Hey! For anyone that happened to stumble onto this site, allow me to introduce myself. I go by Cheeky, Mason, or really whatever you feel like calling me. Legally speaking, call me Mason! It is nearly impossible to give an overview into my personality, so here’s the basic answer; I’m a trained Pastry Chef, travel fiend, and photographer. Those three tidbits of my life are just an umbrella definition to my passions. Everything found in this blog post will provide you a better outlook into my life, and hopefully outline what to expect from Eatin’ with Cheeky.
Circa 1999: I am Chef.
My journey to food is long, drawn out and borderline obsessive. Okay, yeah it is obsessive.
My first memory is of me in the kitchen making Deviled Eggs on Christmas morning at the age of 3 with my Grandma. That memory is the most pivotal moment of my life, a destiny had been written. I close my eyes and engrained into my mind is this moment. On top of a counter sat a stout little ginger giant surrounded by scattered eggshells, and my Grandma’s cloud of Pall Mall cigarette smoke. It was a different time, second hand smoke was a myth just like Y2K. Now, I mentioned maybe being a little obsessive and I paid the price down the line (Which, I will get into later). My brain loves the know-how, and I needed to know how food was, well food. What made food great? How did someone turn this into THAT? Simply put, I was enamored. I am enamored. I found myself either in the kitchen, watching Food Network, reading cookbooks, or watching YouTube videos. Everything in life led me back to the kitchen. In 7th grade, I presented the science behind chicken proteins to my class. Everyone, but the teacher, stared back at me blankly. See, I told you I was obsessed. By senior year I had already interned at private clubs, worked events with celebrity chefs, was awarded Student of the Year for my culinary achievements, and was offered tuition-free schooling. Food had become an answer, direction, and life.
Circa 2018, I am sick.
Remember how I mentioned earlier that I paid the price of my obsession? Well, here we go. What happens when your only happiness is tied to food? Obviously you eat, and you eat a lot. By the age of 21, I was over 400 pounds and riddled with ailments that I didn’t know how to fix. Several Doctor’s gave the advice to simply just lose the weight, without listening to what I had to say. I found myself responding “sounds good…” on repeat, as I munched on the suckers from outside the door. I had terrible allergies, life threatening asthma, psoriasis, arthritis, and a GI tract that didn’t work. At times, I wouldn’t use the restroom for 2-4 weeks, or I would explode 3 times within an hour. I was a balloon that only knew how to inflate. In 2018, I decided to jump headfirst into my health and lost 120 pounds. I looked happier, but I felt worse. I felt condensed, as if all the bad in my body was crammed into a smaller space. When asked if I felt better, which was a constant, I would respond with the happiest yes I could muster. I felt guilty appeasing the world with my newfound thinness, while my mental and physical wellbeing was collapsing. I put on several different faces for friends, coworkers, family, and strangers just to make it through the day. I was starving, but afraid to eat. The fears stemmed from all directions. Partly, I was fearful of failing and gaining back the weight. Mostly, I knew whatever I consumed would sit in purgatory known as my intestines causing more pain. My obsession was killing me, but not eating would kill me faster. My IBS controlled me. Occasionally I still have flare ups, but for the most part I’m healthy, happy and always improving myself.
Circa 2022, I am vegan and gluten-free.
Well after everything, I ended up living a GF and vegan lifestyle. After a lifetime of ignoring the instability of my own body, I took IBS by the horns and demanded control. I ate dairy regardless of my intolerance, I ate baguettes like candy without knowing that I was a celiac. I might as well have just drank poison, which may have been better than what I was already eating. I simply didn’t know, and doctors didn’t find it necessary to help. Without any plan, on November 14th, 2020 I woke up and cut out all animal products and gluten from my diet. I woke up on the 3rd day as if I had been born again. My head cleared out the second hand cigarette smoke from my childhood, I was crystal clear. I didn’t know what feeling awake was like, I must have been asleep my entire life. At the time, I weighed in at 275 pounds. I now sit happily at 190 to 200 pounds. Besides weight, what else has changed? After 21 years of struggle, I am now free from; asthma, allergies, rosacea, and crippling anxiety. When asked if I feel better, I can finally say yes! I deserve this yes.
You’ve gathered that I love food, but I love culture more. Food is culture, culture is food. After eating everywhere and everything that surround me, you can find me traveling to experience what others have to offer. For me, a meal should taste like how a good book reads. I want to taste the story through your food. Food is political, scientific, artistic, and created from a culture surrounded by the stories of others. Food is everything and then some. My passion of photography spawned from taking pictures of food, and sharing those images with others became a hobby. I want everyone to learn something from food. What can a meal with a stranger of different color, religion, culture, region, etc. do to you? I don’t know, that’s for you to find out. For me, I discovered something beautiful. For the first time I realized that no matter how different we seem at the surface, we’re all just human. Food and cultures are both created through hardships, or wealth. Ironically, the foods from cultures formed from hardships are the ones with the most flavor. Why? Because the story is there, you can taste it. You don’t need wealth or abundance to tell a story, and to me that has been proven through food alone.
If you have made it this far, you should have an idea of what to expect. Eatin‘ with Cheeky will cover health & wellness, personal recipes, food reviews, how to survive as a vegan and/or GF individual in a world that doesn’t yet accept it, and travel & culture. Make sure to follow my Instagram, @cheekygingerchef, if you’re interested in cooking reels or keeping up-to-date in my personal life.
Now, go eat something and don’t forget to stay cheeky.
- impudent or irreverent, typically in an endearing or amusing way. “a cheeky grin”