We all have that friend in our community who’s continuously pursuing good, inspiring others, and giving the most of themselves to see something come to fruition. Chelsey Pecoy is this light to her Orange County community and beyond – bringing real spaces of connection and education about the gift food can be for our bodies through Lighthearted Kitchen. From a young age, Chelsey’s been enamored with the different aromas and ways seasonal ingredients can be put together, gathering others in the process. I remember the day she announced the beginning of Lighthearted Kitchen, tearfully excited that all her hard work was giving way to something concrete. As a proud friend and recipient of her talent, I had the pleasure of sitting with her and hearing more about her journey and heart behind this amazing dream she’s seeing through.
Without further ado, the beautiful and kind Chelsey Pecoy
Tell us about your journey. How did you arrive at becoming a chef?
Cooking has always been my passion since I was young. I remember helping my mom in the kitchen and being fascinated by the aromas and flavors of the food. As I grew older, I started experimenting with nutrient density as a priority, using locally-sourced produce I found at the farmers’ markets each week. I realized that healthy food didn’t have to be bland or boring – in fact, by using fresh, high-quality ingredients and unique flavor combinations, I could create dishes that were not only delicious but also nourishing for the body. At the time, I was actually modeling in LA and realized through that job that my passion for health was too much of a conviction to continue so I began pursuing my culinary education through mentorship and gained more experience in the industry. I learned how to prepare dishes using alternative cooking methods that enhanced the nutritional benefits and became skilled in using herbs and spices to enhance flavor.
What inspires you in your cooking practice on a daily basis?
One of my biggest sources of inspiration for new dishes is the farmers market. There’s something truly special about walking through and seeing the vibrant colors and flavors of all that’s in season. When I visit the farmers market, I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting ingredients that I can incorporate into my dishes. Whether it’s a unique variety of summer squash or a fragrant bunch of herbs, I’m constantly inspired to experiment and try new things. What I love most about cooking with seasonal ingredients is that it forces me to be creative and think outside the box. Instead of relying on old recipes and techniques, I’m always challenging myself to come up with new and inventive ways to showcase the flavors of the season. Maybe I’ll try grilling peaches for a sweet and savory summer salad, or using winter squash to create a comforting and hearty soup.
How did you turn your passion for creating into a business and a brand?
My passion for healthy, nutrient-dense cooking started as a personal journey to improve my own health and wellbeing. But over time, I began to realize that there was a real need in my community for delicious food that was also nourishing, locally-sourced and truly farm to table. I started hosting dinners for family and friends in my backyard and it quickly turned into pop-ups at local shops and restaurants. Before I knew it, people were reaching out asking for Lighthearted Kitchen to serve their private events because it’s so rare to find businesses that want to create an experience for guests that is intentional and prepared with healing ingredients and love!
What does your day to day entail to support your company?
My day to day usually consists of computer work, emails and making sure our clients that reach out for private events are taken care of. After some admin work, my days rotate between event planning, moodboarding, recipe testing, ingredient sourcing, location scouting and meetings with local businesses. I love that every day is different and exciting, always planning for the next big event!
Do you have any daily rituals at home that bring you stability?
As someone who is so passionate about health and wellness, rituals are everything to me. I take time each day for mindfulness in the form of meditation, walks and yoga classes. Each morning consists of time outdoors in my backyard garden and journaling at night helps me relieve stress.
What is your favorite part about Lighthearted Kitchen?
My favorite part about Lighthearted Kitchen is the mission. I have so much conviction to help nourish and serve others’ nutrient-dense food. I love that we educate our guests about the nutritional benefits of each course and bring the community together to enjoy our dinners family-style.
What are your favorite rituals around food and eating with others?
My favorite ritual around food is sharing meals family-style because it is a great way to connect with others over meaningful conversation. Serving each other creates a sense of community, promotes generosity, and creates a relaxed atmosphere that encourages interaction and conversation. I also love to eat slowly and savor each bite because focusing on the taste, texture, and aroma of the food can help our bodies better digest each meal.
For all my easily intimidated cookers out there, what is the easiest go-to meal you’ve been loving and why?
My go-to easy meals include picking a protein (chicken or fish are my favorite) and heading to the farmers market to see what’s in season. I tell my guests all the time that what I make is relatively simple, but complex in flavor because of the quality. I’ll grab some vegetables and herbs, chop the veggies up, toss them in olive oil, a few spices, and roast them next to my protein. After the veggies are fork-tender and protein cooked through, I top them both with the herbs, a squeeze of lemon and flaky salt. The flavor is truly in the quality of the ingredients.
What are you most looking forward to right now?
I’m looking forward to all the events I have planned for this season. Summer is such an amazing time for farm to table dinner parties, from the vibrant abundant produce to the perfect weather for outdoor gathering. My favorite event, Summer Solstice, is right around the corner and will be a sweet celebration of the sunny season and long days ahead!
4 Japanese eggplants, sliced lengthwise
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup homemade labneh (strained yogurt)
1/4 cup pistachio dukkah
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
Shop Chelsey’s Summer Hosting Favorites!
You can purchase your ticket, book your next event, or hire Chelsey for personal cheffing through the Lighthearted website or her IG!