Chef Vanessa Musi has forged a new frontier in healthy baking.
By Hannah Phillips, Photos courtesy of Joe Van and Vanessa Musi
Necessity is the mother of invention, and Chef Vanessa Musi had quite the incentive to become a pioneer in the world of healthy baking. As a woman in the male-dominated culinary industry, Musi realized early on she would need to forge her own path to success. Then, at the start of her career, she encountered an even tougher hurdle.
One month into a two-year culinary program, Musi was diagnosed with hypoglycemia and was warned the stressful lifestyle of a chef—15-hour shifts without eating, working near extreme temperatures, even the ingredients themselves—could kill her. Musi left her doctor’s office that day undeterred.
“The diagnosis was a challenge, not an obstacle,” she says.
While Musi certainly went through difficult times in pursuit of her dreams, her story suggests she was always destined to be an entrepreneur. Born into a family of self-starters, who Musi describes as “total pioneers,” she spent her early years in a creative neighborhood on the outskirts of Mexico City, Mexico.
“We were always the outliers. We always stood out,” she recalls.
Musi grew up attending an English international school, and it was her multicultural childhood that deepened her love of cooking and inspired her desire to travel.
Despite her hypoglycemia diagnosis, Musi received a culinary degree and moved to Vienna to work as head chef of the Mexican Embassy when she was just 24 years old.
“You create your destiny,” Musi says. “If you seek it and are determined, the opportunity will come up.”
Shortly after, a hypoglycemia flare-up forced her to return to Mexico, but she refused to believe the incredible embassy experience would be the last opportunity like it in her life.
In 2001, another opportunity arose when her sister returned from a trip to Santa Fe, N.M., raving about a brownie she had at local restaurant Chocolate Maven. Curious, Musi arrived in Santa Fe just four days later, securing a job at Chocolate Maven’s new upstairs restaurant. There, she was introduced to vegan and gluten-free pastry alternatives, eventually inspiring her to move back to Mexico to focus on healthy baking.
Musi got a scholarship to Maricu, the best pastry school in Mexico, and became assistant to the CEO. There, she developed classes and workshops for the school on how to bake healthier.
“No one was doing that at the time,” Musi recalls. “No sugar and no flour: That was crazy!”
Throughout the many twists and turns of her career, Musi had finally found her niche as a healthy pastry chef, something that required a combination of determination, grit and self-discovery.
“You have to define what you want and discover what you’re great at,” Musi says. “It’s not a matter of if I can do it, but do I love it?”
But like many entrepreneurs, she faced a lot of rejection when she first started baking her own healthy goods.
“When you pioneer something, you get a lot of nos,” she says.
To prove there was a market for healthy baking, she began teaching seminars throughout Mexico, running classes from her apartment. Intrigued by the seemingly more proactive environment in America, Musi decided to move to Chicago for further study at the prestigious French Pastry School, but once again, her hypoglycemia threatened her career and she learned she would need a hip replacement before moving to the U.S.
Today, Musi lives in Austin, a city she adores for its healthy atmosphere, and can be found focusing on recipe development for companies like Bulletproof while searching for her own property to set up the best and only healthy baking school here in Austin.
While things haven’t always been easy, Musi has stayed positive and has made it her mission to not just succeed as a female chef, but to use her own struggle with hypoglycemia to help heal people through food.
“It’s a hard industry,” she says. “But it comes easier when you are in your element. This is good for me, good for others, good for the world, that is, when you find your brilliance.”
Musi shares her brilliance by posting her recipes online and on Instagram, where she has quite the following. She especially loves hosting regular workshops from her home.
“You can savor the world in so many ways: through conversation or a beautiful day,” she shares. “I want people to walk out of my class feeling transformed in every way.”
For more information on Chef Vanessa Musi, visit her website at vanessamusi.com and follow her on Instagram @chefvanessamusi.