Within minutes of meeting nutritionist Mikaela Reuben you’ll want to know more about her. At 5’2, with wild blonde hair and an infectious smile, Reuben is a chilli pepper in this salad we call life. She speaks with spice and an undeniable passion for her career – one that takes her around the world and into the homes of movie stars. And she knows how to cook up a mean healthy meal that will quickly snuff out any aversion you might have to vegetables.
Reuben is never in one place for long, and it’s been that way for a while. Her home base is Vancouver, but after volunteering in the Maldives and spending time writing a cookbook on Maui, a gig catering on the set of the film Midnight in Paris opened up a new path. Reuben made the decision to defer a master’s degree in kinesiology to become a private chef for actor Owen Wilson. But Reuben didn’t stop there – she kept building her business and supplementing her knowledge with raw food courses and a holistic nutrition certification. She jumped at the chance to train with chefs around the world, feeding her wanderlust. “I’ve always believed it’s a good idea to build something that can be a form of income without having to always be the person on site,” she explains.
We caught up with Reuben at the Vancouver Urban Winery to find out how to stay healthy on the road, handle stressful situations and pursue a path less travelled.
Kit and Ace: What made you fall in love with food and nutrition?
Mikaela Reuben: Travel. The more I travelled, the more I realized that food is the basis of human connectivity. Everyone has to eat. I was able to learn about people and culture through food – it became an obsession.
What is your speciality in the kitchen?
MR: I love healthy cooking. I’m really good at taking vegetables and making them taste good – it’s as simple as that. I also have a way with people. Being a private chef is so intimate – you need to be good at emotionally understanding humans and knowing when to walk out of a conversation.
Do you always choose organic and free range, even when eating out at a restaurant?
MR: I try to choose clean foods. We lose control in so many ways, so we might as well control our food choices if we can. I won’t make a fuss at a restaurant and ask, “Is this organic?” all the time. I believe we should ask questions and eat well when it’s within our control, but not let it consume our lives.
What do your meals look like while you’re on the road?
MR: It comes down to the little things. It’s drinking a lot of water when I wake up. It’s eating as many greens as possible – ordering sides like broccoli and asparagus with meals. It’s being very mindful of your food. But I also love wine. I have no reservations about that!
With your travel schedule and working with so many high-profile clients, how do you handle stress?
MR: I’m working on deep breathing and not taking things personally. I’m stepping back and remembering that life is very short, and [the stress] is going to pass. That’s the only way sometimes, because stress can feel very real in my day-to-day. But it all comes back to breath. When you breathe deeply, you put pressure on the nerve or blood vessel that goes to the brain that actually stimulates calm. It can slow your heart rate. It can calm your mind. It can center you physically in a different way – all in a single breath.
How do you find balance physically through fitness?
MR: When I’m home I take space – I go to classes and go for walks. It’s a gentle speed. When I go away, I put 200 per cent into my work for the entire duration and it’s not maintainable because the balance is so far off. I’m on my feet for 10 hours a day. When I’m home, I recover. I might sleep until noon and practice yoga twice a day.
You have flawless skin. Is your skincare regime related to the foods you eat?
MR: Honestly, I think it’s because I eat a lot of fat. I love fish and that’s been a big part of my life. If I’m travelling I always bring an omega-3 pill with me because I’m diligent about the oils I’m giving to my skin. The skincare companies I choose are organic and my makeup is mineral-based without toxins – I’m not afraid to spend money on my skincare. And also, sleep is very important. I think everyone should sleep seven and a half hours – and yet none of us do. It’s insane.
Kinesiology was your original pursuit rather than nutrition. What advice would you give someone wanting to take a new path?
MR: Trust that you already know what to do. Nobody is sure of where they’re going to be forever. Knowing what you want to do for the rest of your life is not a fair thing to ask of anyone. I still don’t know what I want to do with my life! When you accept that, it makes everything a lot easier. I spent too much time staying on a path because I was too scared to quit.
The fear of the unknown is real for a lot of people.
MR: The best things that happened in my life were my mistakes. Thinking back, I would not be afraid of the unknown. We humans love having the element of control – we need to know. I’m starting to embrace that I have no idea. It’s actually exciting.