By: Mike Smith
I grew up in Wentzville MO. It is a small town about 40 miles west of St Louis MO. Wentzville is not a place of historical significance with only a few notable residents. The town considered itself the “Crossroads of America” due to the fact it just happens to be the location that Interstates 70 and 40 intersect. It was a blue-collar community driven around manufacturing, construction, and farming.
As a young kid, I hated vegetables. This may be partially because I associated them with working in our 1-acre garden. Other than picking the strawberries, which were in my mind the only reason we should even consider this laborious endeavour, I wanted nothing to do with it. We also butchered our own hogs and steers at my uncle’s farm. This labor I was a little more bought into because it yielded the salivating rewards of steaks and bacon we could feast on and grill for the next year. Again, this had to be done in a hard way in the dead of winter to keep the meat cold during the butchering process.
As my parents aged and my older brothers moved away, there was less labor to be shared in our own food production and my family yielded to the habits of the changing world and buying cheap and often processed foods. Sometimes, we would visit the local produce stands or pick fruits in season, but when those were unavailable processed foods were everywhere.
I often opted out of boring meals all together and just went to my room or went to bed early until football re-entered my life. Sports were a big part of life growing up, but until high school, it didn’t truly matter. Enter the “Friday Night Light” effect. To be a contributor I had to get bigger, faster, and stronger. To do this I had to gain muscle and healthy weight.
Exit junk and processed foods. I started making my own dinners or at least my own sides at family dinners. I made requests around different shopping choices and my parents were supportive enough to buy the healthier foods I requested. Often times I would cook the majority of the meal for the family so I could have it the way I wanted. Food was the one luxury we could afford and so began my experimentation with food and quest around a healthy lifestyle fueled by great tasting food.
The passion for fitness I learned playing high school sports carried over to college and beyond. From humble beginnings at the “crossroads of nowhere,” I have been lucky enough to get out and see some of the world. I spent 13 years in San Diego where the mountains and beach were always just a bike ride or short drive away.
Today almost every trip I take has some adventure or fitness event attached to it. I have been so fortunate to hike the coasts of Hawaii, Dolomite Mountains in Italy and to the base of the Eiger in Switzerland. I have snowboarded in 4 different states, jumped off cliffs, and climbed waterfalls in Jamaica. My list of what to do next is just getting started.
A couple years ago I made the trip to Birmingham to meet with the Taziki’s team. I ate at several restaurants in Nashville and Birmingham and fell in love with the food. When I became a part of the Taziki’s team it was the first time that I was able to connect my passion for healthy and flavorful food with my career.
Too many times in the restaurant business we sacrifice our healthy souls for a little extra flavor or to give a giant portion that creates an artificial perception of value. Value is balancing natural flavorful foods that fuel us to thrive in other areas our lives. Today, I am fortunate enough to be a part of a team that wants to share that philosophy with our guests and we execute it every day.
Anyone that has been around me knows that I am competitive and love a challenge. We have been competing with humans and nature for thousands of years and we compete to win. In order to win we have to define what it takes to win or at a minimum what winning looks like. What does winning look like to me?
Winning looks like living a fit and active lifestyle. That includes traveling and trying the food inspired by people around the world. For you, winning might be getting off the couch and running your first 5K or hitting the gym in your hometown. Either way, I hope next time you sit down to eat you look at your food as a choice that fuels your life and that your life is if nothing else is an adventure.
What am I working on next? My goal is to do 100,000 push ups before the end of the year and my next adventure – Tough Mudder Nashville. Looking to build my team for both goals. If you want to join me reach out and connect!