Eat Cleaner CEO and founder Mareya Ibrahim, aka “the Fit Foodie,” is a chef, entrepreneur, nutrition coach, inventor and author, with her latest book, titled “Eat Like You Give a Fork: The Real Dish on Eating to Thrive,” released by St. Martin’s Press on June 4.
The Orange County resident is headlining the Northwest Passages Main Stage at the 2019 Crave Food and Drink Celebration at CenterPlace Regional Event Center in Spokane Valley. Crave is Thursday-Sunday, and this year’s Main Stage on Saturday is spotlighting successful women in the culinary industry.
Ibrahim is on the Main Stage at 12:15 p.m. Saturday, and she answered questions Friday afternoon ahead of her trip to the Inland Northwest for Crave:
Have you been to Spokane before?
This will be my first time in Spokane. I recently traveled to Seattle, so you could say that this is my Inland Northwest tour. My boyfriend attended Whitworth, so it will be so fun to see Spokane through his eyes, too.
Please tell me about Eat Cleaner.
I started Eat Cleaner with my father, who is an environmental scientist, around the time that he was battling prostate and bladder cancer 14 years ago. He was told to avoid raw food, including raw produce, and we were flabbergasted. To build your immunity, eating leafy greens and other veggies is key. In terms of food safety, cooking proteins usually raised red flags, not leafy greens making you sick, but it turns out that it’s the No. 1 cause of food-borne illness.
It also became an endeavor of ours to research pesticide residue. He was getting his master’s and was researching how to get rid of pesticide residue from fresh produce. With our environmental backgrounds, the cherry on top would be to extend the life of produce. We want Eat Cleaner to be lab proven, effective in removing bacteria, pesticides and helping keep produce fresher longer, and that’s the basis of Eat Cleaner – to literally eat cleaner.
What do you do if you can’t find organic produce? One misconception of organic produce is that it’s entirely safe, but you still have to wash it properly because of the use of organic fertilizers and manure – and the fact that critters run all over.
How did your nickname “the Fit Foodie” come about?
I really feel strongly the way to fitness is to eat properly. You have to pick foods properly and create a strong environment in your body to feed your muscles, regulate hormones and lower inflammation. It’s habits that get you into the fittest shape possible. You don’t have to kill yourself at the gym, and, the truth is, while you can burn off a calorie, you can’t burn off information. Food is information that is processed by your body.
I love the cookbook title “Eat Like You Give a Fork.” How did you come up with the name?
We were being a little cheeky, but we wanted to think about food in a slightly different manner. It’s not the size you are but how you feel in your skin. Do you feel vital in your skin? This is an invitation for people to think about food in a different way.
How vibrant do you feel? How do you want to age and continue in your years – your teens and 20s and 30s? It’s exciting when people latch on to that, when they say, “I don’t even feel like I’m eating healthy. It’s about eating fat and eating good proteins, not rice cakes and Diet Coke.”
The focus of the Main Stage, where you’re headlining at Crave, is successful female chefs and leaders in the culinary industry. How important to you is female representation in the culinary industry?
It’s critical across the board in all aspects of the culinary industry and beyond stereotypical roles. You can take your love for all things food and go in so many different directions – chefs, restaurateurs without even cooking, product lines, marketing, PR.
The culinary industry is broad and diverse. People have asked me, “Why are you not running a restaurant?” That lifestyle is not for me. I’m doing what I love. Women have a place in the culinary industry and in all different aspects.
What do you think are the biggest obstacles for women in the culinary industry in 2019?
Now that the #MeToo movement has settled a bit, it’s not about proving what we are and what we do but just doing it and doing it well and shining. You could go to a restaurant and order food from a female chef who has poured her heart and soul into the dishes, and you never see her face. She’s just doing it.
Doing it well is what we need to celebrate. I really want to be encouraging and ask the question, “What do you want your day to look like?” You can shift gears and change.
Of all the things you do – chef, nutrition coach, author, entrepreneur and inventor – which is your favorite and why?
I don’t know if I have a favorite. There are so many reasons why I love Eat Cleaner, and one of the reasons is because I created it with my dad. It is our first patented product, and it was a huge learning process. I am very proud and grateful it has helped tens of thousands of people.
When I’m doing live events, it is so exciting to see the lights turn on in people’s heads, especially kids with autism whose enthusiasm and excitement are unmatched. I like to be hands on with food and be in front of people and share the love. In my Middle Eastern background, food is our glue, and I love to share those stories that impacted my life.
What is your favorite cuisine and guilty pleasure food?
I created MedMex, this fusion of Mediterranean and Southern Californian Mexican food, and it is so much fun. I absolutely love all variations of Asian cuisines – Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese. It’s so vast, and I want to dive deeper into the home-style cooking of all of those regions, much like Anthony Bourdain did with his writing.
My guilty pleasure is really not a guilty pleasure because I have no guilt with it. I love a beautiful handmade pasta with seafood, fresh truffles and arugula – my love language! It’s part of what I call “the 90/10 rule,” the last strategy in my book.
What is up next for you?
I am so in the moment of the book right now. This has been a lifelong dream of mine, to be published and have a platform to reach people and impact their lives for good. It has been a wonderful journey to interact with people more and write more and share my passion of what food is and what it means. It’s a way that we can communicate and love each other in a universal language. That’s the real dish.
The Spokesman-Review is partnering with Crave for the first time this year. For more information about Crave, go to https://cravenw.com/.
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