Melissa Eboli AKA Chef Via Melissa is a certified Culinary Nutrition Expert (CNE), Nutritional Chef and certified wellness counselor (CNWC) based out of NY. She is the author of “Let’s Dine IN: Healthy Recipes & Tips To Minimize Your Shopping Trips” (2020), and the owner of Via’s Kitchen, a personal chef and catering company that focuses on clean, allergen friendly food. Her services include event catering, dinner parties, cooking classes, live demos and recipe development. When she's not in the kitchen, she can be seen making guest appearances on Dr. Oz, in addition to being published in the likes of The New York Times, Forbes and Readers Digest to name a few. She’s executed over 200 events and has been in the media over 100 times for her expertise. Her passion as a chef is to create healthy dishes with a modern twist using the cleanest of ingredients while focusing on nutrition, flavor and presentation with an emphasis on gluten and dairy free cuisine.
So tell us a little about yourself?
I worked in sales and marketing for nearly 15 years in a variety of roles that were mostly remote and field based positions. The last 7 of my corporate sales experience were spent selling high-end kitchen appliances for Fisher & Paykel. I had a very cushy job, however it came with a lot of stress and accountability that over time started to wreak havoc on my health. Some of those health issues included chronic stress, anxiety, developing food sensitivities and adrenal fatigue. Concurrently, cooking was always a hobby of mine, however I never really saw myself working in a restaurant, thus never thought of pursuing food as a career. While creating recipes for my new onset allergies (specifically gluten and dairy), and hosting dinner parties for friends, so many kept saying how much they loved my food and highly suggested that I needed to do something with this hidden talent.
Fast forward to June of 2016, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer (she’s doing great today). However, her diagnosis hit me really hard as it made me realize just how precious life is. Not only did I want to be there, as her caretaker for my mother, but I also realized just how miserable I was with my job and wanted to pursue a passion project to help feed and educate the community on clean eating. In July of 2016 I quit my cushy sales job and enrolled in a culinary nutrition program to get certified as a nutritional chef. I had a VERY loose business plan, but followed my intuition. While in my culinary program, I started executing healthy cooking workshops and demos that led me to personal chef work and now catering. In just 3 years time, I had executed well over 200 events and have been published over 100 times. Some of which included being on Dr. Oz multiple times and being published in the likes of Forbes, The NYT and Huffington Post. Unfortunately, in 2020 Covid made my main business come to a complete halt. Being I had years of recipe creation and development, I utilized the downtime to finally produce my first cookbook, Let’s Dine IN: Healthy Recipes & Tips To Minimize Shopping Trips. 📖
How did you start your remote work journey?
My first remote position was when I was a sales rep for Virgin Mobil cell phones. I am fortunate to call myself a pioneer rep shortly after they launched in the US. My role at the time was home office and field based, mainly working with and visiting big box retailers from Best Buy, to Target and Radio Shack in the NY-Metro area. Fast forward to 2010, I took on a similar remote position with Fisher & Paykel Appliances that was both home office and field based, this time visiting clients throughout the Northeast.
What have you learned working from home?
Working from home requires discipline, and that is one thing I learned from my first remote position. I’ve always tried to approach it as if I were in the office and not be tempted to deviate from my job tasks. Granted, one major benefit is being able to sleep in later not having a morning commute. One major area of working from home that took me time to adjust to was when to turn the work off. It’s tempting when you have a lengthy to do list to want to answer emails at 8,9,10 PM to try and offset the next days work, but it’s best to try and have a start and stop time so you don’t feel like you are always working around the clock.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted almost every part of the economy and our daily lives. What challenges have you encountered both personally and professionally? How have you weathered these challenges?
In order to operate my main business I need to be in the field working with clients, planning and executing events. Since quarantine and Covid, I have not been able to do that. This Spring I had 10 client events planned pre-quarantine, all of which have been cancelled. Instead of sulking and saying woe is me, I took the onset of this unexpected downtime to compile some of my key recipes and create a cookbook that was inspired by quarantine, called Lets Dine IN: Healthy Recipes & Tips To Minimize Your Shopping Trips. I also took this time to learn about digital marketing to execute my new book venture. Another expansion I have done is launch a FB Group with a like-minded fitness professional called Daily Dose Of Wellness & Fit-Trition.
The next phase of my business I plan to transition to is offering online cooking classes this Fall, as live client events do not seem realistic in the near future.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created an increased sense of fear, depression, and isolation. How have you been able to get through pandemic-related anxiety and stress issues?
I have definitely had a myriad of emotions during this pandemic, especially in the beginning. I would have many restless and sleepless nights followed by shortness of breath; that I believe was onset from some anxiety. I was able to combat these symptoms by taking CBD and joining group online meditation sessions. I am typically a very active person that loved going to the gym and outdoor fitness. Being those were not options, I participated in many online group fitness classes as well to help de-stress and burn up energy versus just being sedentary all day into night.
What are your best mental health tips?
I am a huge proponent that you are what you eat, and mental health plays a big role in that. There are many specific foods people should eat to have a good balance of mental health. This includes foods high in magnesium, healthy fats, nuts and seeds. Some specifics are dark chocolate (for magnesium), salmon, walnuts, coconut oil, avocados and pumpkin seeds. On the flip side, I always recommend avoiding caffeine, gluten, dairy, fried or processed foods, as these will imbalance your well-being and mental health.
Additionally, I am a big proponent of CBD and all of its benefits, with good mental health being one of them. 🥗
Before the pandemic hit, you may have worked in an office or corporate setting, but what do you foresee happening now? How do you see companies allowing employees to work?
It will be very interesting to see how this plays out over the next few months or years. I personally do not need a structured office setting, however I have had many conversations with friends who are not happy working in a remote dynamic from school teachers to office workers. My best guess is staggered office days may be the way to go as a happy medium to appease the balance of utilizing a companies office overhead and keeping some sort of corporate culture with safely distancing employees not to overcrowd an office space.
Do you believe that remote work is the future?
We live in an age where remote work is totally viable and I can definitely see it being the future, especially for entrepreneurs and small business owners. However, this will vary greatly by industry. In my opinion, education is hard to sustain long term remote for teachers, and even more so the impact that is would have on students. Many corporate jobs however can easily be done remote. Some employees will be more productive with less inter-office distractions while at home while others may struggle as they may need office structure.
How do you think COVID will shape the future of business?
I think companies are going to be hypersensitive to their spending and budgeting. They will need to adjust their forecasting and overhead overall. This is where a remote structure can be a benefit to a business as that is a huge overhead many businesses are being crushed with right now with little to no access to their jobsites. Companies may begin to order less supplies not to be left with an influx of inventory and try to run on a skeleton staff. Covid has taught many companies they can operate in a minimalistic facet, and I am sure lots of businesses will restructure and downsize to trim unnecessary roles and expenses. This is of course not healthy to an economy with a growing rate of unemployment.
Do you have any advice for any aspiring remote workers/digital nomad/entrepreneurs?
My advice is for aspiring entrepreneurs. If you are considering taking the plunge into being your own boss, you need to be self-motivated and passionate about whatever endeavor you are about to embark on. In the beginning, you can expect to work long days, sometimes much more than you would a 9-5, but when you truly enjoy what you are doing, it will not always feel like work. But remember to give yourself breaks and make time for coffee and lunch dates so you don’t feel like you are always on an island by yourself in the business world.
How can readers get in touch with you?
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