To Jessica Karp, food used to serve a very different purpose. While working in finance and living in New York City, she saw it as more of an obstacle than a path to wellness and contentment. Her mindset shifted, however, with the birth of her daughter and the quest to feed her unprocessed food. With the help of her brother, Jordan, Jessica educated herself about the hidden aspects of the American food industry, and last year the two siblings opened Hu Kitchen in Manhattan’s Union Square. Below, read how she discovered what, to the FDA, is the meaning of “natural”, and that she believes slow and steady is the best way to permanent lifestyle change.
Live The Process: Has eating unprocessed and delicious food always been a priority for you?
Jessica Karp: “Eating well” used to mean something very different to me. I counted calories and didn’t care if food had chemicals, as long as I wouldn’t gain weight. I exercised only to lose calories and make my body look the way it should, which I still do. However, now I care about the way it makes me feel and how it relieves stress.
LTP: What inspired you to change the way you were eating?
JK: My brother, Jordan, read Dr. Mark Hyman’s The Ultramind Solution and that impacted how he viewed nutrition. He would constantly preach that I was not eating the right way and ingesting too many processed foods. He continued sharing his philosophy with me and I slowly started to listen. As he became more obsessed with nutrition and realized that eating well was the key to positive changes he had experienced, I started to make small changes, especially after I read In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan per Jordan’s recommendation. It was baby steps at first: I began to notice how processed and additive-rich foods were, despite being labeled “natural.” This was a way to fool consumers.
I would say the real change happened when I had my daughter, Isla. I only wanted her eating clean, unprocessed foods that were wholesome. I realized that if I was going to put the effort into providing her with the most nutritious and unprocessed foods possible, I should definitely be taking care of myself the same way.
LTP: Everyone has a kryptonite to their healthy habits: is there a food or perhaps a restaurant that has tempted you to stray from your nutritional philosophy?
JK: My new weaknesses are indulgent, but still unprocessed and real food.
LTP: Based on your own personal process, as well as your experience with Hu Kitchen, what is the easiest mistake to make when trying to eat unprocessed foods, and how can we avoid them?
JK: One thing we refuse to do is compromise taste in our recipes. The ingredients must be whole, clean and unprocessed, while being delicious.
I’ve watched a lot of people try to force themselves into eating foods only because they are good for them and not because they actually like them, and that just isn’t a sustainable plan. It’s important not to take the enjoyment out of eating.
For breakfast at Hu Kitchen, I like the Jordy Cakes, and for lunch or dinner, the grain-free Chicken Tenders. I also love the Almond Butter Puffed Quinoa Chocolate Bars just like everyone else!
Another favorite menu item of mine (the Bacon, Egg & Kale Sandwich that can be served on a biscuit) is a great example of a great tasting, unprocessed meal. That's our version of the class breakfast sandwich, the bacon is 100 percent grass fed/finished beef, the egg is organic, as is the kale. The sandwich is made to order, so the need for harmful preservatives and wasteful prepackaging is eliminated. It’s a popular breakfast that many enjoy, while at the same time it’s made of food you should actually be eating.
LTP: What tips would you offer people who aspire to eat as organically and sustainably as possible, but struggle sometimes?
JK: Restaurateur Arlene Spiegel says there are three categories of food consumers: The Confused buy food based on taste alone and do not consider the health component of their choices. The Concerned are interested in becoming informed about their options and changing their habits. The Committed have educated themselves and made the effort to change their lifestyle for the better, and continue to strive to take care of themselves.
I urge people to be a part of that final group and to work at it.
Before we opened the restaurant, we conducted three months of market research, and saw that what was missing was completely unadulterated wholesome food. We also learned that Europeans spend a great portion of their disposable income on food and that Americans were starting to do the same. My personal advice is to gather all the information you can and spend the resources you have to make a healthy life for yourself.
Another thing to remember is that you can make changes gradually. Anything too sudden or drastically different can cause people to become overwhelmed, and then they get disheartened and give up. It took me years to hone my lifestyle into what it is today, but I got there by making small changes and improving my life in tiny steps.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
JK: First thing in the morning, when my daughter’s alarm clock goes off, I hear the pitter-patter of Isla’s feet running down the hallway to wish my husband and I good morning. Those first five minutes are before the day starts and she is happy and full of life. The day is new and we can spend time with our daughter. These are the precious moments that I cherish.
LTP: What does it mean to you to "Live The Process," and how do you do that every day?
JK: Whatever I am doing, I am focused and being as much in the present as possible. Whether I am spending time with my family or working, that is all I am focusing on. Living The Process for me is not worrying about the other stuff that pops into my mind. It’s about trying to stay present. This is the process I try the best of my ability to live.