and wellness programs using integrative health, holistic nutrition and Culinary Alchemy® began long before she started creating contemporary meals, menus and nutritional goodness for the likes of Jerry Bruckheimer, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, and Kerry Washington. Serena’s Culinary Alchemy is the practice of combining intuitive energetic techniques with guidance and education on functional & spiritual nutrition, integrating how food affects our bodies on a physiological level, as well as how it affects the energetic body. Serena’s goal is to optimize and heal the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of her clients. Serena is certified as a Reiki Master for Usui Shiki Ryoho as well as in advanced knowledge of the symbols in the Usui System of Natural Healing. She is also certified with Quantum Touch Healing and she is also part of the International Association of Reiki Professionals. Serena has a degree from UC Berkeley and Serena is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu’s most intense and comprehensive programming — Grand Diplome, which is inclusive of all advanced culinary techniques as well as advanced levels of pastry, confectionery, dessert making etc. She is also the founder of Just Add Water™, a wellness line of super nutrient foods and supplements, and Serena Loves, a lifestyle brand and blog, as well as the host for Serena Loves TV. You can view Serena on Instagram HERE.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory of how you came upon this career path and to where you are today?

Mystory began with my heart and soul, my parents. While I was in college at UC Berkeley, my father was diagnosed with Stage 4 liver cancer….it was a genetic disease, the same thing his grandfather had passed of years before. He fought but lost a very painful battle after just a year and 3 months. He was 48 years old. Two months later, my mother was diagnosed with a rare and extremely aggressive form of ovarian cancer. She was 45 years old at the time. So, before we even had a chance to grieve my father, we were in another surreal battle to save my mother, who could hardly process the death of her soulmate, let alone her own mortality. With experimental treatment and (I truly believe), my father in heaven watching over her, my mother is still with us today. As you can imagine, this completely changed my perspective on life. All that mattered was the health and happiness of my loved ones. During my father’s battle, I began looking into holistic, herbal and natural remedies for everything from his cancer symptoms to alleviating the side effects of his treatments. I studied Nutrition at college, but this drove my passion further and I decided to go to Le Cordon Bleu. I wanted to study the culinary arts to understand food and nutrition and creating ways to heal and comfort people through the power of food.

As passionate as I was about healing, providing comfort and nutritional education to others, I did not realize the damage that the entire experience of my parents’ illnesses took on my heart, my mind, my body. What I didn’t yet understand at the time, was that full health and true wellness is about the whole mind, body and soul. That is, until I found myself fighting for my own health after I had a surgery and contracted MRSA straight from the operating room. Seven years 8 surgeries later (nearly dying after 2 of them) and after years of spiritual and self-development work, I’ve learned to balance my energy, to take care of myself first so that I can take care of everyone else around me.

Throughout this journey, my business evolved to include more than just private chef and catering services. As I began practicing my Culinary Alchemy®, I became a nutritionist, wellness expert, coach and reiki master to my clients. I was inspired to launch my health and wellness line, Just Add Water™. As I became aware of my influence within my own community, I realized that I could effectively teach and help so many more people by expanding my platform. By sharing my stories through the power of social media and my Serena Loves lifestyle brand, TV show, and podcast, I’ve been able to reach countless others who gained insight from my knowledge, who have learned from my experiences.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I have been blessed with quite a few amazing mentors in my life and there are two whose words are always in the back on my mind, through my successes and failures and all the moments in between. The late Garry Marshall, who was not only a client but also like a grandfather to me, gave me volumes worth of life and professional advice. But there is one thing he said to me, that I often remind myself of when I’m feeling overwhelmed, down on myself or struggling with a difficult situation. He said, “Don’t disappear. You can take a little break, but don’t ever disappear. The world needs you.”

The other is Jerry Bruckheimer, also a client, mentor and friend, who gave me the little-known background story about the failings of one of pop culture’s biggest film stars and at the end of it, he told me, “you only need to succeed once. You can fail 9, 10, 1000 times, but you only need to succeed once. And then you’re on your way.” These reminders from people I respect so much, true icons and legends of our time who made their way to success on their own…For them to believe in me, to see the light in me and to share their knowledge with me….these are gifts that I am forever grateful for.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

The biggest mistake that I made is also the biggest lesson that I’ve learned. And that is simply to ask for help. There are some of us who can freely and comfortably ask others, even strangers for help. As a person of service, who has spent most of my energy giving and helping others, it has never been comfortable for me to ask others for help. Asking for help felt like I was being a burden to others. Receiving help felt like I was indebting myself to others. When we first start off in ANY industry, there are more unknowns than knowns. As an entrepreneur, you realize that there is so much you don’t yet know and haven’t the slightly clue where to begin. Ask for help. There are mentors all around us. Mentors in our own circles and mentors who are kind faceless strangers online.

As an influencer, you have been blessed with great success in a career path that many have attempted, but eventually gave up on. In fact, perhaps most people who tried to follow a career path like yours did not succeed. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path but know that their dreams might be dashed?

Know who you are. Get very real with yourself. What are your strengths? Your weaknesses? What do you truly want — without judgement from yourself or others. When you can be completely honest with yourself about what you want, Who you are, then you know exactly what you need and who you need to support you in the process of building your dream. This knowledge is your internal compass, your inner truth that will always keep you in alignment with your mission and your purpose. Even if the path is not clear and you don’t know exactly how you will get from point A to point B, when you exercise and strength your intuition muscle, you will always find a way to achieve your goals. As we navigate the unknowns throughout our career, it’s very easy to be drawn to trends and to try to compare yourself to the path of others. The most important thing you can do is to follow your authentic truth and to use your intuition as your compass.

Can you share with our readers some of your strategies you’ve used to build an engaged, loyal, and large online community?

In terms of my presence on social media, I am very consistent with my positive mantras and my voice is about kindness, mindset, self-care, empowerment and support of one another. I lean towards having a voice of neutrality, compassion and love and I am consistent about educating everyone with my knowledge of food, nutrition, wellness and spirituality. The purpose behind the content I am creating is to continually serve my community, by sharing with them endless information and providing them significant value. I aim to reinforce the message of the power and strength we have as individuals, as well as the collective superpower we are when we support each other. These are my truths and the authenticity and the energy behind my words, my content and my strategies are evident in my brand. When people can feel the passion behind your work, they will be drawn to connect with you. Always engage with your community from an authentic place and give them value. Authenticity builds trust and connection.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of our interview. In my work, I focus on how one can thrive and care for oneself in three areas: body, mind, and heart.

You are a busy person with a demanding schedule, can you share with our readers two self care routines, practices or treatments that help your body thrive? (Kindly share a story or an example for each.)

I have always been a big believer of hydration and daily detoxing. I drink at least 3 liters of water a day and I believe in warm lemon water first thing in the morning every day, no matter where you are in the world. I’m also a big fan of a fruit-free green juice every day, or as many days of the week as you can do it and flooding your body with alkalizing and oxygenating greens in any way that you prefer it. You can have it in juice form, fresh raw form, cooked, in teas or raw/dehydrated powdered or capsule if you can’t have it fresh. Daily intake of detoxifying foods helps to keep your body functioning efficiently and effectively.

I give Reiki to myself while laying on a crystal-lined mat on a regular basis. Energy work is powerfully healing and the crystals in the mat align with all the colors of the chakra system, so I am also receiving the healing energy from the crystals.

Can you share with us two routines that you use to help your mind or heart to thrive? (Kindly share a story or example for each.)

1) Start and end your day with a gratitude list. Whether you write it down or say it out loud, get into a space of gratefulness first thing in the morning for everything that you already and I like to end my day with a gratitude list as well. Doing this will shift your energy and your mind into a place of love and a space to receive.

2) Have a morning routine. Routines and rituals create a place of comfort for our minds. That’s why it’s important to start your day and end your day with a certain pattern of habits. It helps to ease into our day or slow down our minds as we prepare to rest at night. For me, it’s my gratitude list and then my lemon water and elixirs in the morning. In the evening, it’s a guided meditation and gratitude list before bed.

3) Meditate. Take 15–20 minutes a day. Or even just 5 minutes. Whether you meditate, read a book, go for a walk or a long drive — whatever it is that grounds you and gives you time and space to just be with yourself, do it. It is a form of self-care, and without taking care of ourselves, we cannot take care of others and we cannot take care of our dreams.

Can you share 3 ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful”? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Mantras are by far the most powerful and empowering practice that I have. Going through affirmations and mantras throughout the daily (beginning from when I brush my teeth!) makes me feel beautiful and strong.
  2. Honor your body. When you choose to honor your body as a vessel that serves you, you treat yourself more gently and with a lot more self-care. You will nourish your skin with lots of hydration and you’ll be more mindful of the foods you choose.
  3. Always show up as your best self. When you know that you are putting your best foot forward, both literally and symbolically, you will feel more beautiful and confidant.

Is there a particular resource, a practitioner, expert, book, or podcast that made a significant impact on you and helped you to thrive? Can you share a story about that with us?

When I was going through some of my most challenging times, I listened to the 21-Day meditation series by Deepak Chopra and Oprah. These literally transformed my thoughts and they also serve as good daily reminders.

Do you have a story about the strangest, most bizarre or funniest wellness treatment that you’ve ever experienced?

While I was at Mii Amo in Sedona, I got an Abhyanga massage, which is asynchronous full body treatment performed by two Ayurvedic therapists. Its amazing. You have two practitioners massage your body at the same time with medicinal oils, which is to nurture and purify all of the bodily tissues. At first, it feels it bit strange, having hands-on both the left and the right side of your body, working on you at the same time, but it feels heavenly and absolutely blissful when you’re done.

As an influencer, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

In light of the current state of our world crisis, I recently just launched a #LOVENOTE♥️ movement, where I encourage my community to spread the message of love and faith by sending out 5 notes of love and kindness to loved ones, friends, to someone in their online community, or to strangers, or to the courageous heroes on the frontlines. The messages can be handwritten, or sent as texts, direct messages on a social platform, photo texts, voice notes, video messages, emails, or even as a post-it note left on the front door for the hard-working people who deliver packages & meals. Literally ANY message of love to ANYONE, in ANY form.

Then screen shot or take a picture of the LOVE NOTE. Tag the notes of kindness with #LOVENOTE♥️ & share it online. Spreading love is a beautiful way of creating a ripple effect of healing energy.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you’d like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this. 🙂

If I had to choose only one woman in wellness that I could take to brunch, it would be Oprah Winfrey. During the toughest times and my darkest hours, I found peace in her free guided meditations with Deepak Chopra and I honestly don’t even have the words to explain how powerful and comforting those teachings were for me. Without my own healers and guidance at the time, her voice, along with Deepak’s were the foundation for my own growth, personal development and healing journey. Now, as someone who has lived my own lessons, traumas, pains and enlightenment, I would love to sit down with someone I admire deeply from a spiritual place in my heart, as well as an entrepreneur and a thought leader wanting to help change the world and improve the lives of others.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media? On Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter: @chefserenapoon

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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