Zack Warren is a Whole Foods Market Healthy Eating Specialist at the Reno, Nevada store. A former Marine, Zack worked as a kitchen supervisor in the Corps and attended Le Cordon Bleu after his service. Zack shares the story of how he came to value a healthier way of eating and chose to dedicate his life to helping others make healthy choices.
The Initial SparkMy journey with food officially began after high school. I would have my friends come over, and I would cook for them. At the time, the meals I was making were far from great or healthy, but this opened the door for me.
I started taking culinary classes at my local community college in Reno. Then I joined the Marines at 23 as an Avionics Electrician. On my first deployment on the ship, I had the opportunity to work in the galley (the ship’s kitchen), which fueled my interest in food even more. While I was in the Marines, I earned a certificate in Food Science.
I didn't make the connection between wellness and food until I was injured during training exercises on my second deployment. I tore my patella ligament in my left knee and was unable to run or exercise the way I was used to. At the time, I ate anything and everything because I was so physically active. But I quickly gained weight after I was injured. I went from a lean 165 lbs. to 205 lbs. in just 8 months. It was then that I realized I had to make changes entirely in my eating habits since my ability to exercise was limited. I started cooking for myself and stopped eating any kind of fast food. At that point, I (wrongly) thought that all carbohydrates were bad, so I eliminated all pastas and breads.
A Detour Through Fine Dining
After the military, I started at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Las Vegas where I found the same problem. I was gaining weight due to my diet. At this point I was a lot more active, but I cooked and ate food loaded with salt, butter, refined oils, sugars and flours.
When I started cooking school, I didn't know what a whole grain product was, let alone what it tasted like. I didn’t know which foods were truly healthy until I took my first nutrition course at Le Cordon Bleu. That’s when I started to understand that food had another purpose beyond how good it tasted. I made some changes then to my personal diet and stopped cooking with butter and refined oils.
Once I graduated with my Associates degree in Applied Sciences in Culinary Arts, I was hired on at a well-known steakhouse. As the broiler cook, I found that I was preparing food I no longer ate. I quickly learned this wasn’t quite the work I wanted to be doing.
A Mission for Healthy Eating
I decided to pursue my passion and I enrolled in a nutrition program and also found the Healthy Eating Specialist job at Whole Foods Market in Reno. It was the perfect job at the perfect time. I’m thankful for each day that I can help customers and team members find healthier options and change their eating lifestyle.
My strength as a Healthy Eating Specialist is my ability to make food taste great with spices and other natural flavors. I couldn’t promote an eating lifestyle that made people miserable every time they ate because the food is bland and tasteless.
I tell my customers that everyone is different. Every body reacts to foods differently. I encourage them to find what works best for them, and I give them the tools to achieve that by introducing them to new recipes, showing them how to cook without oils and educating them about whole grain foods.
I love that I can now help be a part of the solution with good nutrition instead of the problem. I’m still enrolled into an advanced-degree program, and in two years, I’ll complete both my Bachelors in Nutrition and my Masters in Health Care Administration. And I’m happy to still be helping the customers exploring healthy eating at my Whole Foods Market.
Do you have a passion for food and healthy cooking? What sparked your interest?
Whether you’re just getting started or are well on your way, Whole Foods Market’s got great resources for your journey to health.
Disclaimer: This information is for reference purposes and is not intended to substitute for medical advice. You should not use this information as self-diagnosis or for treating a health problem or disease. Consult a health care professional for further information about dietary changes, food allergies or sensitivities and other health topics.