About a year ago, I took a new hobby of baking sourdough bread and then kefir fermentation. Then I "met" Anne on the Facebook group of sourdough fanatics, Perfect Sourdough. She gave me her 400-year old German starter that I named Ancient Doug to accompany my Baby Doughy. I featured her inspiring story in one of my blogs. She mentioned how kombucha helped her fibromyalgia more than kefir did. So I adopted another pet, SCOBYdobydoo, the mother starter for kombucha. In the process, I "met" Melissa Torio, who has this awesome website featuring kombucha. After many emails and tips, I invited her to share her inspiring story. I've always been inspired by women who embarked on untrodden paths, took on risks, and persevered in pursuing their passion and newfound purpose. Here's Melissa's story:
Which part of the country/town you live?
I live in a suburb of Toronto, Canada.
How did you discover your passion? Who or what inspired you?
My journey to a more natural lifestyle started when I had my first child. Learning about the chemicals and toxins in our food and environment and their effects on us, especially children, I wanted to have a healthier, non-toxic, simpler, more sustainable lifestyle. I discovered organic food when I was figuring out what to feed my son. I wanted to teach my children where their food comes from, so I started a backyard vegetable garden. I learned about more natural cleaning products when trying to detoxify our home.
When my first son was younger, he had eczema, the type that kept him (and us) up at night scratching his skin. A practitioner we were seeing suggested removing dairy from my son’s diet and this greatly helped relieve his eczema. I didn't know that a dairy intolerance was connected to skin issues. I eventually learned about the importance of gut health and how it affects our skin, mood and mental health.
When I learned about the concept of "food as medicine", I was fascinated. How had I not known about this before? Why don’t more people know about this? What we eat and put on and in our bodies affects our health and life. So as I continued to learn more about the power of food and a more sustainable, natural lifestyle, I wanted to help others learn about this too.
When was the turning point that you decided you’d pursue this? When did you break into the market?
I had been in corporate IT for many years. When my department was downsized, I faced a choice of going back to an IT job or pursuing a different path in health and nutrition. It was a blessing in disguise really. I needed a drastic push to nudge me out of the corporate rat race.
Initially, I was just interested in blogging about our natural health journey. After learning about nutrition school and coaching, I decided to enroll in the Academy of Culinary Nutrition in 2016. I created my blog in 2017 and I have been creating healthy recipes and running kombucha workshops and healthy cooking classes ever since.
What setbacks did you encounter and how did you overcome these?
Being totally new to the health and nutrition field and having been a corporate employee for many years, I had impostor syndrome. I was afraid of getting out there and being rejected. One of my biggest fears was public speaking. I had to just get started and take the leap. I taught my first kombucha class and then another and then another. I learned that confidence comes with practice, that I knew enough, and that people wanted this information.
How does your day look like? Do you have a routine?
My day starts with drinking a full glass of water. And ends with reflecting on at least one thing I'm grateful for. I try to focus on one thing at a time in between. I just started a meditation practice, 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the afternoon. Not quite there yet, but I’m trying to be more consistent.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Five years from now, I still see myself teaching people about fermentation and kombucha. I love to help people take charge of their health, especially gut health, through eating fermented foods. I would like to offer culinary nutrition coaching and other products or services as well.
What advice can you give the readers who want to pursue their passion and purpose?
We all have unique gifts to share with the world. To get started, just start. There really is no better time to start than now. Done is better than perfect. Aim for progress over perfection.
Fear is a sign you are meant to go down that path. Pushing out of your comfort zone is one of the best things you can do for yourself and the world.
Just put something out there, get feedback, learn from the feedback, improve and go again.
You can do this!
Melissa Torio is a Certified Culinary Nutrition Expert and Certified Instructor of the Academy of Culinary Nutrition. She is an avid kombucha homebrewer and fermentation enthusiast. She aims to help people live healthier and more sustainable lives. She creates healthy recipes and teaches healthy cooking classes and kombucha workshops in the Toronto area. Connect with her at melissatorio.com.
Are you looking for opportunities to work or grow your business? Have you started a new gig and don’t know how to get the word out?
Lately, I got hooked into sourdough bread baking and joined the Facebook group, Perfect Sourdough.
What a revelation to find a variety of bakers, from the enthusiasts, weekend bakers to the professionals and the in-betweens.
I chanced upon Anne Gowens’ post about her thriving sourdough business and I got curious.
How did she manage to establish it? I interviewed her.
Her answers revealed a love and passion for sourdough that went beyond the extra income.
I accompanied my 13-year old daughter to volunteer in the Refugee Outreach Program of St. Patrick’s Church. What a surprise to find the parish center teeming with people of different colors.
During orientation, we learned of their vibrant ministry for refugees from countries, such as Burundi, Congo, Burma, Rwanda, Eritrea, Kenya, and Tanzania.
One Saturday, I chanced upon Kristin Lavitola lounging in her booth at the Irving Farmer’s Market.
The weekend event, hosted by Four Seasons Markets, provides a venue for local farmers, producers, artisans, and crafts(wo)men to showcase their goods at the parking lot of the Irving Arts Center along MacArthur Blvd.
Displayed on Kristin’s table were her ceramic artworks in different sizes and vivid colors.