Jessica Willott is a personal chef and nutritionist who was born and raised on Vancouver Island, B.C. She spent her childhood years playing in her momâ€™s garden and developed her love for food and seasonal eating as she grew up. Her summers were spent on the West Coast of B.C. cooking on her dadâ€™s salmon fishing boat. This gave her an early respect and appreciation for the abundance of fresh, quality seafood, meat, and produce that the region has to offer.Â
After graduating high school, Jessica attended the culinary Arts Program at Vancouver Island University, where she went on to achieve her Red Seal Certification in culinary Arts. She has spent a majority of her career working at some of Vancouver Islandâ€™s top restaurants, such as Sooke Harbor House, CafÃ© Brio, and most recently, as Executive chef for the Dolphins Resort and Great Northern Ski Lodge. Jessica has also spent extensive time in Italy and Spain. She was inspired by their simple, flavourful, fresh cuisine as well as the relaxed European way of life.
Jessica spent two years in Vancouver attending the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition to become an RHN (Registered Holistic Nutritionist). Working alongside an established nutritionist, she gained an understanding of the importance of a clean, wholesome, balanced diet and the incredible effects it can have on health. Through this training, a whole new world of food, recipes, cooking, and preparation techniques have emerged.
Now, Jessica calls Calgary home and has recently created Essential Ingredients cooking, a Personal chef and Nutrition consulting company. She specializes in whole foods cooking, a process of maintaining the natural integrity of the product, while always keeping health in mind. Sheâ€™s thrilled to now be teaching cooking classes at ATCO Blueflame Kitchen, as well as working as a culinary educator with the Calgary Weight Management Centre.
Jessica has aligned herself with some of the top restaurant and health professionals in the city in order to deliver the best possible product to her clients. She looks forward to sharing her passion for food and life with all the great people here!
I am sure we have all heard that Omega 3â€™s, EPA, DHA and essential fatty acids are important to include in our diets. But if youâ€™re anything like me, unless you understand it and can apply it to your life, itâ€™s just another health fad that will soon be pushed aside.
Being a fishermanâ€™s daughter, raised on Vancouver Island I had an endless supply of fresh, delicious seafood within my reach at all times. I have to say, pulling out the salmon sandwich at the lunch table in elementary school didnâ€™t make me the most popular, but it did keep my pelt nice and shiny!
When I transitioned from chef to chef / nutritionist, I started asking questions about the science behind food, I started to understand what I should be including in my diet and why. Your unique needs and body makeup determines what types of foods you should be eating, and how often.
So now about our delicious fatty friend, Omega 3, aka essential fatty acids (EFAs). The reason these are known as EFAs is because our bodies canâ€™t produce them, we must get them through our diets. EFAs can play a role in reducing inflammation, increasing brain function, healthy skin, hair and nails as well as regulating blood clotting and building cell membranes.
The most absorbable, and I feel the tastiest way to get my EFAs, is through food. The richest sources of EFAâ€™S are wild salmon, sardines, tuna, mussels, and trout. vegetarian sources being flax seeds, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds. If you arenâ€™t able to include these in your diet on a daily basis, you may want to consider supplementation. Keep in mind when you supplement, be sure to check with your doctor first to ensure no contraindications with your current medication or health conditions.
Here is a recipe for one of my favourite Omega 3 rich meals. This meal was inspired by Scott Beaton of Catch Restaurant; however, I lightened things up a bit using a light pesto, instead of the hollandaise originally served with this dish.
The skin on salmon is providing our EFAs and protein, the lentils are providing fiber, and B vitamins, and the twist on the classic pesto sauce contains antioxidant rich mint, basil, and parsley.
1 – 30 oz (approx.) side wild salmon, skin on
1 Tbsp. grape seed oil
Â½ tsp. fine sea salt
Â½ tsp. black pepper
Remove scales from salmon using a scaler or French knife. Rinse skin over cold water to get rid of excess scales. Pat dry and remove any pin bones if needed. Cut your salmon into 5-6 oz portions making sure your salmon is very dry. Heat a heavy bottomed pan over high heat. Season your salmon on both sides. Add grape seed oil to pan. Sear salmon skin side down first, cook until skin is crispy and browned. Flip salmon over and turn off pan. The residual heat of the pan will cook the salmon through â€“ you want a bit of pink in the middle so your salmon stays very moist.
1 cup French lentils, soaked in 4 cups water overnight
1 bunch thyme, tied
1 onion, quartered
2 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. grape seed oil
1 carrot, diced small
1 stalk celery, diced small
Â½ cup shallots, diced small
2-3 cups chicken stock
1 lemon, juiced
Drain and rinse your lentils after soaking. Place lentils, thyme, onion, and salt in a medium-sized pot and cover completely with cold water. Bring water to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. When lentils are tender (about 20 mins) drain into a colander and set aside. SautÃ© carrots, celery, and shallots in grape seed oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add lentils and a cup of chicken stock. Allow stock to reduce, stirring often. continue to add stock as needed until lentils are tender and flavorful. Add lemon juice and check seasonings â€“ add salt and pepper as needed.
1 cup fresh mint leaves
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1 cup fresh Italian parsley
Â¼ cup pistachios, toasted
2 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. honey Â¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Â½ tsp. sea salt
Â¼ tsp. black pepper
Combine all ingredients in a food processor except for oil and puree. Slowly drizzle in olive oil. Season to taste.