Jessica Heath is an American-Sri Lankan businesswoman, author, model and chef residing in Washington, DC with her husband Rick. She has appeared on MasterChef USA Season 8 and is recognized in Sri Lanka as a leading culinary influencer. Visit Jessica at CEYLOVE.COM and follow her on Instagram (ceylon_lover).
1. Your debut book, “CEYLOVE”, was published recently. To begin with, could you tell those who don’t know much about the book? CEYLOVE (pronounced “Say Love”) is the marriage of Ceylon, the former British colonial name of Sri Lanka, and Love. The book conveys my adoration, respect and love for my heritage and mother’s homeland through a collection of family recipes, stories, travel and life experiences. The core of the book is my desire to use whole spices, which are vital to Sri Lankan cuisine. In my style of cooking, I show people how you can use whole spices like Ceylon cinnamon, cardamom, fenugreek, curry leaves, pandan leaves and and myriad other spices to coax extraordinary flavor combinations. It goes beyond Sri Lankan cuisine, as I show you how to implement cooking and spice techniques in everyday classics as well as global cuisine. I believe people are interested in creating foods that are unique and progressive, and CEYLOVE is fanning the flame on Sri Lankan food in a nouvelle way. 2. What inspired your debut? I have been interested in cooking since I was a little girl. You could say I have been working on a lifelong collaboration with my grandmother and mother. They taught me the fundamentals of Sri Lankan cooking and shared their extensive knowledge. Yet, I had an innate desire to expand upon this foundation to curate recipes that are different from traditional Sri Lankan dishes yet still keep culture and integrity to the food. Much of my inspiration comes from drawing on food and travel experiences and experimenting in my own kitchen. I love taking traditional Sri Lankan dishes and fusing them with other classics. A few examples: Sri Lankan beef WWW.INDIANAUTHORS.ORG PROFICIENT LEARNING AND AUTHORS TRUST bourguignon (a twist on my mother delectable curry); spice-infused carbonara (a fresh take on the Italian staple); and Thai and Sri Lankan scallop and mussel soup (a confluence of two complementary flavor profiles). These dishes are not only delicious, but show the power in cooking with whole spices. People today want to flavor their food in a natural way that is also beneficial to their bodies. Despite having an abundance of meat and vegetable curries, sambols and chutneys, Sri Lankan cuisine also offers a plethora of vegan preparations which are ideal for a clean, healthy lifestyle. Throughout CEYLOVE, you will see unique salads with fresh coconut, fruits, nuts, and vegetables, all presented and styled in a fresh light. It is a vegan’s dream!
3. What do you enjoy most about your work? I love to make others happy and teach them about Sri Lankan culture, tradition and food. My passion is providing dining experiences when all the senses, not just taste and smell, are stimulated. The greatest reward is when friends and family delight in the food I cook and the ambiance I create. There is a pure, visceral desire to give your loved ones the best you have to offer. I am just taking that simple concept and bringing it to everyone’s dining table around the world.
4. What has inspired you lately? I am constantly inspired by my surroundings, wherever I might be! Lately, I have been allured by nature, specifically in the neighborhood where we live. Our town is designated as an arboretum, so every morning on my daily run, I gather little pieces of nature – wood, twigs, bright petals, leafy greens – that I can channel into a gorgeous plate of food. I love it! I lay the gatherings out and take pictures, then channel a delicious recipe based on my collection. It’s a very artistic way to bring a naturalistic vibe to my kitchen. Being a model and working in luxury high-fashion sales, I have found immense inspiration in fabrics, color and texture and love to recreate this passion when styling a plate of food. Music, weather, and seasonal ingredients also are sources of inspiration. 5. Finally, what advice do you have for aspiring authors? WWW.INDIANAUTHORS.ORG PROFICIENT LEARNING AND AUTHORS TRUST ● Write without seizing. Constant writing has enabled me to write my book. CEYLOVE actually has been a documentation of my work over the course of several years. ● Look to established authors in your field and read some of their works. You want to get inspired by the best. ● Start by sharing your work on social media so that other aspiring artists and authors can take notice by engaging in your pieces. Feedback, networking, and self-vulnerability is the only way to grow. ● Be authentic and find a niche. In a world where so many things are quickly manufactured, it is imperative to share work that is a personal piece of you. People gravitate towards other people who are real and authentic. ● No matter what, believe in yourself and your convictions. Work towards your goal every day.