Female Feature Friday

Going to culinary school was the best decision of my life.

Kelly Scott: @kellyscleankitchen

Hey yall! My name is Kelly Scott and I am a chef in Orange County, California. I am also the creator of Kelly’s Clean Kitchen, a website and social media outlet for recipes, healthy cooking tips, selling my nut butters and services such as meal prep, private events, cooking lessons, and recipe development. I am extremely passionate about healthy cooking and teaching others how to make great meals that are not only great for you but taste great! 

If you asked me 5 years ago what I would be doing at the age of 25, I would have told you something completely different than being a chef. In my early 20s, I was in my undergrad at Winthrop University playing Division 1 College Volleyball. I was majoring in Political Science and Legal Studies, on track to become a lawyer. My life was consumed by all things volleyball and being perfect in school. In my Sophomore year, everything was going my way, I was one of the starting setters in Volleyball, had a great social life, and great grades. This all ended on Halloween of 2014 I was seriously injured warming up for a match. I was struck in the head so badly I lost my vision, head was throbbing and knew I had a concussion. It was not my first, so I thought I could push through and play. I was encouraged to push through the pain, and I did until it was too much to handle.

I went to countless doctors to assess the concussion, and after months of no relief, they determined it was a TBI- traumatic brain injury. I was put on medication, had to do brain therapy, go to doctors every week. I couldn’t sleep, work out, or even be on the volleyball court without my head throbbing. After one year of this, I was medically disqualified from playing and felt hopeless. It was at this time that I started becoming obsessive over everything I ate because if I couldn’t control the rest of my health I could at least control what I ate. This was the first of years of orthorexia tendencies to come, an eating disorder characterized by obsessive behavior over eating perfectly healthy that came with lots of anxiety and working out. 

In the final years of my undergrad, my brain began to heal, but my body got worse. I am 6’1” and weighed 160lbs during volleyball, but within a year I dropped to 115 lbs. I had started modeling to try to find a new passion, which only encouraged my low weight. During this time I had taken up cooking because it allowed me to control what went into my food. I shockingly loved it and enjoyed being around food every day, even though I was also afraid of it. I decided to change my health after taking a nutrition class and getting a nutritionist. I also was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and celiacs which made it difficult for me to put weight back on, but I was finally on the right track by the time I graduated undergrad.

I decided to take a gap year between undergrad and law school so I could travel and model. I was no longer as severe with my eating habits and was in a place to try new things. I lived off and on in NYC and Milan during that year, and between that, I was at home with my parents. While living with my parents I started working in a local bakery for extra cash. I instantly fell in love with working on the line and cooking all day. I had never felt so passionate about something in my entire life. I knew that there was no way I would be going to law school and instead started applying to culinary schools. I quit modeling and everything I was doing, and uprooted my life to go to the top culinary school in the country, the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, CA, in May 2018.

Going to culinary school was the best decision of my life. I not only learned how to cook on a professional level, but it allowed me to finally be set free of my orthorexia. I was forced to cook with ingredients I would have never eaten before and to actually eat that food. At first, this terrified me, but after a few months, I was able to eat items without fear. My type-A personality also happened to be a great fit at the CIA where I thrived, becoming the class leader, graduating top of my class with honors, and securing a job out of school.

It is now my goal to help others who may have been in similar situations as me, dealing with health problems, whether that be an eating disorder or being overweight. I want to teach others that healthy cooking can be freeing and liberating, instead of restrictive and boring. Being able to cook meals for others that is healthy and delicious brings me the greatest joy in life, and if I get to teach others to do the same I will be fulfilling my life’s purpose. 

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