Healthy living chef and wellness expert Charles Chen ’13 seems to be everywhere these days. The 29-year-old is an ambassador for the American Heart Association and has appeared on the Food Network’s Chopped, Dr. Oz, and many other shows, as well as hosting his own TV show. He’s a popular presenter at Whole Foods and Williams Sonoma stores nationwide, and headlines popular events such as the New York Food & Wine Festival and the Los Angeles Green Expo. We caught up with him recently in Los Angeles.
Tell us about the transformation you went through.
At one point in my life I struggled with my weight and I was a hundred pounds heavier and pre-diabetic. I’ve since reclaimed my health through healthy cooking, and releasing shame and guilt from my childhood that I held on to while learning to deal with my parent’s divorce and finding my own identity as a gay Asian American. Now my passion is to help others reclaim their health through recipes, inspiration, and healing our inner child wounds.
My career launched really through my rock bottom—I believe I experienced my transformation for a reason and I have dedicated my life to helping others achieve health through mind, body, and spirit.
What set the stage for your current success?
It all comes back to bringing more value. I understood that my past was not only a shadow but an opportunity to help others who may be going through the same experience. If I could help one person, then I have done my job paying it forward. I realized we all eat food, and food has such an emotional connection with our childhood. Food is also a way people use to cope with emotions, so I wanted to dive deeper and explore our connection to food. I never set out to build a brand, I just shared authentically, and people were interested. The best I did was not giving up when I couldn’t see the “how” staircase.
What are you working on now that most excites you?
I am working on my first lifestyle cookbook that will include delicious recipes, and lifestyle tips I have found helpful along my journey such as meditation, forgiveness, and releasing shame. One of my favorite things to do is create quality content—we are always sharing recipes, inspiration, and interviews on my website.
What did you take away from your Antioch experience?
I finished my AA at Santa Monica College and applied to schools in New York and Los Angeles. I was accepted into many, but I was drawn to Antioch’s social justice and community support. I enjoyed that classes were intimate, and I got to personalize my educational journey. I had a chance to work hands-on with professors, and got very close to an admissions counselor who helped me navigate my time at Antioch. I truly believe my career path was shaped by the lessons I learned while in school; it was during my time at the University where I honed in on marketing, social justice, and was driven to make a difference in the world.
Chocolate Avocado Mousse
Recipe courtesy of Charles Chen
- 2 very ripe avocados
- 4 T cacao powder or cocoa powder
- 3-4 T pure maple syrup or honey
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1-2 T freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 tsp orange zest
- Dash of pink salt
- Cacao nibs, coconut and raspberry (optional – for topping)
Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Process until very smooth and mousse-like. Add more sweetener or orange juice to taste. Chill for at least 20 minutes before serving. Top with cacao nibs, coconut and raspberry; or serve garnished with an orange slice or chocolate shavings. Enjoy! Get more recipes at CharlesChen.tv