• Vanessa Opal June

Therapeutic Cooking


I’m from Harlem, New York, and I’ve been a chef for over fifteen years; most of that time was spent as a pastry chef, and most recently I’ve transitioned into vegan and vegetarian comfort food. I’ve been in art programs and art school since I was a child, and I love the art scene in New York. I wanted to create a service that allows people to recognise the therapeutic benefits that creative outlets provide, and so over the last six years I’ve slowly put all the pieces togethers to develop Modern Aesthete, where I specialize in intuitive art, ecotherapy, yogic meditation and therapeutic cooking as modalities for self-care.

There are countless studies that show the many benefits therapeutic cooking have on our wellbeing; I'm here to help you reap those benefits and create intimate kitchen rituals that are meditative and inspiring. I design bespoke recipes tailored to your tastes: The ingredients entice your senses and the procedures are metered to your own personal comfort. Recipes can range from 20-minute weekday meals to a full Sunday Supper. Each person's spiritual connection to food is different, so there's no One Size Fits All approach to Therapeutic Cooking; my focus is to help you foster a positive relationship with food and to discover your most aesthetic self within the process of cooking.

What is Therapeutic Cooking?

What Therapeutic Cooking is

Therapeutic cooking is a creative outlet in which cooking and food are used to improve your overall well being. It’s used as a form of self-care, for family bonding, as team-building exercises, and more recently as a modality in a growing number of mental health clinics and therapists' offices! I encourage people to shift their mindset about cooking from it being a daily task into a creative and meditative form of self-expression.

What Therapeutic Cooking is not

This modality isn't about teaching cooking skills; these are not cooking lessons. Recipes are created or chosen that call to you: It could be as simple as your favourite weeknight dish or a different cuisine that you’ve always wanted to make. Whether we’re cooking meals that are familiar to you or brand new, the focus is on the process of making this dish, not the final outcome.

This is counterintuitive in a world where we sit and watch reality cooking competitions on television, watching contestants run around on fire for 45 minutes to put out a flawless dish where anything less than perfect is considered a failure. Life is so stressful already! Why would we want to place that level of perfectionism in our homes, in the one space that’s meant to heal and restore us?


Benefits

There’s tons of studies illustrating the benefits that cooking has on our wellbeing: It's a process that requires us to slow down and make each movement deliberate and mindful. It requires full immersion of all six senses, transforming your focus into therapeutic meditation.

The final result of your cooking ritual is a delicious and nourishing meal—and a self-care experience for your mind, body and Spirit.

  • Improves your mood

  • Increases mindfulness: Each movement slows down and becomes deliberate

  • Teaches patience

  • Lowers stress

  • Allows you to use all your senses: Touch, sight, smell, sound, taste, intuition

  • Increases your trust in your intuition

In therapy, it’s used as a treatment for a wide range of mental and behavioral health conditions, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, ADHD and addiction.


Cooking as Meditation

The process of cooking is absolutely meditative; I always start a conversation about cooking as a form of meditation with some questions to think about:

Can you remember the last food smell that made you unequivocally happy? When was the last time you took the time to appreciate your ingredients? To allow the rote process of chopping to soothe your nerves? What’s going through your mind while you’re cooking?

To the last question, most interestingly, most people say, “I don’t know,” “I don’t remember,” or “Nothing.” Meditation is about clearing your mind of all thoughts and focusing on one thing. Those responses remind them that, whether they realised it or not, they were in meditation.

It’s just so easy to get wrapped up in the rush of our lifestyles to be aware of it’s meditative effects. Sometimes we’re getting home late from work, we’re tired and hungry and we just rush into the kitchen to slap a meal on the table.

We’ve all done it; I cook for a living and I’ve done this too many times to count. But on those good days, when it’s the weekend and you have all the time you’d like and you’re in the kitchen, what does that look like? You’re calmer, your movements are as slow or fast as you want them to be.

Cooking is an activity that involves all six senses, and so it's important to take the time to recognise how each sense is being called into the moment. Mindfulness and intention are characteristics not generally placed into cooking, and yet so many people reap the calming benefits of cooking; my focus it to help people practice Imperfectionism and spiritual meditation while cooking.


Interested in learning more about Therapeutic Cooking? Email me or book a free 30-minute consultation where we can find a unique practice tailored to your tastes and needs


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©2020 by Vanessa Opal June