I believe food is the ultimate key to health, and prevention is the best kind of medicine.
By nourishing your body with a plant-rich, nutrient dense, whole foods diet, you’re well on your way to a happy, healthy life!
Welcome! I’m so glad you’re here. I’m José, a photographer, food stylist, chef, health enthusiast and creator of Swoon Food – a site dedicated to inspiring healthy eating and living.
Like many people, my path hasn’t been straight forward. I started my career as a medical research scientist, and even though I realised it wasn’t for me before I’d even finished studying, I thought it was too late to change and stubbornly persevered.
After completing my degree I wasn’t inspired about working in a medical lab, so I enrolled in a masters degree to become a forensic scientist. As I was looking into thesis subjects I discovered in order to be a fully qualified forensic scientist, I’d have to continue on to a PhD.
At that point I’d been at university for 5 years and decided another 3 wasn’t for me. I was desperate to travel and see the world so I spent a year working, saved up my money and jumped on a plane with my best friend.
We spent 3 months travelling Europe, staying in quaint little pensions and not so quaint hostels. We had out first taste of gelato then made it our mission to find the best in all of Italy (it was in Florence fyi). We discovered $2 casks of wine and the best way to drink it in the Spanish heat is in a tinto de verano (red wine + soda water + ice). We discovered chestnut milk does NOT taste like normal milk, nor does it go well on coco pops. We tasted one the best desserts ever in Rome (a fragrant, syrupy walnut cake) and became Scandinavian chocolate connoisseurs. We also stopped at every beach along the way and got the best tan of our lives!
Eventually we came back to reality and reluctantly left the warmth to settle in London. I worked in several locum positions until I was offered a position at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington researching a cure for diabetes. This should have been my dream role, yet I couldn’t help feeling something was missing.
At every opportunity I’d make the most of London’s vibrant food scene. Be it trawling Borough markets on the weekends, trying out every quaint, little middle eastern restaurant in the Cheap Eats Guide, discovering elusive Asian eateries and bars in Old street, or going to extravagant fine dining restaurants when my parents visited. My Dad still talks about the experience we had at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon to this day! And when I wasn’t eating out, I’d be cooking up a storm in my tiny flat kitchen and taking my creations round to whoever was hosting drinks that weekend.
It wasn’t until I went to Miami for a work conference that I had the epiphany I was in the wrong career. One evening of the conference there was a large dinner function at a famous creole crab shack. I tried crab claws, corn bread and key lime pie for the first time, and just couldn’t get over how amazing all the food was. When I finally looked up from my plate, I couldn’t understand why everyone around me was still talking work, when all I wanted to talk about was the ridiculously good molten lava pudding my boss had passed on to me.
Not long after that fortuitous dinner I left my research position to retrain as a chef at Leith’s School of Food & Wine in London. Later specialising in patisserie at Westminster Kingsway College. I worked in number of London kitchens including an artisan German cake kitchen, one of Gordon Ramsay’s Michelin starred establishments, and as a cake decorator in Belgravia. On my return to New Zealand I was the head pastry chef at Soul Bar & Bistro for 2 years until I left to pursue my own ventures.
I now consult on various culinary projects, including dessert menu and recipe creation, provide food styling and photographic work, and create all the content for Swoon Food.
why sugar free
After leaving my pastry chef role I realised I was a serious sugar addict. This was no doubt one of the main driving forces behind my love for all things sweet, as well as my bold career change. I knew it wasn’t healthy or sustainable long term – at least not without some serious consequences – of which I was beginning to get a taste.
I decided it was time to get serious about my health once and for all so I put myself through a complete sugar detox. Almost immediately I saw symptoms begin to diminish. Brain fog, dizziness, tingling in my fingers, migraines and digestive issues all started to clear up, and the positive changes continued to multiply the longer I continued. All up I did 8 weeks completely sugar free. I ate no sugar, no carbs and no alcohol, and to be honest, I felt so amazing I didn’t want to stop! The only reason I did was because we went on our honeymoon and I couldn’t bear to miss out on all the delicious Vietnamese food!
I was so inspired by how a simple diet change can impact your health in such a positive way that I want to share this knowledge with everyone. I’ve gone on to research this topic in depth and the more I learn the more I’m inspired. If the idea of cutting sugar speaks to you, you can read more about it and the concept of doing a sugar cleanse here.
my other passions
When I’m not creating or photographing food you’ll likely find me in a raw food cafe, practicing yoga, or walking with my husband and our exuberant Alaskan Malamute Chewbacca or our newest addition, Sadie the Airedale Terrier. We also love to travel and share many of our foodie adventures on Instagram. If you’d like to connect with me you’ll also find me on Facebook & Pinterest.