Day on a Plate: Melissa Mayo, Chef & Author

Healthy Q&A's

We are so excited to feature the divine Melissa Mayo, Chef and Author, on the blog today ahead of our exciting event in L.A. this coming May – ‘Cooking, Cocktails & Conversation’. To find out more details and to book tickets, click here


  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself – who you are and what you do.


I’m a proudly Jewish chef, mom, wife, author, globetrotter, dreamer and eternal optimist. The glass is always overflowing to me. I was born in South Africa and raised on a steady diet of braaivleis (red meat cooked over an open charcoal flame). I learned to cook at my mom’s knee. I was her official taster. I was taught to taste my way to the perfect dish.


Like many South Africans I have a large personality. My front door is always open, and my home is full of guests and an abundance of good food. This is the South African way.I love steak, red wine, dark chocolate, expresso and karaoke.


After completing my MBA I moved to Los Angeles. I met my hunky South African husband, Saul, and gave birth to our beautiful daughter (and my best friend) Jade who is now 14.


We love to travel. I literally eat my way through each country, trying out new dishes and flavours. I developed a love affair with Italy. We recently bought a home in Lucca, where I plan on spending the summers until my daughter heads off to college. Then I plan on opening my cooking school and retiring to my Italian farm house with a big fig tree.



  1. What was the ‘uh ha’ moment that inspired you to get in to health and wellbeing?


After my daughter was born I decided to leave the world of finance. When she headed off to preschool, I took a gig cooking lunch for 30, at Oscar winner Hans Zimmer’s studio. This gave me time to experiment. Influenced by my South African roots and my travels, I created a style of cooking uniquely my own.


I also stared on Foodnetwork’s “Private Chefs of Beverly Hill’s” and spent 3 summers teaching a kids cooking camp on the Paramount lot.


My husband felt I wasn’t cooking enough for him. Hahahahaha….So I decided to open my own cooking school at home. I developed a large following and their support pushed me to launch my website 18 months ago. It has tons of free recipes, 2 minute cooking videos and posts about travel, health and fitness.


I’m passionate about food, but I also enjoy feeling fit and healthy. I believe abs are made in the kitchen. By cooking with fresh ingredients, you control what you put in your body.I enjoy grilling and roasting colorful, crunchy food that is visibly appealing, because people eat with their eyes first.

I take all my own photos and style my food so I am drawn to lots of color. It’s so important to “Eat the Rainbow”. Each colored ingredient has different nutrients our bodies need, and variety is the key. I cannot eat the same food all the time. I like all food groups equally and don’t have any foods I avoid. My motto is a little of everything, not a lot of anything.


I love simple, uncomplicated methods and my recipes are quick and based on what is in season. I like to serve food family style on huge platters. I also like food to be at room temperature so I can enjoy my guests. And being Jewish I entertain a lot. Sometimes I cook for 90 people and hosting Shabbos dinner each Friday is the best way to head into the weekend.


Last year I published my first cookbook. It focused on recipes for the Jewish holiday of Passover. I am so glad I was able to get it out before my mom passed away, so she could see I dedicated it to her. Knowing her recipes were cooked at thousands of Seders over Pesach gave me so much comfort.


  1. Talk us through a typical day in your life…


6am: Wakeup and mediate for 5 minutes. Grab a double expresso and breakfast and enjoy it while I read my book. Breakfast varies. I love oats in the winter, Greek yoghurt and fruit, rye toast and peanut butter, a kale and berry protein smoothie . And then the weekend is always steak and eggs or smoked salmon and bagels.


PAPAYA WITH GREEK YOGURT Breakfast is hands down the most important meal of the day. I never miss it. It gets your metabolism going. And Papaya (Paw Paw or Panino if you are from South Africa) is one of my favorite fruits to eat for brekkie. It’s loaded with antioxidants to detox and cleanse your system. I love to enjoy it with a squeeze of lime juice. But I created this amazing combo which I cannot get enough of. I use the papaya as a bowl and fill it with Greek yogurt, which has tons of protein to keep you fuller longer. I also am not satisfied until I add a crunchy and chewy element to my food so I’ve added granola, walnuts, mangos, blue berries and pumpkin seeds. You can create your own using whatever you have in your pantry. I guarantee you this breakfast is going to be on constant rotation in your life. You are welcome. Happy Mondayxxx Chef MM

A post shared by Chef MM (@chefmelissamayo) on


6:30am: Pack my daughter’s lunch and drop her at school


8am: Workout. My exercise of choice is always swimming in the ocean but if that is not possible I love the pool. I find the breathe in my ears is quite meditative and there is something healing to me about the water. I do most of my thinking when I swim. I also like to walk in nature or around the old cities in Italy. Nothing fast paced. Just a slow walk taking in all the beauty of the plants, butterflies and flowers. I am a yogi, but I tend to lean towards the geriatric style, slow placed, restorative classes with a lot of twists, stretching  and forward bends. I am high energy person, so I use exercise to quiet my mind rather than to work out my body. I tend to put on muscle very quickly due to my high protein diet, so I avoid lunging, squatting and weights. I think it adds bulk.


Some of you might not know but last week we closed on a home in Lucca Italy. It's been my dream to retire there for more than 8 years and I manifested it into existence. Many of you reached out to me with questions about how I did this. I don't claim to be an expert on this. But I do know one thing is key… Surrounding yourself with positive thoughts and energy. I made a Quick VIDEO entitled "THE POWER OF POSITIVE THINKING" showing you some of the tools I use to stay upbeat and connect with my purpose. Check it out on my YouTube channel @chefmelissamayo . I hope you enjoy it. Social media and the world is filled with so much hate and negativity at the moment. Don't take it in. Move towards the light. We are all G-d creatures no matter our religious and politcal beliefs. So don't forget to share your light with someone who might need a boost. Only love, light and blessings my beautiful friends xxx Chef MM ____________________________________ Photo @heinrichknoetzephotography

A post shared by Chef MM (@chefmelissamayo) on


10am: Cook and style and shoot some recipes. Edit these and post the recipe to my site. Do any social media posts and reply to all questions and comments from my community. I am a one woman team so there is always work to be done.


12pm: Lunch is usually a salad with some sort of whole grain, lot of different colors and a grilled protein. I love tuna and beets and I probably eat ½ a cup of olive oil a day. Some days I am lucky enough to grab sushi and a glass of vino with a girlfriend. And then an expresso to digest my meal.



1pm: There’s always a lot of laundry, house work, errands and grocery shopping. I am a mom and wife first so some days my work just has to wait and I am okay with that.


2pm: Fetch my daughter from school and head home and make her a light and healthy lunch to tide her over to dinner time.


3pm: Snack. Usually some nuts, or a few blocks of dark chocolate or some biltong (South African style beef jerky) and another expresso.



4pm: I’m DONE for the day. It’s family time. My phone is put on silent. I put on the music of Andrea Bocelli. I pour myself a glass of wine, and drink it while I make dinner. We use the BBQ a lot, so I prep some fish, chicken, steak or lamb to go on the grill. I also make a huge salad and roasted veggies. My husband is 6’4” and is very active with a healthy appetite and my daughter is already taller than me so dinner time is our biggest meal.


5:30pm: Dinnertime. Saul grills the food and we eat together. This is actually my favourite part of the day. I grew up eating dinner with my family, something that most American’s don’t do. We slow down, catch up on our day, savour each other’s company and the food in front of us. We eat like we are in Italy. Long, slow, lazy meals. Then I load the dishwasher and clean up.



7pm: Bath time followed by some TV time or sometimes just a book. I love the library and read any free chance I get. I find this is the best way to fall asleep. I also meditate for 5 minutes before bed time.


  1. Coffee or tea?


Always coffee. And none of the fancy lattes and cappuccinos. My Nespresso machine works overtime. I love a straight up short shot of black expresso, strong enough to spit a whole in the sidewalk. I probably have 4 a day and can fall asleep straight after having one. I think the Italian lifestyle has worn off on me.


  1. What is your indulgence of choice?


My weakness is salt and vinegar chips. I can flatten a bag on my own. It’s a serious addiction for which there is no cure. I think it’s the crunch factor that gets me.


  1. Three foods you can’t live without?


Steak, Italian Olive Oil (I have about ½ a cup every day), dark chocolate. And red wine for sure. I think I’d take wine over air.



  1. What’s your go-to snack for those days on the run?


Biltong (South African style beef jerky), a handful of nuts with a piece of fruit or dried fruit


  1. And any last words of advice or tips for those starting out on their health journey?


Be kind to yourself. You only have this moment so make it count. I’m in my mid 40’s and I have finally learned to be comfortable in my own skin. I wish I could tell my 20 or 30 year old self to be okay with the choices I made. I’d tell myself, not look for approval from others.  I like my own company and I am no longer concerned with how I look on the outside, but how I feel on the inside. If something or someone doesn’t bring me peace, I make no apologies for stepping away. I am very protective of my energy and I am most happy when I am creating something. When I am inspired I feel closest to G-d. I want to use my work to bring light to those around me and to lift them up an encourage them. Giving is so much better than receiving.  My goal now is to make sure that I will be strong enough and have enough energy to be able to keep up with my grandchildren. I want to age gracefully, winkles and all. My smile and my frown lines show a life well lived. I have earned them all and I finally realize, true beauty shines from the inside.




Join Jess and Melissa at their event in May – click here for tickets!











Swisse Skincare




Gaia Retreat & Spa


The Healthy Life


JSHealth Vegan Meal Plan


JSHealth Travel Plan




14 Day Slim Down Plan - 2 weeks to a leaner you!


The JSHealth Shopping List - Stock up on these foods for a healthier household


Nutrition 101 - A step by step nutrition guide to optimal health


Emotional Eating Guide - Learn how to rebuild your relationship with food and your body


The Clean Life - An Expert Guide To Health From The Inside Out


Restart Plan - Cleanse your system in 2 - 4 weeks & reveal a slimmer, healthier you


JSHealth Partners


Hi Jessica, I believe in synchronicity so when I was guided to you .on FB I was intrigued and inspired. I turned 46 last week and my husband bought me your book. I wanted to thank you for sharing your wisdom in such a beautifully presented way. My  copy is now filled with tabs and post it notes with actual notes throughout. I am dairy intolerant since having my gallbladder removed 15+ years ago, I don't eat meat, very minimal gluten and was told 12 months ago my gut was not digesting my food properly so I wasn't receiving sufficient nutrients and taking supplements would be a waste of time.  My weight fluctuates tending to gain rather than lose but now I believe I have a tool to help me bring my body back into balance that I need for my health and longevity of life - so again thank you. The first few steps to creating a stronger path forward for my health has found its foundation in your beautiful book, The Healthy Life.

With kindest regards Samantha

I'm writing this email because I wanted to tell you how much I love your blog and how you really helped me in my health journey. Thank you for sharing all your advices and experiences.

When I started my studies, I was drinking lots of coffee and I was eaten the wrong foods, and feel bad about it, I wasn't at my best. So I had done some research on the net but at first I didn't found advices that are for me, and then I found your blog. It was exactly what I was looking for, good advices and healthy recipes. Now I'm following your advices on rest more, and snacks between meals and prep the meals and take time for myself to reconnect with my body and let go my anxiety, etc, and I have a more balanced life and have a new relationship with food thanks to you.

I bought your book and it's honestly the best book I have ever bought. I suffer from IBS and anxiety. I have paid so much money seeing naturopaths however after reading your book and all of your tips I'm noticing so much of a difference, so simple and easy to follow. And symptoms have dramatically decreased. Also you have helped me to relax. Currently drinking the protein health smoothie! Thankyou your amazing.


Hey Jessica!
I haven’t yet brought ‘The Healthy Life’, but I do have the clean life and your slim down plan! I would like to thank you so much for the knowledge your share and the message you put across about health and wellness. I’m studying Nutritional Medicine in Melbourne and absolutely love the philosophy that you share with your JSHealth community. The work you’ve done to show people that leading a healthy lifestyle isn’t boring, tasteless, difficult or depriving is amazing and hope to share the message myself one day. You’ve inspired me to start my own blog , to share the message and have taught me so many things about my own health! You should be proud of your achievements! Thank you again

- Jacinta

I searched for help and tips through the Internet and found Jessica Sepel. This is seriously not exaggerated, but she was the reason why I have dared myself to eat again, to have snacks in between, to nourish my body. I could slowly improve my negative thoughts about my body image and my stupid anxiety of gaining weight. Besides, The Cleanest Gut was awesome too! A huge thank you! Especially from my mum. Seriously, without you I wouldn’t be where I am now!


Congratulations on your new book! It looks absolutely gorgeous. I’ve been following you on Instagram for a few years and you’ve inspired me to slowly but surely eat healthier without giving myself a hard time when I don’t. It made me so happy (and weirdly proud) to see the Daily Mail article on The Healthy Life. I remember trying out your recipes before you even had your eBook out! I can’t wait to get my hands on the book. Keep up the great work.

– Sophie

Cooking in this way truly brought out the foodie in me and has instilled a huge passion for health and wellness! Life throws you hard and frustrating things sometimes but I truly believe that this is where we learn more about ourselves and what our passions in life are! Thank you for inspiring me on my journey to health and wellness!


I am a yoga teacher in Johannesburg and am thrilled to have bought your book today. I love making healthy, nutritious food for my family, friends and fellow yogis! Thank you for this book and your inspiration (had to share a pic of my book on my recipe stand in the kitchen).

– Helene

I bought your beautiful book during the week and told my bestie to go out and buy it also! I love love love it. It is the book I would give to my younger self if I could (I am 41 years old). Everything is just so sensible and informative and is definitely a book all teenagers should have. This should be a text book for girls becoming teens. I will love going back and re-reading it many many times and can't wait to make more of the recipes. Thank you Jess - you are an incredibly inspiring woman and you should feel so proud

Michelle Curtis

My fiancé bought your book and we have cooked some of your meals. Amazing! I love your outlook on a healthy lifestyle and your hints and tips with preparing tasty meals are fantastic. Thanks for reviving us to live a healthier lifestyle and get our bodies wedding ready.